Our Commitment to Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)

Our Commitment to Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)

Catholic Relief Services’ commitment to operational and programmatic excellence demands continuous improvement in our ability to document, analyze and apply learning at the project, sector and agency levels, and to share our reflections with stakeholders, practitioners and policymakers.

CRS invests in an agency-wide approach to monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning for overseas programming to improve our ability to:

  • Utilize effective feedback mechanisms to ensure greater accountability to program beneficiaries
  • Systematically measure results, incorporate and document experiential learning
  • Optimize use of technology to improve the accuracy, timeliness and accessibility of monitoring and evaluation data
  • Facilitate decisions based on evidence and learning
  • Share our learning with the broader development community and policymakers

Policies and Procedures

There is now an orientation module available for all CRS and partner staff to view and discuss. The orientation presents an overview of the eight monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (MEAL) policies and 29 accompanying procedures. It presents key information on how to implement and comply with the procedures, and references the support and resources available

Accountability

CRS continues to demonstrate accountability to donors and other stakeholders, to partners and to the communities we serve through a variety of practices. Our work gives greater voice to different perspectives while also balancing and addressing a range of needs in decision-making processes. The agency’s policies and procedures standardize our strong accountability work related to feedback and response mechanisms among other practices. They also provide a framework for holding ourselves accountable to our internal standards of program quality.

This orientation module is intended for both MEAL and program staff. The orientation covers key principles and practices which increase accountability to beneficiaries, donors, partner organizations, other stakeholders and to ourselves.

Learning

As a learning organization, CRS draws on the rich and varied experiences of staff and partners. CRS seeks to ensure that learning activities provide a link between the past and the future, while integrating theory and action. Staff and partners are required to look for meaning in their activities to generate good-fit solutions to many complex development challenges.

The learning orientation module is intended for both MEAL and program staff. The orientation presents key knowledge management and learning concepts and practices.

Evaluative Thinking

There is a paradigm shift taking place in the aid sector away from a predominantly linear‑based model of change to one that is more dynamic, reflective and responsive. The evaluative thinking (ET) workshop series is designed to promote ET across an organization and, in turn, increase the quality and efficiency of program planning and MEAL work generally.

"Evaluative thinking is critical thinking applied in the context of evaluation (or MEAL), motivated by an attitude of inquisitiveness and a belief in the value of evidence, that involves: identifying assumptions, posing thoughtful questions, pursuing deeper understanding through reflection and perspective taking, and making informed decisions in preparation for action."

—Buckley, J., Archibald, T., Hargraves, M., & Trochim, W. (2015).
"Defining and Teaching Evaluative Thinking: Insights from Research on Critical Thinking."
American Journal of Evaluation

Evaluative Thinking Videos

These videos discuss how evaluative thinking supports high-quality programming in global development, and why CRS is strengthening its capacity to apply it through workshops and other activities. You’ll learn what evaluative thinking is, why our staff and partners are excited about it, and how it engages communities in continuous learning and reflection about outcomes, helps them adapt to changing conditions and, ultimately, improves lives.

Watch Videos

An Overview of Evaluative Thinking

Introduction to Evaluative Thinking (1 out of 6)

This video, the first of six more detailed videos explaining the process of evaluative thinking, introduces evaluative thinking: what it is, why we think it has a role in supporting high-quality programming in the current context, and an overview of what it comprises.

Evaluative Thinking: Introduction to Theory of Change Pathway Models (2 out of 6)

This video introduces theory of change pathway models: what they are, why we think they have a role in supporting evaluative thinking, and a brief overview of what working with them involves.

Evaluative Thinking: Discovering Assumptions (3 out of 6)

This video, the third in the series of six videos explaining the process of evaluative thinking, will explain how to use evaluative thinking to uncover the assumptions that are inherent in every theory of change.

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Evaluative Thinking: Making Informed Decisions (5 out of 6)

This video, the fifth in the series of six videos explaining the process of evaluative thinking, will explain how to make meaning from, and utilize evidence to communicate your findings to stakeholders and make informed decisions with them in preparation for action.

Evaluative Thinking: Becoming a Learning Organization (6 out of 6)

This video, the final one in the series of six videos explaining the process of evaluative thinking, will suggest ways to transform your organization so that evaluative thinking is embedded in your policies and culture. This will establish a strong foundation for ‘intelligent’ MEAL systems that will support adaptive project management approaches that are more responsive to the needs of those we are seeking to serve.

Evaluative Thinking Workshop Series

Evaluative Thinking for Country Program Leadership

Round One: Identifying Assumptions

  1. Evaluative Thinking — Identifying Assumptions: Facilitator’s Guide (PDF)
  2. Evaluative Thinking — Identifying Assumptions: Slides (PowerPoint slideshow)
  3. Evaluative Thinking — Identifying Assumptions: Slides (PowerPoint slides saved as PDF)

Round Two: Seeking Evidence

  1. Evaluative Thinking — Seeking Evidence: Facilitator’s Guide (PDF)
  2. Evaluative Thinking — Seeking Evidence: Slides (PowerPoint slideshow)
  3. Evaluative Thinking — Seeking Evidence: Slides (PowerPoint slides saved as PDF)

Round Three: Taking Action

  1. Evaluative Thinking — Taking Action: Facilitator’s Guide (PDF)
  2. Evaluative Thinking — Taking Action: Slides (PowerPoint slideshow)
  3. Evaluative Thinking — Taking Action: Slides (PowerPoint slides saved as PDF)

Short Cuts

The Short Cuts series is a collection of brief documents to provide montoring and evaluation guidance in operations and programming, produced by CRS and the American Red Cross with financial support from Food for Peace grants.

View Short Cuts Series
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Short Cuts: Writing Human Interest Stories for Monitoring and Evaluation Short Cuts: Short Cuts: Rédaction d'une histoire de vie quotidienne en Suivi Evaluation Short Cuts: Escribiendo Historias de Interés Humano para Monitoring and Evaluation
Short Cuts: Using Indicator Performance Tracking Tables Short Cuts: Utilisation des tableaux de suivi des indicateurs de performance Short Cuts: Uso de Tablas de Seguimiento a los Indicadores de Desempeño
Short Cuts: Preparing for an Evaluation Short Cuts: Préparer une évaluation Short Cuts: Preparándose para una Evaluación
Short Cuts: Managing and Implementing an Evaluation Short Cuts: Gestion et mise un œvre d'une évaluation Short Cuts: Gestión e Implementación de una Evaluación
Short Cuts: Monitoring and Evaluation Planning Short Cuts: Planification du suivi et de l'évaluation Short Cuts: Planificación del Monitoreo y Evaluación
Short Cuts: Monitoring and Evaluation Ethics Short Cuts: Suivi Evaluation et Ethique Short Cuts: Monitoreo y Evaluación y la Ética
Short Cuts: Hiring Monitoring and Evaluation Staff Short Cuts: Recrutement du personnel de Suivi Evaluation Short Cuts: Contratación del Personal de Monitoreo y Evaluación
Short Cuts: Communicating and Reporting on an Evaluation Short Cuts: Communication et reportage d'une évaluation Short Cuts: Communicación y Reporte de Informes de una Evaluación
Short Cuts: Capacity Building Guidance Short Cuts: Guide de renforcement de la capacité Short Cuts: Guiá para Fortalecimiento de Capacidades

Beneficiary and Service Delivery Indicators

The Beneficiary and Service Delivery Indicators (BSDI) Orientation module is a brief introduction to the BSDI framework and data gathering process. It provides an overview of BSDI, what it is, how it evolved, and why it is an integral part of the agency's strategy.  This orientation module is intended for both MEAL and program staff. 

e-Valuate

At CRS we continually monitor our programs, adjusting our activities along the way to ensure the greatest positive impact. To help our staff and partners collect data about our programs, we created a mobile data collection platform called e-Valuate. This cutting edge platform:

  • Enables timelier and more accurate data collection

  • Delivers better efficiency for data collecting and reporting in many contexts

  • Facilitates the use of analytical tools for decision making and service delivery

  • Provides easier performance tracking across projects, countries and regions

At CRS we continually monitor our programs, adjusting our activities along the way to ensure the greatest positive impact. To help our staff and partners evaluate our programs, we created "e-Valuate," a cutting edge platform that enables easier and more accurate data collection, better efficiency for data collecting and reporting, more transparency and accountability, better tools for decision making and service delivery, and easier performance tracking across projects, countries and regions.

We also use robust financial mechanisms to ensure accountability and transparency with our donors and the people we serve. To help our staff and partner organizations keep up with the latest advances in monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (what we call "MEAL"), we provide the following online training courses.

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