RE: A lack of learning in the monitoring and evaluation of agriculture projects | Eval Forward

From where I sit, "it" (M&E, MEAL, MEL, MRM, MERL) continues to under deliver in terms of learning and contribution to improvements because it is not really an identifiable professional practice and it is conceptually messy which makes it messy in practice. When I first heard of M&E (I was coming from private sector) I remember thinking 'is that a thing'? This is because it sounded like if in the private sector we created something called Accounting and Audit (A&A) and treated it like it was one professional endevour. However enthusisatic we might be, those are two distinct but complementary things that are done at different times for different purposes and by different peoples. This same logic applies to Monitoring and Evaluation. Knowing whether we are implementing activities as planned, knowing how this implementation is 'landing' with the target population and (crucially) adjusting/discarding those that are not landing well is the purpose of monitoring, it is every day activity and (crucially) it is an integral part of implementing a project. On the other hand, knowing what changes occurred (and if possible how much of that is as a result of the project) is the purpose of evaluation. the M and the E are different things, happening different times and by different people. When we lump them together and hope M&E tells us "what impact/difference we are making" then we start having the problem of prioritising measures of consequencies (or searching for attribution for those so inclined - which steps into research realm) at the expense of searching for and providing information that is useful for making decisions on what matters most i.e. implementing the projects to the best of the abilities of those involved, listening to the populations to learn how/whether the project is working for them and adjusting accordingly. 

That said, there are elements of evaluation (with a small 'e' as we say where I work) that happens during the day to day monitoring. that small 'e' evaluation is reflections and learning from monitoring information. So in another universe where we are all willing to discard "it" and start all over again, we could have Monitoring and Learning (M&L) as part of day to day project implementation and then Evaluation and Research (E&R) which is commissioned at different times, by different peoples.