Conventional M&E Project Cycle

Due to the wide application of M&E in various contexts, there is no exact recipe for conducting M&E (Estrella et al., 2000; Hockings et al., 2000; Margoluis & Salafsky, 1998; Stem et al., 2005). However conventionally, M&E has been approached using a project cycle framework involving seven different phases through which the project evolves, from a basic needs assessment or appraisal, towards evaluation and documentation of results (Shah et al., 2006).

The way in which projects are planned and carried out follows a sequence beginning with an agreed strategy, which leads to an idea for a specific action, oriented towards achieving a set of objectives, which then is formulated, implemented, and evaluated with a view to improving the strategy and further action.

The project cycle also provides a structure to ensure that stakeholders and rights holders are consulted and relevant information is available throughout the life of the project, so that informed decisions can be made at key stages in the life of a project.

Select the “+” over each of the phases to learn more about what is involved in each.


There are 7 phases of the Conventional M&E Project Cycle. Phase 1, Needs Assessment, is done to determine whether a project is needed and, if so, to inform its planning. Phase 2, Project Design, is the practical planning for the project to capture goals, objectives, activities, and develop indicators that will be used in the monitoring and evaluation phases of the project. This is also where you would set up basic M&E system infrastructure including systems for managing data. Phase 3, Baseline Data Collection, is the measurement of the initial conditions (appropriate indicators) before the start of a project. It is important to know where you are starting, before any progress can actually be measured. During phase 4, Project Implementation, the activities that were planned to reach the project goals can begin. During phase 5, Monitoring & Evaluation, stakeholders collect and analyze data for the purposes of their project. They manage activities and, based on the findings of ongoing monitoring, they consider and adopt course corrections, as needed. It is important to note that in the early stages of a project certain steps logically precede others, but as a project develops, it is beneficial to take what was learned from the experience and adapt the project strategies or activities as necessary (Goparaju et al., 2006; Estrella & Gaventa, 1998). That is why phase three is considered a continuous activity, occurring throughout the lifecycle of a project. Phase 6, Evaluation, takes place at the end of the project lifecycle. It assesses how well the project/program achieved its intended objectives/goals and what difference this has made. Data that evaluations generate is used to produce reports on the impact of the project and to identify lessons learned that can then be applied to other projects. In phase 7, Use of Results, project leads can take the information obtained through ongoing monitoring and evaluation to make key decisions about the project, including ways to make improvements. Skip to next piece of content.


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Building Sustainable Communities: Monitoring and Evaluation Copyright © by Ryan Plummer; Amanda Smits; Samantha Witkowski; Bridget McGlynn; Derek Armitage; Ella-Kari Muhl; and Jodi Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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