As we can recall from Module 1, engagement exists along a spectrum of participation. The same can be said for M&E. In this lesson, we go through two types of M&E: conventional and participatory. These two approaches aptly highlight the different levels of engagement that can occur in M&E.
Conventional M&E, as the term suggests, has been practiced in program implementation much longer than participatory M&E has been done. Conventional M&E represents one end of the spectrum of approaches. On this end, community engagement or participation is not typically undertaken. Instead, the implementing agency drives the entire process, and “experts” that are external to the project are usually contracted to conduct the evaluation as a way to ensure objectivity (Estrella & Gaventa, 1998; Jackson & Kassam, 1998; Shah et al., 2006).
Participatory M&E (PM&E) is a product of the last two decades’ emphasis on people’s participation in the conceptualization and implementation of development projects that directly affect the stakeholders and rights holders themselves. It is on the opposite end of the spectrum because this approach builds on the involvement of all relevant stakeholders at every stage of the process, encouraging dialogue at the grassroots level (Estrella et al., 2000; Estrella & Gaventa, 1998; Shah et al., 2006; Margoluis & Salafsky, 1998).
To reiterate, conventional M&E is at one end of the spectrum because it does not typically involve engaging community members in the process. PM&E is at the other end of the spectrum because it focuses on the involvement and engagement of all relevant stakeholders and rights holders throughout the entire process.