Written by Rachael Sorcher, with Nancy Bobadilla, Renan Penagunda and Capaculan and Hagmang Community Leaders

Community leaders from Hagmang circle around the computer to build a baseline survey using KoBoToolbox.

Community leaders from Hagmang circle around the computer to build a baseline survey using KoBoToolbox.

What is Community-Led Monitoring and Evaluation?

Community-Led Monitoring and Evaluation is a participatory approach to collecting, analyzing and using data. It involves communities collecting and analyzing information on their own initiatives which they then can use to better understand their context or advocate for additional resources.

Community-Led Monitoring and Evaluation is typically undertaken by the organizations made up of the community members. There are occasions when their efforts are conducted in partnership with local or federal governments, or NGOs. But these efforts are called “community-led” because they are conducted by the community organizations themselves. In fact, the community group not only collects and analyzes data, but in a true end-to-end process, they design the very data collection tools they use to then gather the information they need.

These efforts can cover a range of sectors, including healthcare, education, sanitation, and infrastructure. They’re clearly all areas where improvements will lead to a more highly developed community.

Why is it important?

Community-Led Monitoring and Evaluation helps to improve the socioeconomic conditions in a community. It also increases the accountability of local leaders. And, it provides a platform for community members to have a say in decisions that affect them directly.

By ensuring that their development projects are effective and efficient, communities earn the maximum benefit from access to healthcare, education, clean water, and other essential benefits.

Our Community-Led Monitoring and Evaluation Initiatives

Outreach International facilitates change through a community-led approach. Remaining true to our principles of community-led development, we ensure that all aspects of our work are, in fact, led by community members. In 2022, one such aspect we’re strengthening is our community-led monitoring and evaluation (M&E) efforts. What is different in our context is that community members are not monitoring services and projects implemented by external actors. Instead, they monitor them by themselves. These include community-led sanitation, food, and water systems. These projects are all planned and developed by community groups themselves and not by external agencies or actors.

Given its importance, over the past year, we piloted several community-led M&E initiatives. We did this in collaboration with our program and community partners in the Philippines on projects they implemented themselves. Our main aim in this venture was to identify the community-led monitoring tools and practices that work best for our partners. And, together, we did just that.

In what follows, community leaders representing two CBOs in the Philippines and two practitioners of Outreach Philippines Incorporated (OPI) reflect. Respectively these two CBOs implemented their own community-managed solar water system and a community-led food program. The CBO leaders and practitioners  shared their top tips for implementing community-led monitoring and evaluation initiatives. For now, this entails strengthening communities’ awareness around the importance of collecting data. Then, they harness their capacity to develop, implement, and manage baseline surveys.

Creating Their Own Tools

First, they participated in workshops led by OPI practitioners Nancy and Renan about the importance of data collection. Then they learned how to utilize the survey management platform, KoBoToolbox. The CBOs then implemented baseline surveys. They created these surveys to analyze change after one cycle of their community-led water system. Also, they analyzed results from rice loan projects that benefit more than 400 households.

Nancy, Renan, and community leaders’ advice spans the M&E process. They discuss key steps in developing the projects’ baseline surveys. This included collecting and analyzing data via KoBoToolbox, and reflecting on their work to prepare for endline data collection. The leaders’ suggestions will help to inform their CBOs’ further M&E efforts. And not only that, but also those of other communities participating in community-led development.

Let’s hear what they have to say!

Top tips for successful community-led M&E efforts

From community leaders in Capaculan, Philippines, representing the CBO, Samahan para sa Pagsulong at Pag-unlad ng Capaculan (SPPC):

Community leaders in Capaculan discuss the survey data they have manually collected and how to encode such data into KoBoToolbox.

Community leaders in Capaculan discuss the survey data they have manually collected and how to encode such data into KoBoToolbox.

  1. The survey questions need to be double-checked before they are implemented. It’s necessary to first ensure that the data that is wanted to be obtained can be obtained through the questions. Because when we created the survey questions in KoBoToolbox, we immediately deployed them, so when we started entering data into KoBoCollect, we saw that there were questions that needed to be changed or improved in the survey to get the appropriate answer.”
  2. “In data collection, first explain the purpose of the survey and ask permission if he (the respondent) can respond to the survey questions. Because here in Capaculan, there are still many non-members of our association (SPPC) who do not yet understand the purpose of our water system project. If we do not explain the purpose of our survey well, they may doubt us and our project.”
  3. “It is important that the person doing the survey questions using KoBoToolbox has knowledge of using a laptop or cellphone. We had a hard time creating survey questions in the KoBo tool because we are not used to using a laptop. We don’t know basic applications like Google. So now we also see that we need training in basic computer literacy.”
  4. “It is very helpful that we have a step-by-step guide for creating the survey form and encoding the answers on the computer.”
Community leaders in Hagmang refer to the step-by-step guide while developing a survey on KoBoToolbox.

OPI staff member and human development facilitator, Renan, walks through a step-by-step guide on how to utilize KoBoToolbox in Hagmang. Community leaders in Hagmang refer to the step-by-step guide while developing a survey on KoBoToolbox.

Strong Personal and Digital Connection

From community leaders in Hamang, Philippines, representing the CBO, Hagmang Interest Group:

  1. “We (two leaders) know how to use a computer because we studied at the university, but we also see that there should be other leaders to learn it so that in case we leave, there are others who can do survey questions on the computer.”
  2. “Creating the survey form and encoding the answers in the KoBo tool is quick; the problem is the weak internet signal, so it is necessary to have a strong internet.”

From community leaders of both CBOs:

  1. “Gmail accounts and passwords need to be remembered, as well as KoboToolbox accounts and passwords. It is difficult to log in to KoboCollect even if the internet is strong; it takes time to log in. Even if the user name and password are correct, the login always fails. Maybe because it’s free, there are many users, so it’s hard to log in.”
Community leaders in Hagmang log into KoBoToolbox.

Community leaders in Hagmang log into KoBoToolbox.

Hard Work of Tool Creation

OPI practitioners, Nancy and Renan, have been instrumental in making the M&E pilots run smoothly. From learning how to use KoBoToolbox themselves and then leading the workshops, they have pearls of wisdom to share.

Community leaders in Hagmang practice creating a survey on KoBo

Community leaders in Hagmang practice creating a survey on KoBoToolbox.

  1. “Community leaders can easily create survey questions for baseline data collection if they understand the reason why baseline data is needed, what is its importance and relevance to their project to be implemented, and what the data will be collected for so that the people themselves appreciate it and hence initiate to do it. Likewise, it is easy to get the participation of people in the community in the survey if they understand the purpose of the survey and its importance to the project that they will also benefit from.”
  2. “When making a survey question, the possible answers of people should be anticipated. Make sure that the question can be easily understood by the respondents to get what we want them to answer. Put choices in the question for possible answers.”
  3. “Before implementing the final survey form, it should be practiced at least two times to see if there are any corrections or adjustments to the survey questions because it will affect the respondents’ possible answers to the question.”
  4. “When using the KoBo tool for data collection and encoding, a lot of patience is needed because there are many challenges such as weak internet that is needed to create and deploy a survey form and enter the survey answers. It is difficult to create an account and log in to the KoBo tool, and the process from account creation to data entry is lengthy.”
Community leaders in Hagmang sit patiently while creating a survey in KoBoToolbox.

Community leaders in Hagmang sit patiently while creating a survey in KoBoToolbox.

Successful Community-Led Monitoring and Evaluation

The overlap in learnings from the community leaders and the OPI practitioners highlights integral aspects of the community monitoring and evaluation process. The learnings also emphasize two additional points that can expedite and strengthen future community-led M&E efforts:

  1. Work on ensuring internet access within communities– strong enough for easy survey development and encoding processes.
  2. Consider the value of internet literacy for local community leaders, from learning how to create email addresses to practicing how to navigate different websites.

With the success of these pilot community monitoring and evaluation initiatives fueling our work, Outreach International and our program and community partners are eager to harness the power that data holds in advancing community-led development.

Interested in supporting communities?

You can support our efforts by donating or volunteering. By supporting Outreach International, you contribute to the improvements communities are making to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. Outreach International has a grassroots approach that prioritizes the involvement of community leaders This means that they take ownership of their own development process and are responsible for their own success. This is proven to lead to sustainable solutions to the issues that in the past had kept them in a state of chronic poverty.