AudioActive's Example Template M&E Plan for YM Outcomes

  • by AdamJ

    Thursday, 19 June, 2014 - 15:58

Are you tired of constantly having to refer back to your funding application to check that you're on course with M&E or achieving and evidencing your outcomes? Have you ever had a funny feeling you've missed something but not quite sure what? Have you ever sat down to write an evaluation report and kicked yourself when you finally realised what you missed... but its too late?

This simple template could just help with some of your M&E headaches! Read on...

Alright I admit it... I can answer yes to all of the above questions! Like many youth music organisations out there AudioActive is a very small charity. Capacity is often stretched, we are still learning to deliver programmes using an outcomes approach, key staff are often the gatekeepers to a lot of the knowledge around individual programmes and even worse, they can move on and take such awareness with them.

All of this is why we felt the need to develop a M&E planning/project management tool that helps to manage the above challenges & risks and ultimately create a more efficient but rigorous approach to M&E.

(Loosely!) derived from a Theory of Change & Logic Model framework we have looked at a few different models out there and come up with something that we think is about right for the kind of work we do. This is a work in progress and not a polished or proven approach so we would welcome any constructive feedback (we're not easily offended!)

If you use this, the work is frontloaded but its relatively simple to create with some basic MS Excel skills (mainly merge and centre!). Just paste in your Outcomes, Indicators, Activities and Outputs from your application. Then line up the evidence you said you'd collect alongside the most appropriate indicators and hey presto, all you have to do then is plan when you will collect each bit of evidence and who should do it! 

We try to get one of these done in the space of 1 day at the start of a programme with a couple of colleagues. Once its complete it saves DAYS of time in project management further down the line and its also a great way to include Music Leaders and help them to get a better awareness of every aspect of the programme.

OK here it is attached, please give it a go if you think it would work for you and let us know how you get on.

What fun....

 

 

 

     

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Comments

Dougie Lonie's picture

Thanks for sharing Adam - it looks really useful. We've tried forcing things like this in the past and it's not really worked - far better for people to get a sense of how different approaches can work and adapt them within their existing frameworks I think. The only other thing I would add is how important it is to make time to sit with organisation and project staff and reflect together on what you think evidence and data are telling you - this is far more important than the report YM asks for at the end of the day. YM is also happy to pay for reflective sessions and team evaluation days etc. As you suggest - a bit of thought up-front and throughout makes the whole process easier and of greater value for everyone. Cheers!

Mark Bick's picture

Thanks - it is helpful to see what you do. I could relate to that opening paragraph. I do use similar Excel based outcomes frameworks. It is always such a struggle to find the time to do these things properly, the more effective our work is the more pressure we are under to do more!
I did have a concern about your example that you had put outputs in a column between the outcomes and the evidence. I think the way the YM applications separate evidence of outputs (often very factual) from the more qualitative evidence of outcomes is helpful. I often find that some of the most powerful outcomes from projects were not exactly what was expected - I am talking about "what has changed, long term for a particular young musician" type outcomes. I also believe that it can be necessary and important to drop unhelpful output targets (for example a specific number of performances or recordings) in order to genuinely meet the needs for real young musicians on the project and achieve the core outcomes. I have always found YM staff very helpful and supportive when these situations have arisen.

AdamJ's picture

Thanks for this Mark & Dougie,

Mark; agreed, I have rarely seen a project where it hasn't been necessary to respond to whats going well and whats not and often this means changing or stopping completely some activities and perhaps introducing new ones.

The Theory of Change approach that we have been using means that the we have to make a series of professional/experience based assumptions that the activities we plan will bring about the indicators and subsequent changes we're after. Sometimes these assumptions are wrong, but as long as we work reflectively we can be responsive, learn from what the evidence is telling us and make changes for the better.

I feel that as long as the intended outcome remains the influencing factor that drives the change, its fine and I too have found YM staff very supportive if this happens.

Dougie, thanks for the tips, we do run team focus groups and individual monthly reflective practice with practitioners but haven't yet used the document itself as a prompt for whole team evaluation so will explore the best way to do this as it makes perfect sense!

Re: the unexpected outcomes... I find these are usually the most powerful ones and a constant reminder to just trust in the process, knowing simply that helping young people to make music achieves incredible things!

:)

Nell Farrally's picture

This is really interesting, Adam. I’m an early years musician and I also work as a freelance evaluator. This is pretty much the framework I use when planning project evaluation – both for projects where I’m the music leader and/or project manager, and where I’m an external evaluator. And I don’t just use it for projects where the participants are children and young people – it’s working really well for a project I’m evaluating at the moment where the participants are mostly older people.

Sometimes I have an outputs column the way you have, sometimes I don’t – it depends on the project. Most projects divert from the planned outputs. It’s only natural that as a project progresses, the outputs develop to meet the needs of the CYP. But I think that a reminder of what was originally intended is valuable. In a situation where there are changes to planned activities in response to unexpected or challenging situations, often the outputs can seem diminished, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a successful project. Having the original intended outputs in mind can flag up the need to ensure that adequate qualitative data is collected and integrated with the quantitative data about outputs to show how and why the changes were made, and what effect that had on the participants and the project.
Thanks for sharing.