Your unrestricted donation enables us to invest in the people and systems that can measure the impact of our work and ensure that the service children receive from us is of the highest quality.
Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) is not as tangible or emotion-stirring as our emergency response work. And it’s not what we’d ask Chris Martin to talk about from on stage at Glastonbury because most casual donors would rather we gave a child a safe place to play rather than a questionnaire.
What is Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)?
At War Child, Monitoring and Evaluation is the way that we measure the quality of the work we do with children.
Monitoring refers to the process of collecting regular information in a systematic way on projects in the field, including how they’re progressing against their planned activity.
Evaluation refers to the process whereby we make judgements on these projects and their value.
We need to perform M&E in order to learn more about our activities and their results, and ensure that they’re operating at the highest quality. This also ensures that we’re accountable to those that have invested in us – we can provide evidence as to how our projects have progressed, and what they have resulted in.
So why talk about it here?
We would hate to waste your time and your money. We don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on field projects that aren’t giving children the right support, or aren’t delivered in the way that they’d like it, or aren’t serving the right children. And we won’t know how effective our work is unless we’re actively measuring it.
Helen Barley, Country Director, Jordan
In my work in Jordan, I see lots of children who’ve been deeply traumatised by the horrors they’ve seen. When they start working with us, they can be withdrawn, shy, sometimes even aggressive as they try to process their emotions and everything they’ve experienced.
However, when children have completed their time in our programmes, improvements in their mental health and resilience are clear to see. I can think of one child I’ve met, Mohammed, who entered our programme as an extremely traumatised and distressed 11 year old boy. He had come from Syria having witnessed terrible atrocities and was living with his Uncle and Auntie in Za’atari Camp since both of his parents had passed away.
The loss of his parents, combined with the trauma of having witnessed war and now adjusting to life in a refugee camp in another country, had severe effects on Mohammed’s behaviour. He entered our programme extremely disruptive, aggressive and hyperactive. He could not focus on the sessions for more than a few minutes and was bullying and harassing other children.
The War Child staff in the programme recognised that Mohammed needed additional support so they worked intensively to mentor him, visit his caravan in the camp and provide additional sessions to talk to him about how he was coping with the stress. Over a few months, staff began to notice small yet incredibly important changes in Mohammed. He could sit still and focus for longer. He was playing and interacting with other children in a healthy way. He was using nonviolent methods to release his stress.
It has been almost a year since we first met Mohammed, and the change is now significant. He attends our Child Friendly Space regularly and has come to be one of the most popular children in the programme! If it wasn’t for the commitment of War Child staff, plus the quality of the project activities, Mohammed would still be battling his demons daily, without any sense of hope for the future or optimism. Impacting the lives of severely traumatised children like Mohammed is one of War Child’s core goals.
These changes are incredibly hard to measure with numbers and typical monitoring tools, however witnessing firsthand the gradual improvements in the psychosocial wellbeing of children and their ability to cope with their difficulties makes all the hard work worthwhile.
This is why when we evaluate our programmes, talking to children and hearing in their own words how our programmes have helped them is so important to determining the programme’s success – this type of evidence is absolutely critical as it tells us so much more about the situations these children are dealing with than numbers and graphs ever could.
Nightmares and tears are hard to measure
Our M&E requires us to look at information which is quantitative – meaning, it is specific facts and figures which measure the impact and effectiveness of our work. For example, we count the numbers of children who directly benefit from our services, such as attending our child friendly spaces, or being reunified with their families, and those who receive help indirectly (for instance the number of community members who attend a training session). In 2016, the number of children and young people who directly benefited from our work was 109,296, with a further 414,497 people indirectly benefitting from our work. You can see these figures in more detail in our annual Impact Reports, published on our website.
It also requires us to look at qualitative factors, which are much harder to measure – qualitative refers to ‘soft’ outcomes, or emotions, feelings and behaviours that reveal people’s and communities’ attitudes or changes to traditional customs (e.g. the reluctance to allow girls to get an education). When coupled with our advocacy work it is really powerful, and fundamental to our belief in working with children, not doing things on their behalf.
We have developed our own Child Vulnerability Index – which allows us to evaluate a child’s level of vulnerability initially, and then to monitor their progress and improvement. We also pioneered the use of Child Safety Report Cards – a simple but highly effective tool that allows children to articulate their feelings and their fears about their situation.
Below is an example of the types of questions we ask children on these report cards, using emoticons to help them identify the level of threat they experience.
Learning from the success of toolkits like this in one country allows us to replicate them in other contexts and countries – allowing us to get on the ground and roll out our child protection programmes quicker.
But it’s also important that we’re able to share these stories, and demonstrate the value of our work to as wide an audience as possible. That’s where our Global Ambassadors come in.
Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford have been working with us since 2014 to highlight the unspeakable horrors that children caught up in conflict experience every day.
Not only have they contributed to us raising a staggering £7.8 million, but they demonstrate tireless dedication to the children we support. Every time they visit our projects, they’re reminded exactly why they’re so committed to act as loudspeakers for the work we do. Quite simply, they want to make sure that these children’s voices are heard.
It’s our responsibility to make sure we harness Carey and Marcus’ passion, and the potential reach they have as an internationally acclaimed actor and global rock star respectively, to demonstrate the impact of our work, and show just how vital it is that we provide children in conflict with the safety net they so desperately need.
Our obsession with quality
We’re committed to continually driving up the quality of all aspects of our work. We’ve developed our own Quality Framework to ensure that we’re maintaining and improving standards in everything we do. We have also recruited a Head of Programmes Quality whose remit is to measure and improve the quality of our vital field work.