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Why Projects Fail? A M&E perspective

Projects and interventions are designed to address a certain problem. But to achieve a desired result, an effective Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) should be embedded within such projects and interventions.

There is generally poor understanding of the government sponsored projects especially in the developing societies. Some view it like their entitlement or assistance from the government. This may be attributed to poor civic education at project conceptualization. And numerous project assumptions carried along the project cycle.

A project is a series of activities carried out to address a problem. The article focuses on socially driven projects done through governments and development partners.

Theories inform the practice. Theory of change and hierarchy of needs aid in developing the project concept.  

Theory of change helps us understand the effects of globalization and fast life that informs the different interventions required. Beneficiaries must continuously be brought to the light of the current social economic dynamics.

At times we bite more than we can chew; we need to unpack the project activities. Project implementers must be informed by the theory of hierarchy of needs. The theory aids in understanding the different needs of the beneficiaries. Some may be after fame; while others are struggling between surviving and eating. Hence different interventions come into play.

In development, we don’t just jump, there’re many attributes at play that even taking a population by an inch is quite a great job.

One would wonder whether the current set of development trend is as a result of human interventions or by nature.  Let’s review the many misfits that contribute to projects failure by applying the project cycle.

Project Conceptualization and Design

The failure starts at project conceptualization phase. Project concepts are developed from making an observation from real life experiences. Due to lack of participatory planning there are situations where the real local issues are left out at conceptualization phase which result into weird or wild indicators: anything you can’t measure can’t be managed.

I must admit that am a newbie in regards to project planning and management in practice. Though little experience through observation has taught me that when you are undertaking M&E activities, the team must be devoid of hullabaloo that some beneficiaries accord the team.

There is nothing with the dancing, but the intention is bad. Remember the old adage that Food is the way to man’s heart. However, the buy in theory enables to enculturing M&E to development work. It enables one to gain penetration into a society to gain and get their support.

Project Implementation and Evaluation

Sound decisions are made at evaluation level. This is dependent on the ability to walk with the project. It’s important to note that different sectors demands different evaluation approaches.

We also need to address the question of evaluating outcomes and impacts. This would require carrying out field surveys. This must be factual and not desktop issue.

Documentation of lessons leant informs whether the indicators are implementable within the local contexts. There is need for some of the implementing team to live with the local community and understand their behavior; otherwise they may behave in opposite way. This is what is referred to disjointed M&E activities.

Projects are always implemented through teamwork hence need to use the most understandable terminologies to ensure the local community, a key stakeholder, supports and owns the project. It’s worth noting that largely communities know the problem affecting them. It’s not a surprise that they know its solution.

But we also need to critically review public participation. There is the question of participants to such for a. one wonders whether they are representative enough? Or their views are compromised. We need to cushion against the ‘project participants’. These are the participants whom you will find in virtually all projects.

Possibly giving the locals opportunity to implement projects, technocrats or outsourced maybe also a factor for consideration. The projects and interventions must move along with the beneficiaries. It’s a long participatory journey that requires one to work with the community.

Strict timelines may contribute to project failure. The project period should be adequate to allow for evaluation of the outcome and impacts. In essence, the project implementers are so programmed within the strict timelines make them taking off with the implementation. This contributes to lack of sustainable and ownership of the project by all stakeholders. This is coupled by poor feedback mechanism and inappropriate delivery approaches.

What about the question of political input (goodwill)? These are the policy makers. We know that change as to begin with somebody. Aren’t they the right people to take a lead? There is no wisdom in spreading projects thinly with no intangible impact and no multiplier effects. Why not try zoning?

In summary, an effectively implemented project ensures there is a trickle down effects. It’s the failure to enculture the M&E attributes into the projects that contributes to their failure. While Business related projects are re-engineered at their decline stage, the social projects face closure.

Advocating for more resources for M&E activities is a welcome move. But aren’t there adequate resources? The problem may be how to utilize resources properly with unclear prioritization leading to duplication and wastage of resources. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 December 2015 21:26
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