Impact Practitioners

Toolkit for communications monitoring, evaluation and learning

By 09/02/2023

This 24-page toolkit developed by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is about communications monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL). It presents a framework to think about MEL and gives example questions, indicators and tools. By evaluating your communications, you will be able to see what works, what doesn’t, when and for whom. MEL is also an important tool for accountability, helping you demonstrate that your work is being taken up and is of high quality.  

The toolkit has two main sections. The first one, Strategy and management, focuses on planning and managing your communications. Simply put, your communications work needs to be both strategic and high quality. To do that, you will need to develop a communication plan that includes your objective(s), target audience(s), key messages, outputs and activities, and definitions of what success looks like. The toolkit then provides you with eight questions for your MEL: five of them look at the strategy (for instance ‘Did we identify a realistic set of outputs and activities?’) and three questions relate to the management side of your communications strategy (for example ‘What was achieved with what budget and time?’).

The second section looks at measuring the success of your outputs (communication products, activities and services). The toolkit advises readers to consider three aspects when evaluating the outputs: 

  1. a) reach (the extent of your reach and who you are reaching), 
  2. b) quality and usefulness (the technical standard of your work and how relevant it is to your audience), and 
  3. c) uptake and use (if and how your work is used).

For each of these aspects, the toolkit gives you example tools to gather data, key questions to ask and a set of indicators you might use. It also shares tips on what the indicator might show and what it cannot tell, which is especially useful for those just starting with MEL. 

Impact Practitioners banner with quote "“To achieve impact, communications work needs to be both strategic and high quality”

Additionally, the toolkit has an overview of indicators to measure reach, quality, uptake and use of your communications sorted by channels (such as websites, events, social media and publications). 

Lastly, authors Caroline Cassidy and Louise Ball share four tips for a successful MEL: 

1) keep it simple and be realistic about how much can you do given your resources and time, 2) don’t just evaluate website statistics but also look at the quality, usefulness and uptake of your outputs, 

3) be clear about the questions you are asking, why, and how you plan to answer them, and finally, 

4) make sure your communications MEL feeds into your wider efforts to measure outcomes and impact of your project or programme. 

Overall, this is a great toolkit for monitoring, evaluating and learning from your communications activities with plenty of practical tips, key questions, indicators and tools to do it.

This article is part of our initiative, R2A Impact Practitioners. To find out more, please click here.

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