C4D Hub: Develop Planning Documents (Evaluation Plans and M&E Frameworks)

What is it?

To undertake this task you need to bring together all the decisions made (manage, define, frame) and develop the documents that reflect these decisions.

This task covers two types of planning documents:

  • Evaluation (or Research/ Study) Plans (for a single, discrete activity)
  • Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworks (a framework for monitoring, evaluating and learning through a range monitoring and evaluating activities)

An Evaluation/Research/Study Plan specifies: what will be evaluated; the purpose and criteria for the evaluation; the key evaluation questions; and how data will be collected, analysed, synthesised and reported.

A Monitoring and Evaluation Framework outlines the overall R,M&E plan for monitoring and evaluating across an entire program, or across different programs. It should specify the monitoring strategies, any studies, reviews or evaluations to do, with details about data sources, timing, management processes, as well as an overall program theory/logic model.

General Information

Evaluation/Research Study Plan

The Steps in Planning and Managing Evaluation page is a comprehensive guide for creating an Evaluation (or study/research) Plan, covering management, scoping, and commissioning processes. The specific steps that support the development of the evaluation planning documents are: Scope the EvaluationManage the development of the evaluation methodologyManage the development of the Workplan including logistics. These pages are recommended background reading before considering options to apply to C4D. 

M&E Framework

There is some information on developing an M&E Framework (it is also possible to follow the above Steps as a guide to developing M&E Frameworks, though some steps will be skipped). Another resource is a practical book by Markiewicz and Patrick Developing Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworksthe companion website includes a downloadable template that can be used to as the basis of an M&E Framework (see also an abbreviated guide on the authors' website). This resource suggests the use of OEAC/DAC Evaluation Criteria as the basis of key questions, and this influences the construction of the template. These pages are recommended background reading before considering options to apply to C4D.  In the section below specific to C4D we provide adapted versions of these templates with additional guidance with reference to C4D specific examples.

Developing Planning Documents and C4D

Applying the C4D Principles


Partners, community groups and others with roles in planning and implementing C4D should be involved in the development of the M&E Framework or the Evaluation/Research Plan. This ensures that these documents respond to local needs, questions and contexts.


C4D is generally integrated into a program. Because of this, M&E Frameworks for C4D should ideally be developed as part of the broader program’s M&E Frameworks. Where there is a need for changing C4D action based on new insights, rapid, flexible cycles of evaluation will be most appropriate. Evaluation contracts will need to take this into account. 


It is important to reflect on power imbalances in the development of these strategic documents. Who has control over the creation and any adaptations to documents? How accessible are documents? Some types of strategic documents, such as Logical Frameworks, reflect Western styles of thinking and planning.  


Learning events, structures and processes (inclusive of all partners and community groups involved in implementation) should be built into M&E Frameworks and Evaluation/Research Plans. M&E Frameworks should be flexible enough to accommodate emergent issues. Some organisations are starting to refer to 'Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation Frameworks' to emphasise the importance of considering how frameworks can support learning in addition to producing information. 

Recommended Options and Adaptations:

M&E Framework

There are many different ways to develop and document an M&E Framework. For a full overview of options see: Develop an M&E Framework 

  • Questions-Led M&E Framework - One recommended option that is in keeping with the C4D Evaluation Framework. It uses as its starting point the needs and questions of the key users, and methods are selected to best answer those questions. To read more about this option see: Create a Questions-Led ME Framework.
  • Results Framework/Logical Framework - A Results Framework is associated with Results Based Management. It places an emphasis on monitoring progress using largely quantitative indicators with indicators set for each level of the causal chain (inputs, outputs, outcomes, processes). Results Frameworks have some advantages in terms of accountability and equity, but they can be limiting in terms of some of the other principles in the C4D Evaluation Framework. See Develop an M&E Framework for more.
  • Outcome Mapping Performance Monitoring Framework and Evaluation Plan - The Outcome Mapping process works towards setting up a realistic, learning-based Performance Monitoring Framework to understand changes in behaviour, relationships, actions and activities in the people and groups who are connected with the program. This process is compatible with most principles in the C4D Evaluation Framework, but some adaptations may be required to meet accountability requirements in some cases. See Develop an M&E Framework for more.

Evaluation Plan

The BetterEvaluation Website includes several options that can be adapted to suit C4D, including an Evaluation plan (which sets details of what, how and when evaluation tasks will be undertaken); an Evaluation work plan (which is more specific about timeframes, deliverables and milestones) . Another option is an Inception report, which may be a first milestone or deliverable, which sets out the conceptual framework, key questions and methodology, and timeframe after some initial scoping work, either desk-based on in the field.


Retrospective Analysis of ODF in Nadia District, India - example of participatory process to develop key questions informing the Research Plan

In this study the researchers used Articulating Mental Models to seek the inputs of key stakeholders in the development of the Research Plan (the research design and key questions). This was process undertaken during a scoping phase. A range of stakeholders, including relevant UNICEF teams, District and local administrators, Faith-based-organisations, health extension workers, community-level committees and individuals were asked their views about:

  • The role they played in their local context,

  • The triggers which encouraged their participation in the project

  • The enabling factors which facilitated the actualisation of the success of the project

  • The manner in which the project has impacted lives within the local context

  • The sustainability factors

  • their theories of change

The findings were combined and used as the basis for further exploration.

More information about how this study exemplifies the approaches advocated in the C4D Evaluation Framework will be available soon.