Innovative M&E Activities/Workshops

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LBurrows's picture
Joined: 08/06/2017 - 7:06pm (US)
Innovative M&E Activities/Workshops

Hi all, 

Just wondering if anyone can direct me towards resources/advice for a target audience that are new to M&E, it's benefits and may be sceptical as to its usefulness. In a workshop environment, has anyone used clever methods or activities that draw the audience immediately into the need for such systems/processes?

Many thanks, 



Workshop resources
Patricia Rogers's picture
Patricia Rogers
Joined: 01/06/2011 - 3:50pm (US)
Hi Laura,  

Hi Laura,  

Here's a detailed description of an exercise I often use as part of introducing M & E - evaluating chocolate . 

Many people find that it is useful to start an evaluation workshop with a practical exercise in evaluating something tangible.  Hallie Preskill uses chocolate chip cookies, John Owen uses cornflakes, and Yoland Wadsworth uses coffee cups.  I use chocolate.  I think that chocolate has many more symbolic, emotional, and cultural meanings than the other options and is intrinsically more engaging.

I start with a hypothetical exercise  - how would we evaluate chocolate? What would be the criteria and the standards? We do some together as a group, and it soon becomes obvious that context matters. The most obviously important context is whether the chocolate is intended as a gift, as a shared treat or for own consumption. We would value fancy wrapping when chocolate is intended as a gift, but not for our own use. For some people we would need to consider their dietary needs (allergic to peanuts, or diabetic). This notion of context-dependent evaluative criteria is very important - and why simply using measures that others have developed or used is not necessarily appropriate.

We then define the context  for the exercise as being choosing chocolate for our own consumption. The advantage of this is that everyone therefore has the information they need to develop criteria and standards. (If the chocolate is for your niece, I would not have enough information to know what would be as a criterion.

After they have had a chance to work on this individually or in pairs, we start discussing the different criteria and standards that they have identified.  In some cases people have the same criteria but different standards.  For example in terms of cocoa butter percentage, for some the standard is zero (because they like white chocolate), some like it very dark (80% or more), and some prefer it somewhere between 40 and 60% (dark but not too dark). So people can agree

After we have quite a list, I ask people write down the criteria and standards that they would use to evaluate chocolate for their own consumption, and how they would collect the information and then synthesise it into an overall judgement.

As they finish this I ostentatiously wash my hands and produce a bar of medium quality plain milk chocolate (except in some countries where I have been advised that the chocolate must be individually wrapped to be seen as desirable). Then I ask everyone to evaluate the chocolate, stating carefully that they do not have to eat it. They only get the information they said they needed. Only those who have included criteria to do with use-by dates get this information. 

All sorts of issues arise as people try to apply their evaluative framework.  For example, some find that what matters is  not how it scores on each criterion but how they feel after eating it.  Some rate it as  very good milk chocolate, but they only like chocolate with nuts in it - which leads to a discussion about the distinction between merit and worth).

After several examples, I produce another bar of milk chocolate, this time high quality chocolate. We repeat the exercise. One of my favourite comments was “I’ll have to revise my scale. I gave the previous chocolate 10/10 but this is waaay better.”

Sometimes I have produced a third bar, of no-name compounded cooking chocolate. But this tends to make people sad, even if it does lead to discussions about the impact of the process of evaluating. And one time, when I did the exercise with a group of 70, people only got one type of chocolate, which I wouldn’t recommend, since those who got the cooking chocolate felt very badly done by.

I find this a very rich exercise to use to start introducing many important concepts in evaluation, such as the logic of criteria, standards, evidence and synthesis, the implications of using and combining different scales (eg one where the highest score is the best and other “Goldilocks” scales where the highest score is in the middle – for example, not too sweet and not too bitter), and synthesis issues such as dealbreakers/hurdle requirements  (eg chocolate that is heat spoiled and beyond its use-by-date can’t score as satisfactory however well it scores on the other criteria), and the difference between actual criteria of merit and indicators (such as price, country of origin or brand name).  

What are some other examples of exercises that people have used?

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