Context and national M&E systems

The context of an M&E system can encompass a broad range of factors, including cultural norms, historical legacies, economic conditions, social structures, and even geographical considerations.

Context can also include less tangible elements like public sentiment, the level of trust in government institutions, and the prevailing ideologies or philosophies that guide policy-making. These elements can shape the questions M&E seeks to answer, the methodologies used, and how findings are interpreted and used.

Understanding the context of national M&E systems is crucial because it helps identify the opportunities and constraints that can affect how M&E systems are designed and implemented and how effectively they function. Context can help explain why certain M&E approaches may work in one setting but not in another, and it can guide the adaptation of M&E systems to better fit the unique circumstances of a particular country or region. For example, countries with better economic performance may have the resources to build and improve their M&E rapidly, but these situations can change. If a country is in an economic or social crisis, there may be less focus on improving its M&E system than in more stable times; thus, the improvement strategy should be different.

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Questions to ask:

  • What is the overall structure of government (for example, a federal or unitary system)?

  • What is the parliamentary system?

  • What are the dates/years of the last and next elections?

  • What are the policy-making mechanisms under multiparty/single-party governance?

  • How do leadership changes happen?

  • What political forces have driven the development of M&E or related practices/systems?

  • How does accountability work in the government system and parliament, in theory and practice?

  • Who will benefit from building an effective M&E system?

  • Who will not benefit from building the M&E system?

  • What are the implications of this for strengthening the M&E system?

  • What are the political forces (policies, laws, regulations, orders, etc.) that have driven the development of M&E or related practices/systems?

Global Evaluation Initiative (2022). MESA Guidance Note: Diagnostic Tool for a Monitoring and Evaluation Systems Analysis. Retrieved from

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