There are many different methods and processes that can be used in monitoring and evaluation (M&E). The Rainbow Framework organises these methods and processes in terms of the tasks that are often undertaken in M&E. The range of tasks are organised into seven colour-coded clusters that aim to make it easy for you to find what you need: Manage, Define, Frame, Describe, Understand Causes, Synthesise, and Report & Support Use.
The Rainbow Framework can help you plan an M&E activity by prompting you to think about each of these tasks in turn, and select a combination of methods and processes (which we call ‘options’) that cover all tasks involved. You might also choose an approach, which is a pre-packaged combination of options.
Download the Rainbow Framework
There are two downloadable versions of the Rainbow Framework – one only shows the tasks, and one also includes all the options (methods and processes).View downloads
Explore the Rainbow Framework
The Rainbow Framework shows the different options (methods or processes) that can be used for each task in an evaluation. Most of these tasks are needed in any M&E activity, but some (marked with an asterisk) might not be needed, depending on the purpose of the M&E activity or the specific type of evaluation you aim to conduct.
- Understand and engage stakeholders
Identify who has an interest in the evaluation in addition to the primary intended users, and whose interests need to be prioritised and why. Ensure their engagement throughout the evaluation.
- Establish decision making processes
Specify how decisions will be made about the evaluation—who will provide advice, who will make recommendations, and who will make the actual decisions.
- Decide who will conduct the evaluation
Clarify who will actually undertake the evaluation. This might include people who are involved in what is being evaluated (such as implementers, clients and community members), an internal or external evaluator, or some combination of these.
- Determine and secure resources
Identify what resources (time, money, expertise, equipment, etc.) will be needed and available for the evaluation. Consider both internal resources (e.g. staff time) and external resources (e.g. participants' time to attend meetings to provide feedback).
- Define ethical and quality evaluation standards
Clarify what will be considered appropriate quality and ethical standards for the evaluation and what will need to be done to ensure these standards are achieved.
- Document management processes and agreements
Develop any formal documents needed, including a brief and a Terms of Reference.
- Develop planning documents for the evaluation or M & E system
Develop a formal plan which sets out how an individual evaluation or a range of M&E activities will be undertaken.
- Review evaluation (do meta-evaluation)
Decide processes to review the evaluation process, findings, and conclusions drawn.
- Strengthen evaluation capacity
Choose ways of building on and developing capacity for managing, undertaking and/or using evaluation, which might involve human capital (knowledge and skills), organisational capital (such as technical and administrative infrastructure) and social capital (supportive networks).
Develop initial description
Develop an initial description of what is to be evaluated, to ensure agreement about the boundaries.
- Develop programme theory / theory of change *(optional)
Make explicit how activities are understood to contribute to the intended outcomes and impacts. Communicate this in a diagram(s) and/or narrative. (This is useful for most evaluations but not always needed, such as for evaluations of the quality of products).
- Identify potential unintended results
It is useful and ethical to consider possible negative impacts (that make things worse not better) and how they can be identified before an intervention (project, programme, or policy) is implemented and addressed in an evaluation or M&E System.
- Identify primary intended users
Clarify who will actually use the evaluation—not in vague, general terms (e.g. "decision makers") but in terms of specific identifiable people (e.g. the manager and staff of the programme; the steering committee; funders deciding whether to fund this programme or similar programmes in the future).
- Decide purposes
Clarify the intended uses of this evaluation—is it to support improvement, for accountability, for knowledge building? Is there a specific timeframe required (for example, to inform a specific decision or funding allocations)? If there are multiple purposes, decide how you will balance these.
- Specify the key evaluation questions
Articulate a small number of broad evaluation questions that the evaluation will be designed to answer. These are different to the specific questions you might ask in an interview or a questionnaire.
- Determine what ‘success’ looks like
Clarify the values that will be used in the evaluation in terms of criteria (aspects of performance) and standards (levels of performance). These will be used together with evidence to make judgments about whether or not an intervention has been successful, or has improved, or is the best option. Decide how different stakeholders’ values will be identified and negotiated.
Decide how to select units (e.g. individuals, organisations, time periods) from a population of interest, so that inferences can be drawn about the population.
- Use measures, indicators or metrics (*optional)
Choose or develop measures, indicators or metrics of interest, such as performance, activities or context. (This is useful for many evaluations but in some cases rubrics which synthesise qualitative information will be more valid).
- Collect and/ or retrieve data
Decide how to collect or retrieve data to answer the Key Evaluation Questions.
- Manage Data
Establish processes for managing data during an evaluation, including storing and organising data, and cleaning data.
- Combine qualitative and quantitative data
Combine qualitative data (text, images) and quantitative data (numbers) to improve the quality of findings.
- Analyse data
Decide how to analyse the data that have been collected or retrieved in order to answer the Key Evaluation Questions.
- Visualise data
Decide how to visualise the data to bring clarity during analysis and/or to communicate findings.
These tasks are particularly relevant for outcome or impact evaluation. The tasks reflect three broad strategies that can be used for understanding what caused the observed outcomes or impacts. While each strategy can stand alone, using a combination can usually help to increase the strength of the conclusions drawn.
- Check the results are consistent with causal contribution (*optional)
Check that the data are consistent with what would be expected if the intervention were contributing to producing the observed changes.
- Compare results to the counterfactual (*optional)
Develop an estimate of what would have happened without the intervention and compare that to the findings of what happened with the intervention.
- Investigate possible alternative explanations (*optional)
Identify other factors that might have caused the impacts and see if it is possible to rule them out.
- Synthesise data from a single evaluation
Decide how data will be combined in terms of the agreed evaluative criteria and standards to produce an overall judgement of merit or worth.
- Synthesise data across evaluations (*optional)
Decide how to find, extract and combine data from multiple evaluations to produce more general conclusions about 'what works' or 'what works for whom in what circumstances'. (This is not needed for a single evaluation).
- Extrapolate findings (*optional)
Explain how findings from this evaluation might be more generally applied or translated to new sites and situations. (This is often useful but not always needed).
- Identify reporting requirements
Identify the primary intended stakeholders and determine their reporting needs, including their decision-making timelines. Develop a communication plan.
- Develop Reporting Media
Produce appropriate written, visual, and/or verbal products that communicate the findings.
- Ensure accessibility
Plan the reporting products to make sure they are accessible, including addressing issues such as limited time, low literacy, and disabilities.
- Develop recommendations * (optional)
Draw on the findings and an understanding of the implementation environment to make recommendations such as how the programme can be improved, how the risk of programme failure can be reduced or whether the programme should continue. (This is often useful but not always needed).
- Support use
Plan processes to support primary intended users to make decisions and take action on the basis of the findings.