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Design, Monitoring & Evaluation Tips: Measurable Goals and Objectives

By Jonathan White on the Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Developing measurable goals and objectives is an important step in the project design process, and one that seems to be frequently overlooked in peacebuilding programming. We have a tendency to not only overpromise the results, but also on the timeframe the results could be realistically achieved in. We need to do better, not just to be accountable to donors or even to ourselves, but to the people we serve.

Clearly stated goals and objectives provide the scope, focus and purpose to the project. Goals link the project to the desired change in the broader conflict, while objectives describe the knowledge, attitudinal and behavioral changes that are prerequisites to achieving the goal. In other words, goals operationalize impacts and objectives operationalize outcomes (results).

Hot Resource! Check out Cheyanne Church and Mark Rogers’ Designing for Results: Integrating Monitoring and Evaluation in Conflict Transformation Activities, Chapters 3 and 4 for more on measurable goals, objectives and indicators.

Generally, there are four pitfalls to be avoided when conceptualizing measurable goals and objectives.

1. Defining goals too narrowly so that they appear to be objectives or activities; defining objectives so broadly or narrowly that they appear to be goals or activities

Narrow Goal: Media in Kosovo will prevent violence between religious sectors through increased professionalism gained from training.

Broad Objective: To prevent election-related violence in Kenya.

Remedy: Think in terms of what the activities are designed to achieve. Shift thinking away from describing activities and toward describing the knowledge, attitude or behavior changes those activities are intended to achieve in the project participants and/or context. This will result in a stronger orientation towards results rather than activities. Remember, activities are action steps taken to get to objectives or goals.

Goal: Media professionals will strengthen capacity to raise awareness of and promote religious freedom in Kosovo.

Objective: Journalists in Kosovo will report more balanced news stories and facilitate on-air dialogues related to issues of religious diversity after training.

2. Stating implementation or operational benchmarks as goals or objectives

Goal as operational benchmark: Training will be provided to 25% of Kenyans to help them shift their identity from tribal membership to seeing themselves as a Kenyan first.

Objective as operational benchmark or an output: To increase the number of mediators trained in Rwanda by 15%.

Remedy: Write the goal in terms of changes that will occur in the knowledge, attitude or behavior in participants. The focus is thereby shifted to the result rather than the activity conducted to achieve it.

Goal: There will be a 25% increase in the number of Kenyans who identify themselves as Kenyans first before tribal affiliation.

Objective: Mediation centers will increase capacity to effectively mediate and resolve land-based disputes.

Hot Resource! A Guide to Actionable Measurement by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

3. Writing compound goals or objectives

Compound Goal: To develop the capacity and professionalism of the Burundian police and media and journalists to manage difficult situations and prevent further violence.

Compound Objective: To contribute to the counter-radicalization process in Indonesia and rebut violent and extremist theological arguments that support terrorism.

Remedy: Focus on one target audience and/or change at a time. Structure the goals and objectives statements so that the target audience for the project is the subject and the change in knowledge, attitude or behavior is the verb.

Hot Tip! Your goal or objective might be too broad if it has ‘and’ in it.

Goal: (1) Burundian police forces will develop the capacity and professionalism to successfully manage and de-escalate difficult situations with potentially high levels of tensions that could erupt in conflict in the period leading up to the 2010 elections. (2) To develop the capacity and professionalism of journalists and media outlets to prevent the media from being co-opted into public violence.

Objective: (1) Prisoners in Indonesian state and regional facilities will increase their knowledge of Islamic theological arguments against violence.

Hot Resource! Check out Catholic Relief Services’ Guidance for Developing Logical and Results Frameworks by Carlisle J. Levine

4. The passive voice

Passive voice Goal: To build the capacity of the justice sector in Timor-Leste [action] to achieve equal and timely access for men, women and children [subject].

Remedy: Rephrase the sentence so that the subject performs the action expressed in the verb. This is referred to as the active voice and makes the sentence meaning clearer for readers. Active voice sentences are also more concise than those in passive voice because fewer words are required to express them. Passive voice sentences are easily recognized because the verb will always include a form of be, such as am, is, was, were, are or been.

Active voice Goal: “The men, women and children of Timor-Leste [subject] will achieve equal and timely access to justice [result] by building the capacity [action] of the justice sector.”

Hot Tip! The Learning Portal for DM&E for Peacebuilding is preparing to release a series of self-guided training modules that breaks each phase of the project cycle down into manageable steps, including practice exercises! Check back this summer for more details.

Hot Resources

Free Online! Designing for Results: Integrating Monitoring and Evaluation in Conflict Transformation Activities by Cheyanne Church and Mark Rogers for Search for Common Ground

Free Online! Catholic Relief Services’ Guidance for Developing Logical and Results Frameworks by Carlisle J. Levine

Free Online! Measuring Progress in Conflict Environments (MPICE): A Metrics Fram... edited by John Agoglia, Michael Dziedzic and Barbara Sotirin

Free Online! A Guide to Actionable Measurement by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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