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Designing diagnostics in complexity: Measuring technical and contextual aspects in monitoring and evaluation systems

Caitlin Blaser Mapitsa, Marcel T. Korth

African Evaluation Journal; Vol 5, No 1 (2017), 5 pages. doi: 10.4102/aej.v5i1.196

Submitted: 02 December 2016
Published:  28 April 2017


Background: This article emphasizes the importance of reflecting on the methods employed when designing diagnostic tools for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems. It sheds light on a broader debate about how we understand and assess M&E systems within their political and organisational contexts.
Objectives: The article looks at what divergent purposes of M&E mean for how M&E systems are assessed, and how context-appropriate diagnostic studies can be designed.
Method: The article draws on two different approaches: a survey that looks at the technical components of an M&E system and a complexity framework that analyses the way a system functions in a broader political and organisational context. The foundation is provided by survey and interview data from over 70 officials from across the City of Johannesburg’s administration.
Results: The study revealed great diversity as to respondents’ understanding of what M&E structures and processes should do and achieve within the city, ranging from a management function closely linked to auditing and oversight responsibilities to a governance role that is more linked to learning and planning. Limitations in M&E capacity and/or performance were linked to contested political and bureaucratic structures.
Conclusion: The mixed method approach to diagnostics proposed in this article contributes to the call in the ‘Made in Africa’ debate for more contextualised methods and tools around the practice and the assessment of M&E. The article proposes the development of a synthetic tool that covers both M&E technical components and capacity on one hand, and an analysis of how these are embedded in a political and organisational context on the other.

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Author affiliations

Caitlin Blaser Mapitsa, Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Research, Wits School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Marcel T. Korth, Wits School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


Evaluation; context; Africa; public management


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ISSN: 2310-4988 (print) | ISSN: 2306-5133 (online)

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