Follow-up of Projects

Compiled by:
Leonellha Barreto Dillon (seecon international gmbh)

Executive Summary

Despite the importance of internal follow-up of completed projects to ensure sustainability of water and sanitation initiatives, it is usually a neglected component in the planning process. Follow-up is part of the monitoring and evaluation phase, which is carried out together with the stakeholders and end-beneficiaries, but it is an ultimate responsibility of the implementing agency or organisation (e.g. you and your team). Here, you will find key information on how to supervise implemented projects in a simple and effective way, and how to take advantages of the lessons learned from past experiences for the design of spin-off projects.

Although it is extremely important, the follow-up phase is often neglected. During the follow-up phase, everything is arranged that is necessary to ensure sustainability after the project completion (adapted from BAARS 2006). According to IRC (2004) a water and sanitation service is sustainable when:

 

  • it is functioning and being used
  • it is able to deliver an appropriate level of benefits (quality, quantity, convenience, continuity, health) to all, including the poorest women and men
  • it continues to function over a prolonged period of time (which goes beyond the life span of the original equipment)
  • its management is institutionalised
  • its operation, maintenance, administrative and replacement costs are covered at the local level
  • it can be operated and maintained (O&M) at local level with limited but feasible external support
  • it does not affect the environment negatively

 

Therefore, in order to ensure sustainability of a water and sanitation project, it is imperative to include an internal follow-up process. This complements the participatory monitoring and evaluation component done in cooperation with the end-beneficiaries, but gives the responsibility to the implementers and initiators of the project to keep an eye on what has been done.

 

Definition of Follow-up

(Adapted from MORRISON-SAUNDERS and ARTS 2004)

Follow-up is defined as “the monitoring and evaluation of the impacts of a project or plan for management of, and communication about the performance of that project or plan”. However, to avoid overlapping with the participatory monitoring and evaluation and operation and maintenance phases, this factsheet will focus on the following principles:

Follow-up as spin-off projects: a project that exploits or builds on earlier work or that repeats something that has already been done.

Follow-up as internal supervision of completed projects: the continuous monitoring of the activities by the project implementers, and possible improvements to the existing project.

 

Purposes of Follow-up

(Adapted from MORRISON-SAUNDERS and ARTS 2004)

Follow-up can serve many purposes ranging from technical and scientific to socio-political and management aspects:

 

  • Control of projects and their impact: follow up provides both verifying and controlling functions for implemented projects.
  • Maintain decision-making flexibility and promote an adaptive management approach: feedback from follow-up programmes provides opportunities for project managers and regulatory agencies to respond when changes in an activity, in the environment or in the social-political context call for an adaptation of current practices.
  • Improved scientific and [7758-technical knowledge]: many activities involved in projects might be based on scientific methods. Some follow-up activities evaluate the utility and effectiveness of these tasks. Follow-up will allow the better understanding of new technologies and approaches, which may result in improving the quality of measures or techniques used in future projects.
  • Improve public awareness and acceptance: on-going follow-up programmes may improve public awareness about the actual effects of development projects, leading to improved public acceptance of proposals.

 

Follow-up as Spin-off Projects

Follow-up is a key mechanism for feedback: It allows to learn from the experiences of previous projects and allows to share these outcomes  with the development and scientific community. In particular, without some form of follow-up, the benefits of the projects and the outcomes will remain unknown. By incorporating feedback into the planning process, follow-up assesses the impact and thereby enables learning from experience to occur. Through activities such as monitoring and evaluation, follow-up provides concrete evidence of outcomes (adapted from MORRISON-SAUNDERS and ARTS 2004). This knowledge can be utilised by the implementers or other agencies alike to improve future projects.

 BATJES (2008)

Source: BATJES (2008)

Spin-off projects are to some extent easier to carry out, as they build on previous experiences. During the planning of spin-off projects, it is necessary to include the lessons from the previous projects, based on the findings in the participatory monitoring and evaluation and follow-up processes. Typical questions you should ask yourself and your team when brainstorming for spin-off projects are:

 

  • Which were the problems that we faced?
  • What could have been done to avoid these problems?
  • Did we learn something new about the technology implemented?
  • Is there any change in the technology that could be implemented?
  • Are the end-beneficiaries satisfied with the project?
  • Could we have approached the end-beneficiaries in a different way?
  • Is there any project-component we did not include?

 

The lessons learned should be described in the background chapter of the new proposal, but it has to be clarified how this spin-off represents a breakthrough or an advancement from what it was done before.
Follow-up also gives credibility to an organisation, as implemented projects can serve as references when applying for funds for new projects. Therefore, it is important to supervise what has been implemented, and ensure that the objectives are reached in a long term. You should make sure that you document every step of the follow-up process with up-dating reports, pictures and videos. It is good to be able to demonstrate in an illustrative way (in powerpoint presentations, web page, annual reports, etc.), the experience your organisation has gathered with previous projects.

Follow-up as Internal Supervision of Completed Projects

Follow-up provides the missing link between planning and continued project implementation. Follow-up links the pre- and post- decision stages of planning, thereby overcoming the gap that arises when there is a difference between project plans and their implementation. Follow-up not only provides information about the consequences of a project, but it also gives the agencies the opportunities to implement measures to mitigate or prevent negative effects. Unless there is minimum follow-up capability, the project operates as a linear rather than iterative process and lacks continuity. Even worse, the process risks becoming a pro-forma exercise rather than a meaningful exercise to improve the water and sanitation situation of a community (adapted from MORRISON-SAUNDERS and ARTS 2004).

Follow-up (Supervision) Programme Design

1. Determination of Need and Scope

The question of why to conduct an internal follow-up programme for your project can be answered with a multitude of different solutions. The core purposes are control, information and communication. A follow-up programme will definitely add value to your project and future activities, and therefore it needs to be included during the planning step. It is indispensable that you and your team realise the need of it. In this step you should define the scope of the follow-up issues (what is to be supervised), specially the indicators that will help you to keep an eye on the project. For instance, if you installed a new wastewater treatment plant, you should monitor the quantity and quality of the treated water, as well as the level of satisfaction of the end-users, and take the necessary steps if there is scope for improvement.
 

2. Defining Tools, Methodology and Time-Plan

Once the scope of the follow-up programme as well as the indicators are defined, the next step is to define the tools and methodologies you will need. This means the type of activities, such as visits to the project site, laboratory tests, interviews with the stakeholders and the frequency and time span of these activities. Knowing what to do and how often, will give you an idea of how much the follow-up programme will cost per year.
 

3. Financing the Follow-up Programme

Even though that most of the external financing programmes that support projects in the water and sanitation sector do not provide funds after the project termination, it is imperative to plan ahead how the costs of the post-implementation activities will be covered. One option is to cover the costs through beneficiaries’ contribution, in case there is a component of cost-recovery through end-user’s services. In this case, it is important that the services fees include external follow-up activities. Another option is to cover the costs of the mandays, laboratory tests, field visits with the overheads or the annual budget of the organisation. Finally, you could include supervision of on-going projects as part of your new proposals, justifying the need for a follow-up component as part of the gathering knowledge experience.

4. Determination of Roles and Responsibilities

The most important issue to take care of is to assign completed projects to your staff members. It is essential to foment the sense of ownership among your team members, especially of those projects which are completed. Otherwise, the implemented projects will be forgotten when new ones start. Deliberately look out for monitoring and evaluation skills in all your project/programme and management positions, they will be of support in all these process.

5. Gathering Data and Evaluation

(Adapted from MORRISON-SAUNDERS and ARTS 2004)

Once the project is completed, and the internal follow-up starts, make sure to plan and integrate the visits, communication with stakeholders, laboratory analysis, etc. in your day-to-day activities.

Unfortunately the evaluation of outcomes and results from the follow-up is often not conducted, but this analysis should be carried out as it is a critical step in the process. An analysis of the data collected should be conducted to ensure that the information provided is useful for the targeted audience. Overall, the evaluation stage needs to identify the lessons learned from the follow-up programme.

The evaluation stage of a follow-up programme may determine that further steps are needed in order to manage the problems identified. To remedy problems identified during follow-up, modifications of project design, activities, operation or maintenance activities might be required.

6. Reporting

To ensure that reporting of results is not neglected, it is recommended that a formal reporting and evaluation process be developed. In order to avoid extra work and allow for comparison, make sure to develop a simple template for all the members of the staff to report about their internal follow-up activities and the evaluation. The follow-up reports should include as a minimum:

 

  • Short description of the project
  • Location of the project
  • Contact person in the project site (with contact information)
  • Description of the follow-up mechanisms (e.g. field visit, lab test, etc.)
  • Issues or problems identified
  • Results
  • Data analysis and evaluation
  • Corrective measurements undertaken
  • Further actions proposed to deal with the issue
  • Lessons learned

 

More Tips for the Follow-up Phase

(Adapted from INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES 2007)

 

  1. Always budget for a follow-up programme including costs for staff, assessments, baselines, monitoring systems and evaluation.
  2. Include follow-up in the work plan and proposal, if possible.
  3. Develop a follow-up plan and focus on just a few indicators.
  4. Develop data collection and management processes-these should be made as simple as possible to ensure utilisation and should also capture staff roles and responsibilities.
  5. Regularly hold meetings to reflect on monitoring and evaluation data ― the emphasis here should be learning and building feedback into the programme.
  6. Share results with beneficiaries and other stakeholders ― avoid reporting only upwards.
  7. Conduct a baseline at the beginning of the project/ programme and final evaluation at the end so that results can be systematically captured.

Applicability

Follow-up should be integrated to all types of projects, from construction of infrastructure initiatives to training and awareness raising activities.

Advantages

  • Managers and other stakeholders including donors need to know the extent to which their projects are meeting their objectives and leading to their desired effects
  • Follow-up builds greater transparency and accountability in terms of use of project resources
  • Internal follow-up alerts managers to actual and potential project weaknesses, problems and shortcomings before it is too late
  • Future planning and programme development is improved when guided by lessons learned from experience.
  • Successful implemented projects serve as reference for future applications for funds
  • In overall, it avoids that the implemented projects are forgotten with the time

Disadvantages

  • Internal follow-up of projects require human power and extra activities, which are mostly not financed by the funding agency after the project completion
  • To follow-up completed projects might deviate the attention and efforts of the members of the team working in new projects

References Library

BAARS, W. (2006): Project Management Handbook, Version 1.1 – July 2006. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

IRC (Editor) (2004): What is cost recovery? . INTERNATIONAL WATER AND SANITATION CENTRE. URL [Accessed: 28.05.2010].

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES (Editor) (2007): Monitoring and Evaluation in a nutshell. INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES . PDF

MORRISON-SAUNDERS, A.; ARTS, J. (Editor) (2004): Assessing Impact, Handbook of EIA and SEA Follow-up. London: Earthscan. URL [Accessed: 28.05.2010].

BATJES, K. (2008): Toolkit Cartoon: Monitoring. Wageningen: The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). URL [Accessed: 03.04.2012].

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES (Editor) (2007): Monitoring and Evaluation in a nutshell. INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES . PDF

As part of the process to systematise and enhance the quality of monitoring and evaluation processes, this simple monitoring and evaluation guide has been developed. This guide includes practical guidance on how to do monitoring and evaluation: including developing simple monitoring and evaluation tools giving practical examples, a set of formats to facilitate the evaluation process and basic monitoring and evaluation terminology to ensure coherence and consistency.


Reference icon

GERMAN, D. ; GOHL, E. (Editor) (1996): Participatory Impact Monitoring Booklet 4: The concept of participatory impact monitoring. Eschborn: GATE/GTZ. URL [Accessed: 22.04.2012]. PDF

This short booklet explains the concept of participatory impact monitoring in depth, but in a simple and richly illustrated way.


Reference icon

GALAN, D.I.; KIM, S.; GRAHAM, J.P. (2013): Exploring Changes in Open Defecation Prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa Based on National Level Indices. In: BMC Public Health 13, 1-12. URL [Accessed: 28.08.2013]. PDF

This study estimates the changes in open defecation prevalence between 2005 and 2010 across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. It also explores the association between national level indices and changes in open defecation prevalence and assesses how many countries can achieve “open defecation free status” by 2015.


Case Studies Library

Reference icon

SCHWARZ, B.; GERMAN, D. ; GOHL, E. (Editor) (1996): Participatory Impact Monitoring Booklet 3: Application Examples. Eschborn: GATE/GTZ. URL [Accessed: 22.04.2012]. PDF

This booklet presents several examples from Bolivia, the Philippines and Argentina of group- or NGO-based impact monitoring.


Training Material Library

Reference icon

BAARS, W. (2006): Project Management Handbook, Version 1.1 – July 2006. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This project management tutorial is intended for anyone who is involved in or will be involved in projects that take place within or are conducted in association with DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services). The text, however, has been prepared in such a way that it can be used by other organisations, particularly those in the non-profit sector, that use project-based working methods.


Reference icon

GERMAN, D. ; GOHL, E. (Editor) (1996): Participatory Impact Monitoring Booklet 1: Group-based impact monitoring. Eschborn: GATE/GTZ. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This short booklet is written for leaders or members of self-help groups and describes how group-based impact monitoring works in a simple and easily understandable style.


Reference icon

GERMAN, D. ; GOHL, E. (Editor) (1996): Participatory Impact Monitoring Booklet 2: NGO-based impact monitoring. Eschborn: GATE/GTZ. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This booklet on NGO-based impact monitoring is addressed to staff members of development organisations, i.e. national organizations such as NGOs, federations or government organizations which promote self-help groups. It explains how NGO-based impact monitoring works in a simple, illustrated and easy-to-understand manner.


Important Weblinks

https://improveinternational.wordpress.com [Accessed: 06.06.2013]

This is an ongoing compilation of statistics to show that failure rates for water systems, latrines, and hygiene promotion campaigns are still high after decades of intervention.