Background: The use of participatory monitoring and evaluation (M&E) approaches is important for guiding local decision-making, promoting the implementation of effective interventions and addressing emerging issues in the course of implementation. In this article, we explore how participatory M&E approaches helped to identify key design and implementation issues and how they influenced stakeholders' decision-making in eastern Uganda.
Method: The data for this paper is drawn from a retrospective reflection of various M&E approaches used in a maternal and newborn health project that was implemented in three districts in eastern Uganda. The methods included qualitative and quantitative M&E techniques such as key informant interviews, formal surveys and supportive supervision, as well as participatory approaches, notably participatory impact pathway analysis.
Results: At the design stage, the M&E approaches were useful for identifying key local problems and feasible local solutions and informing the activities that were subsequently implemented. During the implementation phase, the M&E approaches provided evidence that informed decision-making and helped identify emerging issues, such as weak implementation by some village health teams, health facility constraints such as poor use of standard guidelines, lack of placenta disposal pits, inadequate fuel for the ambulance at some facilities, and poor care for low birth weight infants. Sharing this information with key stakeholders prompted them to take appropriate actions. For example, the sub-county leadership constructed placenta disposal pits, the district health officer provided fuel for ambulances, and health workers received refresher training and mentorship on how to care for newborns.
Conclusion: Diverse sources of information and perspectives can help researchers and decision-makers understand and adapt evidence to contexts for more effective interventions. Supporting districts to have crosscutting, routine information generating and sharing platforms that bring together stakeholders from different sectors is therefore crucial for the successful implementation of complex development interventions.
Keywords: Decision-making; Implementation research; Maternal and newborn health; Participatory monitoring and evaluation; Stakeholders.