Upshot explores the current M&E landscape on International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

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Today marks the fourth International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. A huge amount of celebratory initiatives are taking place, and you can join the conversation over the next twenty-four hours on Twitter by following #IDSDP2017. Here Preeti Shetty, Head of Upshot, tells us why this a seminal moment for the industry and one we must not be complacent about.

Our sector continues to evidence that sport has the ability to drive social change. The resultant impact is felt by individuals, and the communities in which they live, all over the world. That is a powerful testament to the work we do.

The change brought about by sport transcends physical, economic and social barriers. I’m proud to say that the work we help facilitate improves health, education, employment social justice and community cohesion. That’s a non-exhaustive list, of course!

Let me be candid with you just for a moment though: we must not be complacent. While we can extoll the virtues of sport as an antidote for a range of social issues, we must never do so without proof. Monitoring – knowing the who, what, where, when and why – needs to remain at the forefront of our approach.

In the sport for development world, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) has taken off in a big way in recent years. Rightly, funders and delivery organisations are paying greater attention to measuring the impact of their work. 

What was once confined to the ‘nice-to-have’ column on a budget is now a prerequisite. The proverbial ‘first name on the team sheet’, if you will! Such is the importance of getting the M&E right, external evaluators are being appointed and M&E is now integrated into most SDP projects at a programme’s design stage.

From experience, we know that M&E can be seen as daunting and complex. Allegedly, something that serves only as a distraction to ‘on-the-ground’ work and, frankly, only decipherable by those with a double-first in Rocket Science! That simply isn’t the case anymore. 

Awkward and inefficient spreadsheets have been superseded by technology that has embraced the user-friendly age, like Upshot.

When we talk about Monitoring and Evaluation in sport for development, and the wider third sector, we refer to it as the collection of information and data from projects and programmes, used to track results and provide accountability. This, in effect, is monitoring. 

Evaluation then is analysing this data to assess the results, processes and contextual factors to inform future practice, decision making and policy. The part that often gets missed out is the Learning – with a capital L! 

This is where we use the information gathered through M&E to reflect on our experiences, celebrate successes and improve our objectives. It is this triumvirate – Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning, or MEL for short – that form the basis of measuring true impact for any organisation committed to driving social change, sport-focused or otherwise.

Globally, the M&E landscape is changing. Governments and public bodies are placing increasing emphasis on sport’s role to deliver against social outcomes. Funders issuing capacity building grants, for the likes of impact measurement, are becoming the norm. CSR and ‘corporate global citizenship’ programmes need to communicate impact (not just generosity!) to stakeholders, senior leadership, employees, customers and the community.

Consequently, shared outcomes and shared measurement frameworks are being developed in the sport for development sector. These provide a consistent and common language when talking about outcomes and a shared approach to measurement.

Fight for Peace is one of many organisations who currently have a robust and effective impact measurement approach. Fight for Peace’s (FFP) 'five pillar' methodology supports the personal development of young people through boxing and martial arts, education, employment support, social support and youth leadership. FFP have helped partners around the world to adapt this methodology to suit their communities, creating a global network of organisations. 

The National Alliance of Sport for the Desistance of Crime (NASDC) is also a good example of how sport can work together with the development and criminal justice sectors to achieve maximum impact. NASDC developed a new Theory of Change document, drawn up by industry experts, that establishes guidelines for building a solid national base of evidence to prove sport's effectiveness at preventing criminal behaviour and rehabilitating offenders, in line with UK government's 'Strategy for Sport'.

We’re busy here at Upshot working with more than 650 public and not-for-profit organisations around the world to manage, monitor and evidence their community projects. With this vast and varied experience, we are able to look at the bigger picture and pick-up on some useful lessons for M&E within the SDP sphere:

•An M&E methodology is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Simply, what works for one organisation, may not work for another.

•A shared measurement approach can be greater than the sum of its parts. Building evidence as an organisation is good but building it as a united sector is better – especially in order to drive international advocacy.

•Qualitative and quantitative evidencing are both important. Organisation dependant, the top-line numbers can share equal billing with the ‘softer’ evidence.

•Communicate. Collecting our impact data is vital, but we need to shout about it and learn to tell our stories better!

•Share your learning. This is as important as shared measurement because if organisations can share their findings, methods and plans, we can collectively move forward at pace.

Buzzwords today, on the fourth International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, will be ‘share’, ‘communicate’, and ‘collaborate’. When it comes to looking at M&E this is no different. We know the power sport can have and, as a community, if we can evidence this robustly and prove this effectively we will move forward quicker, in greater numbers and with a louder voice.

Right fit for you? Get in touch to find out!