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Project monitoring

What do we mean by project monitoring?

1992 Available in French, English and Spanish

Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Accounts and records – Footsteps 11

How to keep good records of income, expenditure and other important information

by Jerry Adams.  

What do we mean by project monitoring?

It means to keep a careful check of project activities over a period of time. 

Why should we monitor a project?

Surely if everyone is doing their best, things will go well? 

To work to its full potential, any kind of project needs to set out proposals and objectives. Then a monitoring system should be worked out to keep a check on all the various activities, including finances. This will help project staff to know how things are going, as well as giving early warning of possible problems and difficulties. 

How can a project be monitored? 

  1. Keep it simple
    Remember… monitoring is meant to be a help to good project management and not a burden. 
  2. Objectives
    Work out clearly at the beginning the objectives of the project, including a budget of the likely cost (expenditure).  
  3. Plan the activities
    - what needs to be done
    - when it should be done
    - who will be involved in doing it
    - what resources are needed to do it
    - how long it will take to do
    - how much it will cost.
  4. Monitoring
    Work out the most appropriate way of monitoring the work - again, keep it simple:
    - meetings
    - diaries
    - reports on progress
    - accounts, reports on finances.

Monitoring methods 

  • Reports
    These do not have to be very long. Their purpose needs to be clear - to report on activities and achievements. Above is an example of the records kept by ASHA in India. They give a clear and helpful record of exactly what has been achieved. They are short and to the point. This kind of report will help them in future planning and would clearly inform the Government or a donor agency of what has taken place.

The ideal report - like this one below written by ASHA in India - is short and to the point.




Consciousness raising 1


Conduct 18 courses.

(average size 18)

19 courses held: 10 for men, 9 for women.

Total participants 332

Average size 17.5

Course Length 3 days


These courses are very effective in motivating group members. Groups have been transformed when members have received this training

Group management



Design module.

Conduct 11 courses.

(average size 18)

Module designed.

5 courses held.

Total participants 63

Average size 12.6

Course length 3 days

Purpose of course was to provide training in keeping group records. Because so many members are illiterate, there were not sufficient members to join these courses. Instead, we are now teaching the subject at each group meeting.

Conduct 5 Child Literacy courses

This program has been postponed

We decided that this program should be done when whole villages have been mobilised. We are not at this stage yet.


  • Diaries
    A helpful way of recording information would be to use one side of a note book for example, for daily or weekly plans. Write on the other side what actually happened.  Keeping a work diary like this will help you also to evaluate your own work. What are you doing that is most helpful and brings effective results? Take time to ask people in the community about how they feel.

  • Finances
    Donor agencies often transfer funds in quarterly or half yearly payments which may not fit in with the planned project expenses. Planning of expenditure may need to take this into account. Careful budgeting and planning will be of great help in this. 
  • Meetings
    Confidence and trust are vital.  There is a possibility that monitoring may be seen as a way of checking up on people. It must be a joint effort that everyone is involved with in some way or another.

Use the Information! 

For monitoring to be a useful tool, the information that is collected must be used effectively in all sorts of ways:

  • Improve the timing of planned activities.
  • Adjust budgets.
  • Improve future planning and decision making.
  • Indicate where future work is necessary.
  • Inform other agencies of activities, to encourage cooperation and publicity.
  • Inform funding agencies of progress and future plans.

Have you developed useful methods of monitoring your own project that might be helpful to other readers?  

Take time to ask people in the community about how they feel.

Jerry Adams works in the Project Evaluation Unit at Tear Fund. Much of his work is concerned with evaluating and monitoring projects around the world.


The staff of Health Centre A plan to visit a training centre for a two day training course. They assume that everyone will turn up ready and at the usual time for work. When everything is ready, they just set off and hope they will all get there on time, that there will be enough money and that the course will be helpful.

The staff of Health Centre B plan to attend the same course. The Health Centre nurse spends a little time planning the trip and setting out the objectives.  The journey is planned so that the route, amount of fuel needed and the travelling time are known. Other expenses are worked out and planned so there will be sufficient funds. Staff are told what they will need to take for the course and are told to arrive half an hour before departure to allow time for packing. Staff are also told what they are expected to gain from the training. A meeting is planned two weeks after the trip to find out how effective and useful the training has been. 

Which Health Centre is likely to find the training course most useful and why? 

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