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Project MEL Plan Monitoring Component

In 2017, USAID introduced a Monitoring Toolkit which complements and updates its Performance Management Plan Toolkit, on which much of this section is based. USAID is just beginning to fill out the outline of its new Monitoring Toolkit, including both guidance and templates. Accordingly, the Project MEL Monitoring Component of Project Starter remains unchanged. It will be updated as new materials become available in the Agency’s Monitoring Toolkit.

The Monitoring Component of a Project MEL Plan, or a CDCS Performance Management Plan (PMP), is familiar to many USAID staff. There are numerous good examples in USAID of CDCS PMPs and project level planning documents that identify performance indicators; identify baseline values and targets for indicators, and describe plans for conducting data quality assessments. This section builds on that experience.

When preparing the Monitoring Component of a Project MEL Plan, USAID design teams are free to draw on the Missions CDCS-level Performance Management Plan (PMP) for both content and tools. As is common in PMP's, the project design team may want to start this section with an introductory "indicators at a glance list". The sample provided below identifies all of the indicators in a sample trade facilitation project by Logical Framework level and, through a series of columns on the right indicates whether a given indicator in the project Logical Framework is (a) also a CDCS Performance Indicator, (b) whether it is a USAID Standard Indicator, (c) or a Custom Indicator, and (d) whether it is Gender Disaggregated. All of these characteristics were discussed in detail in the CDCS segment of this kit, and are available for review if users are first entering the kit for the purpose of preparing a Project MEL Plan.

Illustrative 2012 Logistics Performance Index Country Scores: Philippines

Illustrative 2012 Logistics Performance Index Country Scores: Philippines

The preparation of a Project MEL Plan annex to a PAD provides USAID design team staff with a opportunity to review the indicators included in the project's Logical Framework and modify them, if warranted. Generally speaking, some if not all of the indicators at the project Goal, Purpose and Sub-Purpose levels will come from the Mission CDCS, as illustrated in the sample "indicators at a glance" table below, and cannot be changed. Some of these may also be USAID standard indicators for which data from the Mission will contribute to aggregated agency-wide reporting, and will thus need to be gathered using precisely the definitions provided for USAID Standard Indicators. When preparing a listing of indicators for a Project MEL Plan, it is a good idea to revisit USAID's standard indicators list, since it contains a number of input and output level indicators that a project might be able to monitor, such as indicators that focus on the number of firms assisted, the number of person hours of training, and the number of days of technical assistance to local partners, included in the "indicators at a glance" table below.

A review of performance indicators during project design should also consider the environment in which USAID will be collecting performance data. With more donors working in sectors where USAID is active, complexity is an important issue to consider and USAID’s Discussion Note on Complexity Aware Monitoring provides useful guidance on adapting performance monitoring plans to the Mission’s environment. In this same vein, USAID’s paper on MEL in Post-Conflict Settings continues to be a useful guide.

This is also a good time to review topical/technical indicators for the type of project that has been designed. In some fields, including trade facilitation, the range of indicator options is growing rapidly. Established sources such as the Logistics Performance Index, featured on this page include indicator subsets that may be useful for particular projects, and almost every year new ideas about how to measure trade facilitation performance, such as measures linked to the sections of the WTO trade facilitation agreement draft, as described in the OECD's Trade Policy Working Paper 118 on Trade Facilitation Indicators, may include indicator options that would be of interest to USAID Missions planning new projects under the USAID E3 Bureau Partnership for Trade Facilitation. When there are gender dimensions to topical indicators, these should be highlighted in an MEL Plan.

For every indicator included in an initial listing in the Monitoring Component of a project MEL Plan, USAID requires detailed information, much of which can be presented in table format as is done in a PMP prepared as a companion to a CDCS. To this end, users may find it useful to review a pages in the CDCS on:

In this section of the kit, templates are provided for displaying the types of information described above in (a) a blank version of the optional Indicators at a Glance Table below (b) an optional Summary Project Indicator Table that includes details on indicators requested in the PAD guidance, (c) an optional Project Baselines and Targets Table and (d) a project version of USAID standard indicator reference sheet called a Project Indicator Reference Sheet, which a design team may want to include for each project indicator in an annex to its Project MEL Plan, and (e) an optional Assumptions Monitoring Table. Alternative versions of these templates and additional guidance on using forms of this type can be found in USAID's Performance Management Toolkit.

Project LF Level Sample Indicators at a Glance Mission CDCS Indicator Standard Indicator Custom Indicator Gender Disaggregation
Goal Growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita X X    
Purpose Foreign trade (X+M) as a percentage of GDP X      
Export sales of assisted firms (disaggregated by sex of firm owner)     X X
Domestic investment in non-traditional exports     X  
FDI in non-traditional exports     X  
Sub-Purpose Time to export/import (days) X X X  
Number of documents required to export/import X X    
Cost of exports/imports for operators that make electronic submissions     X  
Outputs Land customs border crossings fully automated     X  
Number of trained customs officers at land border crossings (by sex of officer)     X X
Expedited clearance procedures operational at land customs border crossings     X  
Percentages of shippers using expedited shipping, by land customs border crossing (by sex of shipper)     X X
Number of firms receiving USG capacity building assistance to export (by sex of firm owner)   X X X
Inputs Computers and other equipment installed on schedule and within budget     X  
New agents assigned to land border customs crossings (by sex of agent)     X X
Training provided for existing land border customs crossing staff (by sex of trainee)     X X
Person hours of training completed in trade and investment capacity building supported by USG   X X X
Percentage of shippers that have seen flyers or heard local radio ads (by sex of shipper)     X X
Expedited shippers program initiated within 2 months of land border crossing automation     X  
Number of days of USG supported technical assistance in trade and investment capacity building provided to counterparts or stakeholders   X X