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Intelligent monitoring

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What is ‘intelligent monitoring’?

Government good practice guidance for commissioners and other funders has focused on ‘intelligent monitoring’. This is monitoring that is useful and has the following characteristics. It should:

  • encourage learning through discussion between commissioners and providers, and the interpretation of information about performance.
  • enable future planning through understanding what has worked and what has not worked.
  • highlight added value: this might be beyond the outcomes agreed in a contract or grant agreement, such as through training volunteers, developing joint working or developing policy and practice.

Issues to discuss with your commissioner

For voluntary organisations, government guidance on intelligent commissioning and the principles of good practice indicate a number of areas which may be the subject of discussion and possibly negotiation with the commissioner at an early stage:

  1. Identify with the commissioner what information will be useful both to your organisation and to them; ideally you should also discuss how to capture the information. Discussion may include how they will use the information.
  2. Monitoring should be proportionate to the amount of funding provided, although it may also be necessary to take into account reputational risk or innovation risk. Is it possible for some information to be supplied quarterly (say, outputs) while some other information is supplied annually (say, outcomes)?
  3. The costs of meeting monitoring and evaluation requirements should be part of the funding for service delivery.
  4. Share an understanding about timelines in terms both of outputs and outcomes. Outcomes will occur in the short, medium or longer-term and it may not be possible to report on some outcomes for the first year or years of funding. There should be a realistic timescale between the start of funding and reporting deadlines.
  5. Discussion should take place as to the balance between quantitative and qualitative data that is required. Quantitative data may not always be appropriate to the type of service; the value of the service may not be evidenced unless soft outcomes are captured.  
  6. Discuss with funders how you can use your existing monitoring systems and whether you could use a standard report based on your own reporting systems, especially if you can identify several funders who are likely to need similar information. Can the information be provided in line with your own reporting system? How fit for purpose is the information that you already supply to your board of trustees?
  7. Targets should be realistic and both you and the commissioner should be wary when setting targets18 months or so in advance; there should be some recognition that these targets may need to be adjusted.

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Page last edited Dec 22, 2015

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