The Importance of Conducting Baseline Surveys Before a Particular Project Has Commenced.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF CONDUCTING BASELINE SURVEYS BEFORE A PARTICULAR PROJECT HAS COMMENCED.

The Baseline Survey is the first step in the project. A Baseline Survey gathers key information early in a project so that later judgments can be made about the quality and development results achieved of the project. The project’s monitoring and evaluation plan is closely linked to each (objective) level of the log frame and includes indicators of achievement and means of verification. The Baseline Survey is an early element in the monitoring and evaluation plan and uses the log frame structure to systematically assess the circumstances in which the project commences. It provides the basis for subsequent assessment of how efficiently the activity is being implemented and the eventual results achieved.

Subsequent monitoring of project progress also gathers and analyses data using the log frame and will be consistent with, but not repeat, the Baseline Survey. Mid-term reviews, project Completion reports and other evaluations will judge progress largely based on comparisons with the information from the Baseline Survey. A development activity entails change, so a good monitoring and evaluation system will: show whether change is occurring; indicate the results of the activity, including eventual impacts, whether these changes are intended or not intended, direct or indirect, positive or negative, primary or secondary; and suggest how to improve the efficiency of implementation, the extent of the desired results achieved and their sustainability. The first stage in building an evaluation system typically involves design, execution and analysis of the baseline studies in order to establish the frame of reference for subsequent comparisons on which evaluation will be based. Since for these comparative purposes the data to be collected subsequently must be similar to those collected in the baseline studies, the methods of selecting and conducting these baseline studies and their content are extremely important. In effect, the principal conceptual work for the evaluation of a programme must occur at this stage, since the nature of the entire monitoring and evaluation system will be determined here. Moreover, the largest volume of data that is collected at any one time is obtained in the baseline studies. This stage will therefore involve the largest number of personnel and require the greatest amount of time. As a result, it is the most costly stage in the design and implementation of the system. This cost factor led to the decision to make a double use of the baseline studies in each of the four cases under review here. On the one hand, data would be used for subsequent comparisons; on the other, data would be used. for a diagnosis of the existing situation of potential beneficiaries of the programmes for planning and programming purposes. In several cases in which programmes were already under way, the baseline data would affect implementation rather than formulation of the programme plan. A good baseline survey involves a careful specification of exactly what and how data is to be collected (through qualitative research), and a sampling frame representative of the project population (maybe with concentration on groups of particular interest within the population).It ensures that survey information is accurate, that information collected is accurately and efficiently entered, and that final databases are user-friendly. Baseline surveys can take many forms, but their common characteristic is that they are conducted at the start or initial period of a project to: provide the information set for subsequently determining project impact, produce indicators for project monitoring and evaluation and form the basis for identifying specific project activities. The sampling frame should, budget permitting, include a treatment (in-project) and control (similar but outside-project) group. These two groups will constitute comparative points of...
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