Activate Simple M&E Systems for Early Monitoring

Typically, at the onset of an emergency, resources are limited, personnel is burdened with multiple demands and time is of the essence. This does not mean, however, that monitoring the communication response activities should be forgone. The M&E component must be considered, planned and budgeted for from the onset of the communication response. In the initial phase, M&E should focus on developing simple, use-oriented and flexible systems that can be adjusted to the changing context.

Monitoring during the first phase of an emergency often involves the systematic collection of quantitative, output-level data that can strengthen accountability and inform progress. Examples of indicators that could be used to monitor communication activities in the initial phase include:

  • Percent of households reached with messages/door-to-door activities
  • Number of leaflets distributed
  • Number of radio spots broadcast
  • Percent of respondents recalling one message from radio spots
  • Percent of respondents knowing that they can call a hotline for information
  • Number of calls received by the hotline
  • Number of mobilizers trained and deployed

For communication activities it is also important to monitor qualitative data that can help inform messages and activities. This type of monitoring allows you to identify bottlenecks early, such as rumors, misunderstandings and negative reactions. Examples of areas that can be assessed through qualitative data include:

  • Fidelity in content of information provided by spokespeople, community mobilizers, media and press to the public
  • Reaction of communities to the emergency and to the communication activities
  • Rumors and misunderstandings
  • Fears and concerns that develop among community members
  • Reactions to SBCC messages and activities
  • Unintended interpretations of communication products
  • Barriers to adopting the desired behaviors
  • New challenges that need to be addressed
  • Information needs of community members and intended audiences
  • Identification of vulnerable and at-risk groups
  • Identification of most compelling approaches to reach target communities
  • Behaviors that aggravate the emergency



Rapid and simple systems and tools should be put in place to collect the above data. The boxes below provide some methods that can be used to do so.


Quantitative Data

Quantitative data (e.g., numbers and percentages) is often used to answer “what,” “to what extent,” or “how many/much” questions.

Examples of the tools used for collecting quantitative include:

  • Forms completed by community mobilizers
  • Surveys (door-to-door and phone SMS)
  • Logs of phone calls to the hotline
  • Participants lists
  • Materials distribution lists

Qualitative Data

Qualitative data (e.g., types of questions received, reactions in the community and behaviors) is often used to answer “how” or “why” questions. Examples of tools used for qualitative data collection include: 

  • Observation
  • In-depth interviews
  • Open-ended questions embedded in door-to-door surveys
  • Focus group discussions
  • Log of questions received by hotline
  • Case studies


Importantly, the data collection systems must be incorporated into regular communication between (1) field teams, (2) M&E teams and (3) communication teams. Communication needs to be ongoing, especially in the initial phases of the emergency when people’s reactions are likely to be unpredictable. Throughout the emergency response, this essential feedback loop can inform activities for improved success.

The box below provides tips for proper continuous and ongoing assessment of the emergency communication response to ensure that messages and communication activities are on track to bring the emergency to an end.

Tips for Setting up an Effective System for Continuous, Ongoing Reassessment of the Communication Response

  • Set-up and/or participate in regular meetings with the communication response team and the national emergency coordination cell.
  • Agree with stakeholders and partners what indicators need to be reported on regularly and how.
  • Develop data collection templates that can be used by all actors to facilitate data analysis.
  • Consider access to and ability to use specific mobile technologies for rapid data collection/monitoring of activities.
  • Develop a data information flow chart to share with partners and stakeholders so that they know exactly what information needs to go where and by when.
  • Set up a feedback mechanism to liaise with field teams of social mobilizers, spokespeople, outreach personnel, health personnel, community surveillance officers and other relevant individuals on the ground (see Unit 3 for more information).
  • Provide mobilizers, spokespeople and other relevant personnel with the necessary knowledge and sensitivity training to identify and report back on important information that can be used to guide the communication response. Examples include: detecting rumors, identifying vulnerable and at-risk groups, detecting barriers to desired behaviors, misinterpretation of messages and traditional or cultural practices that hinder the adoption of desired behaviors.
  • Ensure you have systems in place to track if and how the intervention is reaching marginalized and vulnerable populations.
  • Train program staff on how to quickly assess data findings to modify SBCC activities, messages, etc., and ensure a system is in place that encourages rapid data analysis and use in programs.