Assessments are imperative to understand the progress and impact of any project. A baseline survey is conducted at the beginning of a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process to define the key indicators of a project and should take place either before or at the initial phase of a project’s implementation. This allows for effective monitoring and evaluation of a programme at the consequent phases. A baseline assessment provides vital information on the situation that the program aims to change.
Why is it Important?
Baseline data is important because it allows the team to compare the behavior before and after implementation of the behavior plan to determine if the interventions are working.
Thus, it then becomes easy and important to also conduct subsequent rounds of assessments to ensure reliable comparison. The availability of appropriate baseline data is always critical for performance evaluation, as it is impossible to measure changes without reliable data on the situation before the intervention began.
Further, many international development agencies and some national governments base future budget planning and policy decisions on a systematic assessment of the projects and programs in which they have already invested.
Things to keep in mind while:
Preparing a baseline survey tool
The questions should cover a wide range of questions depending on goals the project aims to achieve, the theory of change underlying the project, and the key indicators that are defined in the M&E framework.
Questions should be such that can be compared over time to understand impact
Triangulate data for creating the tool by using: Official statistics, existing survey results like a needs assessment report, research reports, journal and newspaper articles
Surveys must be carefully designed to account for the sensitivity of the issue.
Identify and engage your stakeholders.
The survey tool should include:
Identifiers For example geographic area, household ID number, date of interview, etc
Background Characteristics like socio-economic status, marital status, participation in other projects/programmes, livelihoods, educational level etc.
Outcome indicators (measures of what the programme intends to change)
Conducting baseline data collection
In order to ensure that the tool you have created is complete and accurate, you must conduct a pretest of your survey. In the process, you must also test whether the tool is relevant, contextual and easy to comprehend. If you tick all these boxes, you know you’ve got a good survey tool!
Conduct training for a trained set of surveyors/ enumerators
Incorporate pretest findings and learnings in your training
It is essential that the surveyors are closely monitored as this data is the foundation for future analysis.
A back check is conducted to ensure that data collection, at times when enumerators cannot be monitored real-time, can be held accountable.
Prepare a back check form and conduct a back check survey at the time of baseline data collection to ensure good quality data
Include questions that must match with the main study to cross check
Capture data from a statistically representative sample of the target population.