Probably every M&E officer has been in this situation: The deadline for the annual report is approaching, but the data is just not ready. It takes time, effort and nerves to go through all the different monitoring documents that have piled up throughout the year and to copy-paste the relevant information into the format that meets the donor’s requirements.
Even when you work in a neatly organized monitoring system and the data actually is complete and up-to-date, your internal monitoring system and the donor’s reporting format might be two very different stories. This is why it is important to have the reporting format in mind right from the start when setting up a results monitoring system.
Don’t get me wrong here – monitoring should not happen for the sake of reporting only. At energypedia consult we are fierce advocates of the idea that monitoring must be an integer part of project management. Decisions should be based on evidence and insights from M&E are far too valuable to be lost in some drawer. But at the end of the day, or rather the year, aid projects must report to be accountable to their donors, partners and beneficiaries.
When we set up a WebMo for a customer we consider both: The information needs of the project and the donor or other involved stakeholders. Often, donors require some standardized format such as a logframe or results tables to report on achieved results and their indicators. We make sure that all the required information have their place in the system, so that users can enter them in a decentralized way. We encourage our customers to collect pieces for the report throughout the year and not wait till the deadline. For example, if the political context of a project changes, this should be noted in WebMo as soon as it happens because later on, it might be much harder to remember what exactly happened and how it affected the project.
For reporting, we define a page that automatically pulls all the relevant data into the right order and format. The good news is that we recently also programmed an extension to WebMo that allows to export this report page directly into Microsoft Word. From there you can edit it some more, finalize the layout and then send it as a Word or PDF file.
The Word export was not a standard feature of MediaWiki which is the basis of WebMo. The challenge is that MediaWiki does not offer a direct interface to Microsoft. Therefore, a little trick was necessary: We first translate the WebMo code (wiki text) into HTML which is then turned into Microsoft’s Office Open XML file format. This can finally be injected into a pre-defined Word template.
In the end, you have a report ready with as little effort as possible!