Traditionally PD was not measured for its impact, which resulted in the increase of demand for measurement and evaluation of PD programs and projects. In the lack of an evaluation history, current academics and practitioners are struggling to find ways in which PD can be measured, to create baseline data which to be used as reference points and comparison now and in the future. Measurement and evaluation are especially important, considering that PD is not only about opinion, but also about social impact and action (or non-action, e.g. ISIS example).
There are several positive and negative consequences tied to the increased demand for PD measurement and evaluation (M&E). On the positive side, as Banks has mentioned in his 2011 paper, M&E will contribute greatly to improved PD – among others, in terms of allocation of resources; best practices; motivation for further improvement; honest insight of PD achievements and expectations; and offering an alternative to hard power.
The increased demand for PD M&E also has a few negative consequences. With practitioners trying to meet the M&E standards and requests in order to justify their spending requests, more and more PD programs are being designed in order to be measured (and most probably result in success stories). While designing for measurement is exactly what PD needs, the most crucial factor in PD should not be measurability, but rather effect or impact. It is not easy to design a PD program which serves its aim and is able to prove its effect. With regards to this, Banks has also laid out the ‘dirty dozen’, or challenges of M&E for PD. Banks M&E challenges list, among others, includes the high costs of M&E; the threats of continuity linked to changes of staff; the growing emphasis on multilateral partnerships, which make it harder to define the source of impact; as well as the confusion between output and outcome M&E models; to mention some.
I think that the process of adopting regular M&E processes in PD is hardest now, in the phase where it is being properly established. The increased demand for M&E has its positive and negative consequences, out of all of which there is plenty to learn and apply, in order to create a good M&E basis for PD in the future.