3.1.2. Definition of key terms of MEAL in humanitarian contexts

Terms What is measured Definition
Baseline Initial conditions / needs before the intervention IInformation about the situation a project is trying to affect, showing what it is like before the intervention(s); mostly related to needs and Outcome or Impact level indicators
Benchmark Standard of achievement A standard of achievement that a project is expected to achieve / has achieved, which it can compare with other achievements
Milestone Performance at a critical point A well-defined and significant step towards achieving a target, output, outcome or impact, which allows people to track progress
Bias A tendency to make errors in one direction. For example, are there potential for errors because not all key stakeholder groups have been consulted? Are there incentives that reward incorrect information? Does reporting a death in the family mean that food ration levels might be reduced?
Monitoring Activities, Inputs, outputs Monitoring is usually continuous – or at least periodic and frequent – and internal and is largely concerned with activities and their immediate results as it is with systems and processes.
Evaluation Outputs – outcomes – impact Evaluation tends to be an episodic – and often external – assessment of performance and can look at the whole of

the results chain from inputs to impact

Activities Implementation The scale, scope, tools and timing of response delivery: e.g. number of distributions, training sessions
Inputs Resources The financial, human and material resources used to deliver the response: e.g. water containers, trainers, physical facilities,
Outputs Products and services Combined results of inputs and activities, e.g. the number of water containers distributed to targeted households, number of participants trained in a specific set of topics / skills etc.
Outcomes (can be positive or negative, direct or indirect, intended or unintended) Change in capacities, behavior, practice, knowledge, attitudes, policies Use of outputs and sustained benefits (or drawbacks), e.g. how many litres of clean water are available/used (for which purpose) in each household; how many participants show evidence of training content (topics, skills) being understood / applied;
Impact (can be positive or negative, direct or indirect, intended or unintended) Change in state, conditions, wellbeing Difference from the original problem situation. At its simplest, impact measurement means asking the people affected, ‘What difference are we making?’: e.g. reduction in the incidence of water-borne disease; evidence that what trainees have learned is having a tangible impact on their livelihoods, etc.
Qualitative information Performance indicators Qualitative information describes characteristic according to quality (as opposed to quantity) and often includes people’s opinions, views and other subjective assessments. Uses qualitative assessment tools, such as focus groups, interviewing key informants, stakeholder mapping, ranking, analysis of secondary data and observation. Qualitative data collection tools require skill to obtain a credible and relatively unbiased assessment. The key question is: do they provide reliable and valid data of sufficient accuracy and confidence ?
Quantitative information Performance indicators Information about the number of things someone is doing, providing or achieving, or the length of those things, or the number of times they happen
Triangulation Consistency between different sets of data Use of three or more sources or types of information to verify assessment