Welcome to the evidence layer cake

Layer Cake. A terrific film from Matthew Vaughn, back along prompting calls for Daniel Craig to be Bond and barely recognising Tom Hardy as a polished Oxbridge graduate. Great film, great soundtrack, smart directing, lovely times. And here’s a favourite quote from it (SPOILER – there are lightly censored swears in it – if you’re likely to be offended by that, please don’t actively engage in either the film nor the quote – the rest is almost potty-mouth free).

“You’re born, you take sh!*

Get out in the world, take more sh!*

Climb a little higher, take less sh!*

Til one day you’re up in the rarefied atmosphere and you’ve forgotten what sh!* even looks like

Welcome to the layer cake, son”

So what has that got to do with M&E? Well. Nothing immediately springs to mind. But I liked the visual of the layer cake and that quickly takes me to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Because I believe that there’s a hierarchy of evidence needs, often accidentally articulated through the development of M&E functions. Cos when they start up, you tend to have to take sh!*. 

So, to get specific…

  • When you’re starting out building M&E, you start with the basic quant. Output level. Distribution and beneficiary lists and such. 
  • You then more to more sophisticated quant, perhaps even using digital data gathering. 
  • You may then try to sprinkle on top some case studies and quotes, photos, even video to get the pathos going. 
  • You may even then add another layer, moving into outcomes, aiming to use internationally recognised indices, whether or not they were designed thousands of miles from where they’re meant to be relevant. Yes, that’s a nice slice of ethos there. 
  • You may then try a few focus groups, moving towards the giddy heights of more sophisticated, systematic and representative qualitative insights. 
  • And then what? Well, whatever stage you’re at, you have the chance to wrap it in some nice, all encompassing icing. Something to hold it all together, to compliment all layers. Yep, that’s the theory of change. 

Of course there are other elements you could add too, but hopefully you get the idea. Flip that list on it’s head and you have Michael Gambon’s Hierarchy of Evidence Needs. The idea, such as in the cheese cake reference in a previous post, is to develop a sophisticated, balanced, connected and intellectually delicious combination. One in which you can cut a nice big slice of evidence, from multiple sources and methodologies, that provides the taster with a complex and complementary blend. One that provides ins-ight and del-ight all at the same time.

But that all takes resource, time not the least among them. I guess we need to keep building, layer by layer. Until one day, we’re up in the rarefied atmosphere, and we’ve forgotten what paper-based monitoring even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake.

Welcome to the evidence layer cake

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