This report is aimed at identifying the information needs of the Monitoring & Evaluation Department of UNICEF which the author heads. Information is a powerful and valuable asset. It must be sought, guarded and conserved. Drucker’s(1995) claims that “few executives yet know how to ask “What information do I need to do my job? When do I need it? In what form? And from whom should I be getting it? ” A scan of the environment is done so as to critically assess the environmental factors which affect the flow of information in the organisation.

This has been done using the PEST(Political, Economic, Social and Technological) Analysis and a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis of the organisation. Using the critical success factor method the information needs of the Monitoring & Evaluation department are revealed. A gap analysis has been done comparing the information needed against the information available. Recommendations to fill the gaps have also been done by the author and implementation plan done.

UNICEF is a non-profit, inter-governmental, international organisation and a member of the UN agencies. It is guided by the vision of the world where leaders commit to use their power and influence to assure for every child, the rights and opportunities to grow to adulthood in dignity, security and self-fulfilment. UNICEF’s current organisational priorities are girls’ education , integrated early childhood development, immunisation, fighting HIV/AIDS and improved protection of children from violence, exploitation, abuse and discrimination.

The Monitoring and Evaluation department is the backbone of the organisation as it services all the other sections in the organisation. It helps the organisation to extract from past and ongoing activities, relevant information that can subsequently be used as the basis for programmatic fine-tuning, reorientation and planning. Without the M & E department, it would be impossible to judge if work was going in the right direction, whether progress and success could be achieved and how future efforts might be improved.

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The author’s role as the Head of Monitoring and Evaluation department is to support communities, civil society , the organisation and the government in the realisation of child and women’s rights through monitoring, planning and provision of information on child statistics. The information gained from Monitoring and Evaluation Department is used by all stakeholders to improve strategies, programmes and other activities. There is a growing recognition that governance matters for development.

Political processes play a big role in whether economies grow, whether children go to school, whether development moves forward or backwards. The Government of Zimbabwe has ratified a number of international instruments to safeguard human rights, especially the rights of children. Among these are the Convention on the Rights of a child and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. These and many other conventions have had a great influence on gathering of information through researches and national surveys as the government is very supportive of these issues.

On HIV/AIDS issues the Zimbabwe government has demonstrated commitment through the enactment of an AIDS levy in 2000 and the formation of decentralised structures at provincial and district levels as an attempt to ensure disbursements of funds to the most needy. Zimbabwe has experienced serious macro-economic instability, with limited foreign exchange, rising inflation and negative growth since 2000. At the core of the financial crunch has been the inability of the state to raise revenue to finance its deficits. All this has had a negative impact on the funding of researches and surveys by the government.

Researches and national surveys are important in getting information on the national statistics which can be used by the organisation to plan strategically and also measure progress. Even if researches/surveys are undertaken by the Government, data analysis and final dissemination of the information takes a very long time as there is no money to employ more people to do the work quicker. For example the 2002 census results are not yet out and will only be out early 2004. By the time they are out the data would have changed significantly. Social

Access to information on culturally sensitive issues like HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe is a major hindrance. Most people are not ready to disclose their status and even if some relative dies from the disease people do not want to disclose it. Technological Changes in technology are changing the way business operates. The Internet is having a profound impact on the marketing mix strategy of organisations. This technological revolution means a faster exchange of information beneficial for the organisations as they can react quickly to changes within their operating environment.

UNICEF has a website which donors can view and can transfer funds into our account electronically. The Monitoring and Evaluation department can take advantage of the high technology to come up with a system for the storage of data, data analysis and data dissemination as information. 2. 2 SWOT Analysis “To operate effectively and efficiently, an organisation needs to be aware of the likely opportunities and threats in the environment , and of its own internal strengths and weaknesses” (Clare & Sluteley, 1995)

For the department to succeed in achieving its objectives it must build on the organisation’s resource strengths, remove resource weaknesses, mitigate external threats and take advantage of any opportunities which may present themselves. A SWOT analysis summarises the key issues from the business environment and the strategic capability of an organisation that are most likely to impact on strategy development (Johnson G, Scholes K, 2002,) A SWOT Analysis of UNICEF has been done. (see Appendix B).

UNICEF boasts of a highly qualified, committed, motivated and experienced staff. It also has good capacity to develop partnership relations with its peers as it aims to achieve its mandate. It is also trusted by international foundations and donor community therefore its fundraising capability is high. It can easily influence the government in implementation of policies in favour of children as the government is its key stakeholder and principal implementing partner for all projects.

One of its main weaknesses is the poor implementation of projects as some social programmes are poorly targeted and reach many who may not be in need thus creating and reinforcing dependency. A major setback is the poor data collection and analytical skills of counterparts as well as staff. The main opportunity is the receptive environment both at funders’ and community level to development initiatives for children’s rights. Therefore investment in an information system will be easy.

The main threats include the HIV/AIDS scourge which is affecting the survival and development of children in Zimbabwe and deteriorating economy compromising implementation of surveys and researches. Cashmore and Lyall(1991) clearly states that an information department like the Monitoring and Evaluation Department must aim to make information flow as smoothly and as quickly as possible. In order to do this the right equipment must be in the right place and the links between the equipment must be correct.

Information is vital for good management. According to Folklore and Fact Box 9-1 by Mintzberg, the management roles are classified into interpersonal, informational and decisional. The informational role includes monitoring by collecting information, disseminating information to other members in the organisation, acting as spokesperson to transmit information outside of the organisation. The Monitoring and Evaluation department of UNICEF has this critical informational role in the organisation.

The decisional role which involves the initiation and supervision of projects as well as resource allocation is done by the top/strategic management. Therefore the top management relies on the M & E department for information which they can use to come up with decisions for the organisation. 2. 4 Information needs The critical success factor for successful management is the strategic use of information and a positive correlation has been found between management success and effective information needs assessment, gathering and use (Goodman, 1993)

Managers need to use information not only for decision-making and making sense of changes and developments in their external environment but also to generate new knowledge which can be applied to design new products and services, enhance existing offerings and improve organisational processes. (Choo, 1996). Therefore it is crucial that managers are aware of what information they require, how to acquire it and how to maximise the use of it in order to survive and prosper in today’s information intensive environment.

To ascertain the information that a manager requires is to use a Decision Making Analysis Technique(DMAT) One of the most popular DMATs is the critical success factor method. See Appendix C for the critical success factor analysis of the M&E department. Below are the tasks and information needs of the department. The Monitoring and Evaluation Department has the critical informational role of monitoring by collecting information, disseminating information to other members in the organisation and acting as spokesperson to transmit information outside of the organisation.

Therefore it is important that the information needs of this department are analysed and acted on. From the analysis done there are some gaps which need to be filled if the department is to manage and maintain the flow of information in the organisation. These are mainly the non-availability of a management information system for data storage and analysis, lack of up-to-date information from the Central statistical Office which is the central national repository of most data the organisation needs and lack of adequate information on other actors with the same mandate for children as UNICEF.

The major barriers contributing to the lack of information in the organisation are mainly the software limitations of the computers the Central Statistical Office has, poor filing system of field visit reports by each of the departments, level of computer literacy of staff and the poor organisational culture of not sharing information. There are quite a number of promoters of information flow in the organisation mainly that the staff members are willing to learn, the internet which is accessible for all staff members, UNICEF also boasts of high-end computers and an emailing system.

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