The Canadian M&E System: Lessons Learned from 30 Years of Development

by Robert Lahey, November 2010, ECD Working Paper Series, Independent Evaluation Group, World Bank. Available as pdf


As part of its activities, the World Bank Group’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) provides technical assistance to member developing countries for designing and implementing effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems and for strengthening government evaluation capacities as an important part of sound governance. IEG prepares resource materials, with case studies demonstrating good or promising practices, which other countries can refer to or adapt to suit their own particular circumstances (

World Bank support to strengthen M&E systems in different countries has grown substantially in the past decade. There is intense activity on M&E issues in most regions, and IEG has provided support to governments and World Bank units, particularly since 1997, on ways to further strengthen M&E systems, with the objective of fully institutionalizing countries’ efforts.

While several World Bank assessments have been done on the strengths and weaknesses of developing countries’ M&E systems, fewer analyses have looked at OECD country experiences with a view to help identify and document approaches, methods, and “good practices,” and to promote knowledge sharing of those cases as key references for developing country systems in the process of design and implementation.

This Evaluation Capacity Development (ECD) paper seeks to provide an overview of the Canadian model for monitoring and evaluation developed over the past three decades. The Canadian M&E system is one that has invested heavily in both evaluation and performance monitoring as key tools to support accountability and results-based management in government.

The paper tracks the evolution of Canada’s M&E system to its current state, identifying key lessons learned from public sector experience. It offers insights from officials’ own perspectives, highlights key initiatives introduced to help drive the M&E system, and discusses the demands for public sector reforms and the emphasis they have placed on M&E in public sector management.

It is hoped that the lessons and practices identified here will benefit officials undertaking similar tasks in other countries.

This paper was peer reviewed by Anne Routhier, head of the Center of Excellence for Evaluation (CEE) at the Treasury Board Secretary of Canada; Keith Mackay and Manuel Fernando Castro, M&E experts and former World Bank Senior Evaluation Officers; and Nidhi Khattri and Ximena Fernandez Ordonez, IEG. The paper was edited for publication by Helen Chin, IEG. Their comments and feedback are gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed in this document are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank or of the government of Canada.


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