Practical Considerations for Monitoring and Responding to Bottlenecks in Real Time

56 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2015

Date Written: February 3, 2014


This handbook summarizes the main findings and takeaways from a review of real time monitoring (RTM) methods and practices as well as an assessment of selected initiatives supported by UNICEF. It is intended to offer practical guidance: to help identify the most appropriate RTM method for a given purpose and in a given context, and to discuss an initial set of proposed guiding principles when considering undertaking a RTM initiative.

UNICEF undertook a learning agenda under the name “RTM: Equity in Action” during 2011-12 to inform ongoing investments in RTM. The main takeaway from the learning is that, if implemented properly, RTM is an effective tool to advance social inclusion, equity and child rights. What drives the value added of RTM is linking RTM data to speedy use and responsive action. As such, it is important to take a systemic approach to RTM, one that goes beyond data collection to give sufficient attention to each of the distinct components — data analysis, reporting and, most importantly, response capability — and treats them in an integrated manner.

The learning yielded further insights on performance issues that may arise when implementing RTM. Overall, this handbook proposes eight guiding principles to maximize the equity potential of RTM initiatives. It also details each of the main methodological approaches for implementing RTM, which include: (i) routine data systems; (ii) sentinel site surveillance; (iii) rapid surveys and assessments; (iv) community-based monitoring; and (v) citizen-based monitoring. Both the overview of the methods and guiding principles are illustrated with recent examples from UNICEF case studies and the existing literature. The handbook concludes by presenting several tools to help practitioners get started.

Suggested Citation

Cummins, Matthew and Chai, Jingqing, Practical Considerations for Monitoring and Responding to Bottlenecks in Real Time (February 3, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Cummins (Contact Author)

UNICEF ( email )

PO Box 44145
Nairobi, Nairobi 00100

Jingqing Chai

UNICEF ( email )

P. O. Box 4884
New York, NY
United States

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