Terminology Used in M&E Planning

Terminology Used in M&E Planning

There are many frameworks and methods that you can use for programme design/M&E planning, each with specific terminology. It is helpful to know what these words mean to apply them correctly. For simplicity and clarity, terms are explained through the example of the programme planting and cultivating tomatoes to improve the nutrition of a community of school teachers (see 'Why is the Theory of Change important?').


  • Inputs are the resources that you need to implement your programme, such as staff expertise or infrastructure. In the tomato programme example, soil, seed, fertiliser and water are all required inputs as well as available workers and management.
  • Activities describe what a programme has to do to bring about the anticipated change. Example activities in the tomato programme are the training of the teachers, preparation of the soil, planting the seeds and watering them for a successful harvest.
  • Outputs are the products or services created and delivered by a programme.  For example, planting tomato seeds, fertilising and watering the soil are activities likely to result in the growth of green plant shoots - direct results. The programme does not show improved nutriton and health indicators yet, but it is showing that the process to achieving the end result is on track. 
  • Outcomes describe the short-term and intermediate changes that occur as a direct result of programme activitities/products/services. For example, a harvest of healthy big tomatoes indicates something has been achieved (food source) which is one outcome.
  • Impact implies the bigger, longer term changes in communities, organisations, society or the environment as a result of programme outcomes. If the example school teachers are able to eat the tomatoes and experience improved nutrition and health (or sell produce to supplement income and therefore diet) we can say the impact is evident.

Aims, goals and objectives   

The tomato plant example is taken from the M&E Blog