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Why monitoring and evaluation are important

Last edited: September 17, 2012

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At the national level, the State can identify potential demand and geographic distribution for shelter services by referring to prevalence surveys that are undertaken.  These surveys often provide information on incidence, severity and consequences of abuse, and help-seeking behaviour.  This information, together with a mapping of existing services, aids in identifying service needs and gaps to inform future planning and budgeting for roll-out of additional services to meet demand. Changes in service availability, access and demand can then be tracked over time.

Illustrative National Level Indicators to Track Social Welfare Services

  • Number of organizations that provide any social-welfare services directed at the prevention of and response to VAW/G in a specified geographic area (community, province, region).
  • Proportion of women who demonstrate knowledge of available social welfare-based VAW/G services.
  • Number of women and children who used VAW/G social welfare-based services during a specified time period.
  • Number of hotlines serving VAW/G survivors in a specified geographic area of interest.
  • Number of calls per hotline serving VAW/G survivors in a specified geographic area of interest.


Source: MEASURE Evaluation, 2008.


Example: A Multi-state Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences (USA)

A study funded by the national government surveyed close to 3,500 women in shelters across eight states over a six-month period, between 2007 and 2008. Shelter residents were asked to complete a written survey at or near entrance, and again at or near exit. The results from each shelter and state were then aggregated to assess the demand for shelter and related services, the population served by shelters and the efficacy of services provided by the shelter community.   

The study revealed that three-quarters of domestic violence survivors rated the assistance they received at a shelter as “very helpful” with another 18 percent that rated it as “helpful.” The majority of survivors accessing shelter facilities were found to be 18 to 34 years in age with children under 18. It was also revealed that approximately one-quarter had a repeated stay at the shelter.

Almost all the shelters in the study had the capacity to accommodate survivors living with disabilities and 82 percent had staff who speak English and at least one other language.

The study confirmed the important role that shelters play and the positive outcomes for survivors.  These included:

  • Increased knowledge on ways to plan for safety (92%)
  • Increased knowledge about community resources (85%)
  • Acknowledgement that their children feel greater support (84%)

Other findings of respondents included:

  • Nearly all (99 percent) reported they got the help they wanted with their own safety and safety planning (95 percent).
  • Four out of five people who needed affordable housing received it.
  • Three out of four received assistance with job training or placement.
  • Nearly all received support to ensure children’s safety (98 percent) and schooling (92 percent).
  • Ninety-one percent received assistance with protective or restraining orders
  • Four out of five received assistance with divorce issues, immigration issues and custody/visitation issues.

The study also revealed challenges, with around one-quarter of residents facing transportation barriers and 32 percent facing conflicts with other residents.  Meeting the medium-to-longer-term housing, education, finance, emotional, mental and physical health needs of some residents also proved challenging.

Source: Lyon, E., Lane, S. & Menard, A. 2008. “Meeting Survivors’ Needs: A Multi-State Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences.


At the shelter level, effective monitoring and evaluation contributes to ongoing refinements in practice to ensure the the best possible services are being provided.  Of particular importance, is asssessing practices around women’s safety, due to the grave implications that can result from women who may face continued risks or threats of violence. In addition to safety, monitoring and evaluation can help a shelter to:

  • Understand the impact of its programmes on the physical, emotional and psych-social well-being of women, girls and children seeking support and adapt or revise programming as needed.
  • Strengthen local knowledge about the frequency of violence in the lives of women and girls and the many forms violence can take.
  • Contribute to the local and global evidence base by assessing its programmes and practices and identifying those which show promise in a) reducing the frequency and severity of violence and its impact on women, girls and communities and b) effectively assisting survivors and their children to recover from trauma.
  • Help staff and community members, including key stakeholders such as police, health service providers and state decision makers form clear and accurate understandings of women’s and girls’ experience of violence and estimate the need for additional shelter capacity by monitoring turnaways, crisis calls and other indicators of unmet need.
  • Describe the women and children who access shelters to foster understanding about who the shelter serves and develop service plans that fit the needs of these women and children.  Monitoring this information over the long term also informs how the characteristics of shelter clients change over time, which can aid in shelter advocacy efforts.
  • Promote the development of future programmes informed by evidenced-based practices.
  • Document the types and duration of services the shelter provides (e.g. assistance provided to meet basic needs such as food, safety, childcare and physical/mental health concerns), which may be used to demonstrate a need for related services in the community (e.g. food bank, mental health programming). In the longer-term, documenting assistance provided in the housing, employment and education/training opportunities and other supports for independence provides a basis for estimating future needs and informing state policy.
  • Maintain accountability to the women it serves, to communities and funders by demonstrating and communicating the positive impacts of its work through evidence-based information.
  • Strengthen the rationale and evidence for funding applications for projects that would address shelter resource needs and new initiatives.