When do communities know best? UNICEF's search for relevant social indicators in Zimbabwe

Project monitoring and evaluation in Africa have traditionally depended on the `expert' knowledge of `professional' evaluators to develop so-called SMART indicators. But this expert knowledge has not permeated the various implementing agencies - which include communities themselves. The result has been sporadic and unreliable data and weak monitoring and evaluation frameworks. In Zimbabwe, these difficulties have inhibited the development and establishment of a social statistical database. One weak area of social statistics is information on children. Since 1995, UNICEF Zimbabwe has worked with communities to produce up-to-date and relevant statistics through projects such as the Sentinel Site Surveillance Survey and more recently the development of a village register that will contain simple but vital programme indicators. This paper seeks to document and highlight the thinking on these exercises and the challenges faced by both UNICEF and the communities thus far.