Real Time Monitoring for the Most Vulnerable: Concepts and Methods


  • Henry Lucas,

    1. Statistician who has specialised in information systems, monitoring and evaluation, and research methods, with a special focus on the health sector.
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  • Martin Greeley,

    1. Development Economist with over 35 years of professional experience including ten years leading long-term agricultural research projects in South Asia.
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  • Keetie Roelen

    1. Research Fellow at IDS in the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team and a member of the Centre for Social Protection.
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  • This article is an edited extract from the Desk Review commissioned by UNICEF on Real Time Monitoring for the Most Vulnerable implemented by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) as part of UNICEF's global study on Real Time Monitoring for the Most Vulnerable (RTMMV). The Desk Review is based on secondary, publicly available literature and its selection of the country examples is illustrative rather than comprehensive.


In assessing the value of different approaches to real-time monitoring for the most vulnerable, an initial requirement is to set out a conceptual framework that provides at least some degree of clarity as to what precisely is meant by ‘real time’, ‘monitoring’ and ‘vulnerable’– all terms that can be highly context-specific. That is the first task addressed here. The second is to consider potential sources of data that might be used to undertake real-time monitoring and assess their advantages and disadvantages for the present purpose. Four general approaches are considered – community-based participatory monitoring, sentinel sites, routine data systems and rapid surveys – and selected examples from the literature are given to illustrate the potential use and limitations of their applications.1