Story | 26 Sep, 2010

Learning through participatory planning, monitoring and evaluation - guidelines for landscapes and livelihoods strategies

This document is an updated version of the "Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PM&E) Guidelines for Learning and Adaptive Management in LLS Geographic Component and Landscapes" that LLS produced in September 2008. It reflects LLS experience in applying the PM&E methodology up to September 2009. As in the case of the previous version, it should be considered a framework or roadmap rather than a prescriptive document.

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Photo: Somsak Soonthornnawaphat

The approach in mind is one of change…
The IUCN Forest Conservation Programme wants to move from remaining in monitoring activities and outputs towards a more comprehensive M&E of positive changes that will add value and foster empowerment at the local level. The intent is for our various constituencies to capture learning through monitoring and evaluating change (and the process to make it possible). We want also, at a higher level, to influence donor thinking and practice.
This approach is focused more on learning than on accountability (i.e. reporting activities and outputs and linear planning). This is because LLS works in a complex and dynamic environment where it is often extremely difficult to design linear, straightforward intervention strategies. Project executants may not know how best to bring about an appropriate change of direction. The circumstances often require testing a number of different strategies and using PM&E to learn about what works best, and when.

….through action-learning
Testing of assumptions or hypotheses requires more than simply gathering data/information about pre-determined information needs. We need to look not only at planned interventions and expected outcomes, but also at unintended changes; focusing on the "why" rather than the "what" and the future rather than the present. Reflection through an action-learning approach will be key here: dialogue and fora to discuss the landscape and the intervention outcomes (including side outcomes, positive and negative) and listening to all voices.

PM&E is outcome-based
This means that PM&E will be oriented to understand changes in the behavior, relationships, skills, awareness, knowledge and attitudes of the landscape’s stakeholders, even those changes not necessarily directly caused by the LLS intervention. The PM&E should be guided by − but not limited to − the 8 Strategic Outcomes (and their corresponding local Sub-outcomes) that are embedded in the LLS workplans.

These Strategic Outcomes are not global targets written in stone, but they establish the scale of the ambitions set out in LLS and are intended to influence thinking and behavior.
While we must strive to contribute to the global outcomes, it is not expected that in the very diverse landscape portfolio in which we work that we will achieve all the outcomes in all places: approaches will differ. However, it is critically important to demonstrate what is being done, what is being achieved and how, and what is being learned. It is vital not to think of outcomes only in terms of numbers!

A final clarification
This document has been prepared to provide support to PM&E with local stakeholders. The participatory character of the exercise should not avoid the need to demonstrate rigour and reliability. The credibility of the PM&E outside the landscape is based on having the capacity to verify that the information used is reliable in terms of how it has been obtained, (i.e. identification of sources and methods and triangulation of sources or cross-checking). Local PM&E practitioners should be prepared to demonstrate to external evaluators not only what they have learned, but also the rigor and robustness of the process.

This document encompasses 7 sections plus Annexes. After this introduction, Purposes of the PM&E and principles are introduced. Then the Theory of change (ToC) is described, in particular how you can produce the landscape’s ToC. After that, the methodology to apply the ToC during implementation is discussed in terms of M&E questions, information needs; and the data collection and processing to answer the M&E questions. A discussion about how to reflect and reporting from the M&E data follows; and finally the integration of all elements into the M&E Plan.

Last, but not least, 5 Annexes include a glossary, examples of M&E products from the field, and templates and a list of useful resources (mainly internet based).

Read the full document here.