Article | 27 Fév, 2017

Chris Buss: On Learning Questions for the SUSTAIN Initiative

By Chris Buss - Deputy Director of the IUCN Global Forest and Climate Change Programme, based at the IUCN Headquarters in Gland. Chris leads the programme’s contribution to SUSTAIN’s monitoring, evaluation and learning frameworks.

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Photo: © Maria Ana Borges

Chris has, as a member of the Forest Programme, previously been involved in capturing learning for the Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy (LLS). Building on the initiative’s legacy, outcomes and overall learning approach, the Forest programme was asked to replicate the approach for SUSTAIN.

As opposed to LLS, SUSTAIN with its multiple partners, sectors and scales, the application of a similar approach proved challenging. However “the learning questions are the glue that hold the different facets of the SUSTAIN programme together”.

To help bring conceptual clarity around what SUSTAIN is trying to achieve, a monitoring and evaluation workshop for SUSTAIN partners was held in November 2015. In combination with extensive discussions with attending partners such as AWF and EcoAgriculture partners, the workshop helped refine a clear set of learning questions aimed at tying together the different sectoral and scale elements that SUSTAIN is trying to address.

The SUSTAIN learning questions were then used to inform The Forest Dialogue (TFD) led landscape-level dialogues which kicked off in 2016 in Tanzania. The same learning questions have also already been adapted by EcoAgriculture partners in their landscape leaders training and by TFD in the work they are conducting in Brazil.

Although the learning questions were developed following project inception (whilst ideally they should have been developed earlier in the process), they were implicit in the SUSTAIN proposal and its design. This is where the advantage of having a 10-year programmatic approach, as it allows you to develop learning questions as part of the implementing process, based on your findings and in response to questions that emerge.

To sum it up, Chris believes the SUSTAIN learning questions are helping the programme navigate multi-scale and multi-sector complexity and better design a common vision and set of objectives for the initiative. They are essentially the glue that holds the different facets of SUSTAIN together and make an important contribution to fundraising and learning beyond SUSTAIN.

For more information, please contact chris.buss[at]


More on SUSTAIN and supporting documentation can be found here