Facing the challenges of climate risks and prospects for readiness that transform our future

M&E in a changing world

Our approach is rooted in complexity--navigating complex landscapes, making decisions when outcomes are unknown, learning from practice. A few years ago we pioneered an approach to M&E that extends our practice to managing project performance recognizing quite diverse contexts.  John Colvin led our contribution on this them for a UNEP/GEF report, under the auspices of Anand Patwardhan (GEF STAP member).  The synthesis paper will be out later this year. We also have an earlier booklet.

The approach recognizes different contexts: what you can learn depends on the context, as does what you monitor to support learning and future practice.


So, I enjoyed reading the report to the GEF Council that cites this work as one of the major contributions of STAP to changing the world (if we take that as the GEF mission). Kudos to all the contributors who shared insights and helped shape the way forward in a field that is both technical and contextual. 


The extract from the STAP report:

Since 2001, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has programmed over $1 billion USD toward climate change resilience, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction. Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plays an essential role in understanding where to focus investments, what is working and why, and how to learn from experience to maximize impact.  M&E can (and should) support strategic and effective investments in climate change adaptation. Despite 15 years of climate change adaptation project implementation experience at the GEF and elsewhere, the need for a comprehensive look at climate change adaptation M&E has only gained broader attention in the last few years. 

In this context, the GEF STAP and the UNEP Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) commissioned a series of discussion papers which were completed in 2015. These have since been consolidated and expanded upon in a new synthesis report which will be available in its entirety before the end of 2016. This synthesis begins with a brief overview of basic M&E concepts, given that these are not widely understood and can easily be confusing.  It describes the Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) landscape with respect to monitoring and evaluation in this space, citing examples of CCA M&E frameworks and of M&E in practice at different levels (program, national, project).  It also summarizes some of the well-known challenges associated with CCA M&E, as these are a foundational point from which to proceed, and cannot be ignored.
Secondly, the paper emphasizes the importance of orienting M&E toward learning, which ultimately requires a paradigm shift from M&E for accountability of outcomes to M&E that is accountable to learning.  Although M&E typically is designed to serve two overarching functions, accountability and learning, traditional development M&E has emphasized accountability and, to some extent, retrospective learning through ex-post evaluations and other after-the-fact reviews.  For CCA, however, there is a growing emphasis on using M&E for ongoing learning and improvement during the course of an intervention’s implementation. Learning underpins adaptation, and thus designing for adaptation requires designing for learning. Yet learning is not embedded into M&E, and in fact learning requires a different approach, set of disciplines, and culture foreign to many M&E practitioners.  Embedded throughout this paper is a call for a fresh approach to M&E, which could, over time, shift the paradigm from M&E, to Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (or MEL).
Finally, the paper further explains why and how the degree of complexity inherent to the CCA context and targeted interventions should inform what M&E (and learning) approaches are needed, lessons from M&E in climate-vulnerable sectors, and insights into mainstreaming gender into CCA M&E (a cross-cutting issue).  The synthesis report, which will be available in final format by the end of 2016, concludes with a reflection on key themes and a summary list of recommendations for approaching CCA M&E to effectively serve learning and improvement in a manner that will improve results over time. 

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