IIRR and ETC (Prolinnova Secretariat) conducted a training course on participatory monitoring and evaluation for 23 of its partners based in 2 countries in Asia (Nepal and Cambodia) and 9 countries in Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania). Six of the 23 participants are female. There are 20 partner organizations represented during the course. The workshop was financed by PSO, an association of Dutch development organizations.
The course was held in the Consortium of Christian Relief and Development Association (CRDA) facilities in the outskirts of Addis Ababa from August 26 to September 3, 2010. The training encompassed two main areas: general training on PM&E (for both project and network environments) and adapting and improving the current M&E system together with the participants. The first area touched on the basic concepts, key frameworks and processes and select tools that are useful for Prolinnova related M&E. The review of the Prolinnova and FAIR (a sub-programme within Prolinnova focusing on the establishment and testing of local innovation support funds) M&E built on the existing M&E frameworks of Prolinnova and FAIR and the processes and tools that will be used for the impact assessment. In addition, some activities took place related to an action research on networking where Prolinnova together with 4 other networks is part of a study on the dynamics of the functioning of networks, in a process funded by PSO. Finally, a brief discussion on fundraising was carried out. The participants had an opportunity to do practical field work on impact assessment in the FAIR pilot in the Ambo region, in two kebeles (sub-districts): Kimbi and Maruf.
To prepare the participants for the training, they were given a pre-training assignment. The pre-training assignment allowed the participants to reflect on their current M&E system at the country programme (CP) level particularly on their experience in organizing and implementing M&E, their challenges and suggestions for improvements. In their review of the current system, participants also reflected on how gender can be considered more carefully in the identification of the Prolinnova and FAIR outcomes and output indicators.
The participants did an end-of-course evaluation where they expressed that the training was very relevant to the country programmes. They thought that the course is generally successful in achieving the objectives set at the beginning of the training. CPs present and IST members (facilitators) developed action plans. Sudan begged off from developing an action plan given its decision to phase out Prolinnova in the country.
Main conclusions and implications for the Prolinnova network include:
- There seems to be a gap in communication between IST and country programmes, and within CPs. Very few of those present had seen or read the M&E frameworks/guidelines before the workshop, for example. What has been said/sent by the Secretariat and IST is sometimes not internalized at country level. Do we send too many e-mails/documents/requests? Is it also possible that information is not shared within the various country programmes? How can the CP coordinators filter, effectively, what should be communicated to the other country level partners and do so efficiently?
- The issue of inadequate documentation of learnings and packaging of finding for both Prolinnova and FAIR surfaced on different occasions during the workshop. There was a strong interest among participants in these issues (information resources relating to documentation and writing skills improvement were shared).
- Both the FAIR and the Prolinnova Impact assessment guidelines were revised during the workshop and revised versions are available. These were jointly developed with the participants and tested in the field. There is a high level of confidence that implementing the guidelines would go smoothly;
- The pre-assignments pointed to a difficulty at country level to go beyond “counting and making sure the excel tables are filled in”. A number of CPs feels there is no incentive to carry out a critical reflection on the functioning of the network itself. Partly as a response to this, the revised Impact assessment guidelines for Prolinnova and FAIR suggest organizing such a reflection moment.
- The overall Prolinnova M&E framework was also revised, though a next version is yet to be compiled by IIRR (at the workshop we managed to prioritize outcomes and outputs, but not to put the revised framework together). It was not an easy task, as we have used the new strategy paper (Prolinnova beyond 2010). But was certainly a useful exercise. Of particular interest is the process of prioritization of what has to be monitored in case we have few(er) resources available from 2010 onwards, which sheds light on what the CPs see as priority areas.
- We did not manage to discuss the appropriate tools to measure and monitor indicators. The Excel sheet tables, for example, were only mentioned in passing. The possibility of working with outcome mapping was mentioned, but not really taken on board at this point in time. In general, participants felt that Prolinnova’s M&E, as currently practiced, is not yet participatory enough, and engages only to a limited extent with farmers. In addition, much has still to be done with engaging national partners beyond the coordinator and M&E focal point. Backstoppers have an important role in supporting this
- The Fair M&E framework was revisited and improved, but the group did not feel the need to change the way the framework was built;
- The FAIR register is still considered too complicated by some – these are opting for an excel sheet instead (e.g. Ethiopia);
- This workshop was inspiring for all, but particularly interesting in the context of FAIR. During IPW’s, normally only CP coordinators and one other CP “representative” come to the meetings. In this case, the main FAIR contact persons, all with good operational and practical experience, came together, for long nine days! This resulted in a rich exchange and learning between CPs and the IST. Are the IPWs becoming more formal and focused on management, with little time for this kind of exchange?
- Fund raising is still in its early days at CP level. Only a handful of initiatives are in place so far. Have the CPs not yet felt the true need for fund raising? Or is this a problem of prioritization (between implementation and fund raising, the CPs tend to chose the former)? Finally, Brigid Letty mentioned the difficulty of spending considerable time fund raising for a network, unless the organization which invests on fund raising has something considerable to gain from the proposal been written.
- During the network action research sessions, it was mentioned that FAIR is slowly becoming very important to the network. FAIR is, in Julian Gonsalves’ words “the best manifestation of what Prolinnova espouses and stands for”. It is a programme with clear impact on the ground, clear linkages with farmers (and their organizations), in some cases where formal extension services and research have been actively participating.
- The network action research also raised the question of why did Prolinnova loose so many of the CP coordinators over the last few years – the facilitators asked the network to reflect on the question;
- In addition, both the time line exercise (done in relation to the action research on networks) and previous reflection at CP level shows that, in quite a number of countries, what used to be a large partnership is being reduced to a handful (or less!) partners coming together for implementing Prolinnova. This is a result of a combination of factors: centralization of activities at the coordinating NGO, staff changes at both coordinating NGO and other stakeholders (e.g. government staff), communication problems within the CPs
Note: can be also found in IIRR website and IIRR facebook account: