Author: Christian van Stolk, Tom Ling, Anais Reding, Matt Bassford
Institution: RAND Europe
Publication Date: October 2010
Keywords: Monitoring and Evaluation; Stabilisation
Monitoring and evaluation should be an integral part of stabilisation interventions to improve planning, maximise intended impacts and reduce unintended consequences. The stabilisation environment is a challenging context within which to conduct effective evaluation, however, there are a number of practical steps that can be taken to mitigate these challenges.
This document sets out what is considered current practice in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) frameworks in stabilisation interventions and identifies a number of steps that could be taken forwards to improve the M&E of stabilisation interventions. The document is based on interviews with policymakers and practitioners from a number of nations.
The document begins by setting out the importance of M&E in stabilisation interventions, being central to lessons learning in terms of understanding what works and what needs to be improved. When done well, M&E helps to draw out lessons for the future. However, the document also highlights there are a number of challenges in applying conventional M&E to stabilisation contexts.
In terms of current practice, the document identifies there is broad support for ‘Theory of Change’ approaches. These inform the design of M&E frameworks by providing a systematic way to think about inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts of a stabilisation intervention. The document sets out a useful diagram of this at Figures 3.1.
However, there are challenges in applying a Theory of Change (ToC) approach in a practical and relevant way in stabilisation contexts. These include: attributing outcomes and managing unintended consequences; capturing feedback loops; considering what is ‘good enough’ evidence; and prioritising indicators on outcomes.
Finally, the document suggests some ways to adapt the ToC framework so it is relevant and appropriate for the stabilisation context, including:
• The use of contribution stories based on ToC to create well-developed narratives facilitating easier consideration of unintended outcomes and better attribution of outcomes;
• The use of real-time and embedded evaluation (as opposed to ad hoc after action reviews) to review the ToC regularly and capture feedback loops;
• The use of criteria to guide evaluators’ judgment of evidence and prioritisation of performance metrics.