Introducing Impact Evaluation
Before going into a lot of detail, it is worth considering what type of evaluation you are embarking upon….
We will be focussing on Impact Evaluation here because that is the purpose of the website!
What are the different types of Evaluation
- Formative – at the beginning to see what you need to do to plan a project- identifying the needs, and what is likely to work (possibly a small pilot). This is very like the Permaculture Design Process.
- Process- during a project to see how it is going and how it is being delivered according to the plan (activities and inputs and outputs). What is the equivalent in Permaculture Design?
- Impact- to see whether the project has achieved or has potential to achieve lasting change (activities and outcomes and impacts). What is the equivalent in Permaculture Design?
Some General thoughts on MEL
Project evaluations feed in to the project cycle and monitoring is a continuous process whereby findings adjust design. M&E can be considered as a circular process feeding into evaluation and learning. For this reason, we often use the abbreviation MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning). Be open to make changes following the results (‘Creatively use and respond to change’)
For assessing impact of the project, it is necessary to understand the current situation, what your project aims to achieve and how your project plans to improve nutrition. The previous exercises will have helped to define this, ready for your M&E design (‘Observe and Interact’).
Drawing up a Problem Tree and Solution Tree and a Theory of Change or Change Pathway will help you to map out how you plan for your project to show impact. The Theory of Change is a way of understanding how activities of the project work together to produce project outputs, outcomes and impacts (see session on Problem and Solution trees, Building a Theory of Change and the whole course on Change Pathways
Participation of the communities and other stakeholders involved with the Permaculture project will be useful. In practice, this means incorporating both participatory methods and established defined indicators that are widely accepted, for example by donors. Again, we want to bring together technical expertise and local knowledge that is meaningful to the context. Having globally recognised and validated indicators might help build up evidence globally and for funders but these technical approaches should not supersede locally meaningful information.
Make sure you report the results to all the interested parties (‘Apply self-regulation and accept feedback’)
Make sure the MEL plan is appropriate to the size of the project. A small project will not have a complex expensive and detailed quantitative MEL (‘Use small and slow solutions’).