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FTA Highlight No. 17 – Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning and Impact Assessment

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Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning and Impact Assessment (MELIA) has been a key focus of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) over its decade of work.

FTA’s MELIA Program has adapted, developed, tested and refined a comprehensive set of concepts and methods. These include participatory theories of change and developing and refining outcome evaluation methods.

They also include systematically reviewing, defining and assessing the quality of research that crosses disciplinary boundaries; and developing a quality assessment framework suitable for research for development (R4D).

This decadal work has generated a body of research and valuable lessons about research design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation within FTA and beyond.

Download the volume! [PDF]
As part of “FTA’s highlights of a decade,” a new series focusing on its main results since its inception in 2011, FTA is now publishing the volume on Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning and Impact Assessment (MELIA).

The CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) embodied a fundamental shift in the approach to research for development (R4D). CRPs assume shared responsibility for achieving economic and human development outcomes, a shift that required new ways of monitoring and evaluating research (R4D).

When the Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) program was established in 2011 it responded to this approach with a plan to develop and use theory-based approaches for monitoring and evaluating outcomes and impacts.

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Over its ten years FTA has recognized the importance of monitoring and evaluation, not only as an important management tool, but also as a field of research in its own right.

From the beginning, FTA’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning and Impact Assessment (MELIA) strategy included a core research component. FTA’s impact orientation and MELIA work were strongly supported by FTA governance. More engaged, transdisciplinary approaches to research involve stakeholders in order to deal with complexity and increase potential impact.

FTA’s research approaches aim to contribute to reduced poverty, improved food security and nutrition, and improved management of natural resources and ecosystem services through technical, institutional and policy innovation. Monitoring is a key element of FTA’s adaptive, learning-oriented approach, from the project level to the program level.

Research activities operate within a program-level theory of change (ToC), and each activity has its own particular context, design and implementation, and specific ToC.

This multi-level approach creates an excellent opportunity for learning how research contributes to transformative change within complex social and environmental systems.

MELIA has focused its work on five key global challenges.

  1. accelerating rates of deforestation and forest degradation;
  2. high prevalence of degraded land and ecosystem services;
  3. unsustainable land-use practices;
  4. persistent rural poverty, with increasing levels of vulnerability;
  5. rising demand for and need for nutritious food.

FTA has developed a set of user-friendly and time-efficient monitoring tools for use at the project scale. The tools facilitate systematic collection of data on engagement with stakeholders, knowledge generation, uptake and use, and progress toward higher-level outcomes and impacts.

FTA’s MELIA team also contributed to the development of the Quality of Research for Development (QoR4D) framework. The framework guides and enhances research at all levels, and contributes to outcomes and impacts.

Download the publication to learn more about FTA’s approach to monitoring, FTA’s integrated outcome evaluations, case studies, results and lessons learned. FTA’s work on MELIA sets the ground for future initiatives to build and design projects integrating theory-based evaluation towards a transdisciplinary model of research impact.

Published volumes until today include:


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