Learning for sustainability (LfS) site update (October 2012)
Planning and evaluation tools: theory of change, logic and outcomes modeling, and indicators
The Learning for Sustainability site - http://learningforsustainability.net - brings together resources that help address the social and capacity building aspects of managing collective interests within complex and adapting systems. The site highlights the wide range of social skills and processes that are needed to support constructive collaboration, and indicates how these skills and processes can be interwoven to achieve more integrated and effective outcomes. This site brings links to several hundred annotated on-line resources from different sectors and geographic areas together in one easy to access site. This portal site has been updated on an ongoing basis over the past few months. This newsletter provides a brief introduction to new resources that have been added. In particular the planning and evaluation section now has pages on each of theory of change, logic and outcomes modeling, and indicator development. In the reading section links are provided to some just released reports on theory of change, and to some recent papers reviewing lessons from a ten-year research project looking at integrated catchment management (ICM).
- Site structure and new material
- Interesting reading: Recent reports and research papers
- Thoughts for the day
- Subscribing and unsubscribing
The new 'Planning and Evaluation' section reflects that these components are inextricably linked within effective and learning-based adaptive management. The plan is effectively a "route-map" from the present to the future. To plan a suitable route you must know where you are (situation analysis) and where you want to go (establish goals and identify outcomes). Only then can appropriate action plans be developed to help achieve the desired future.However, because the future is uncertain, our action plans must be adaptive and allow continually for "learning by doing". To do this we need appropriate evaluation tools and processes, and information flows that help the different stakeholders involved check that their efforts are proceeding as planned, and to refine and guide their responses if changes are needed. Within this section a number of links are provided to each of the following topics.
- Theory of Change: By developing a theory of change based on good theory, managers can be better assured that their programmes are delivering the right activities for the desired outcomes. And by creating a theory of change programmes are easier to sustain, bring to scale, and evaluate, since each step - from the ideas behind it, to the outcomes it hopes to provide, to the resources needed - are clearly defined within the theory.
- Logic or Outcomes Modeling: These generally illustrate a sequence of cause-and-effect relationships, i.e. a systems approach to communicate the path toward a desired result. Models describe logical linkages among programme resources, activities, outputs, and audiences, and highlights different orders of outcomes related to a specific problem or situation.
- Developing Indicators:. Indicators quantify and simplify phenomena, and help us understand and make sense of complex realities. Within natural resource management their greatest strength is in the way they can help us assess resource status and monitor performance effectiveness. As the linked resources on this page highlight reviewers of effective indicator reporting processes highlight the importance of using a conceptual framework and models to guide the development of a set of indicators. These frameworks and models provide a formal way of thinking about a topic area and help us build a coherent set of indicators for any particular system.
The featured links for this issue are drawn from some of the new links added recently. As the pages in this portal shows there is a lot of really good material available - so this newsletter section is is by no means intended as an award-type list, it just lists some recent additions that are good sites to share. The first links here take you directly to LFS content pages for that topic.
- Understanding 'Theory of Change' in international development: A review of existing knowledge This 2012 report by Danielle Stein and Craig Valters provides a review of the concepts and common debates within 'Theory of Change' (ToC) material. The authors find that there is no consensus on how to define ToC, although it is commonly understood as an articulation of how and why a given intervention will lead to specific change. They identify four main purposes of ToC - strategic planning, description, monitoring and evaluation and learning - although these inevitably overlap. They also identify some confusion in the terminology associated with ToC. Of particular note is the lack of clarity surrounding the use of the terms 'assumption' and 'evidence'. Finally, they draw out information on what authors feel makes for ToC 'best practice' in terms of both content and process, alongside an exploration of the remaining gaps where more clarity is needed.
- ESPA guide to working with Theory of Change for research This 2012 guide by Isabel Vogel explains what the theory of change approach is about, its benefits and uses. It explains the key conceptual and practical points to consider for developing, working with and indeed challenging and testing the theory of change throughout the lifetime of a project. It also outlines how to develop a theory of change that is of high-quality but is tailored to the context and needs of research projects. The guide is divided into three sections. Sections A and B offer a tailored approach for ESPA research teams. Sections C and D present practical tips and resources for those wishing to learn more about theory of change.
The New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research has recently published a special issue on Integrated Catchment Management. This issue features the result of a place-based, 10-year, cross-disciplinary and inter-agency research programme focused on the Motueka River catchment and Tasman Bay in New Zealand. An integrated approach was taken, recognising that land, water and social systems are interlinked. The programme brought together research on biophysical (water, sediment, nutrient and contaminant fluxes and aquatic organisms), economic and social sciences alongside research on social processes (social learning, community engagement, Maori values, policy relevance), across land and water (including coastal waters).
- Building collaboration and learning in integrated catchment management: the importance of social process and multiple engagement approaches It acknowledges that successful integrated catchment management (ICM) requires the ongoing participation of different stakeholders in an adaptive and learning-based management process. However, the authors note that this can be difficult to achieve in practice because many initiatives fail to address the underlying social process aspects required. They review emerging lessons around how to engage stakeholders in ways that support social learning. They focus on the experience of a 10 year ICM research programme in New Zealand and provide a simple framework for distinguishing a range of conversations across different communities of practice. The key features required to move programmes towards interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches are outlined. The authors highlight the need to use multiple engagement approaches to address different constituent needs and opportunities, and to encourage the informal conversations that spring up around these. The range of platforms for dialogue and learning that were used in the programme during 10 years of ICM research are provided as illustrations. Finally, a number of lessons are described from across the programme to guide research leaders and managers seeking to improve collaboration in other integrated science, management and policy initiatives.
- Three frameworks to understand and manage social processes for integrated catchment management Project leaders and participants face challenges in managing multiple demands for engagement, communication and integration of different knowledge across agencies, sectors, research disciplines and communities. Social frameworks can be practical management tools that help project leaders and participants: (1) make sense of the social and management context of a project; (2) design strategies to meet social process needs such as communication and engagement; and (3) evaluate the effectiveness of the project with a view to improving it. This paper examines the role of social frameworks in supporting ICM research in the Motueka catchment over 10 years. It reviews use of the ISKM (Integrated Systems for Knowledge Management) framework for sharing information between different stakeholder groups and the Orders of Outcomes framework for evaluating outcomes over long periods. In particular, it introduces the Social Spaces framework as a new tool for visualising diverse communication and collaboration needs across a project. We conclude with suggestions on using frameworks in conjunction with participatory evaluation to build capacity and strengthen relationships among project participants.
- Creative platforms for social learning in ICM: the Watershed Talk project This paper describes an action research project within the Motueka based integrated catchment management research programme. It explored processes of dialogue between catchment residents, scientists and resource managers, and examined how design of creative processes can shift people's understanding and develop their capacity to address the complex environmental issues that they face. The project was highly reflective, and examined the potential transformative power of constructive conversation and the means by which social learning platforms can affect the legacy of skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for action amongst participants. Three important elements for the design of platforms for social learning were identified: (1) the value of using principles to guide process design; (2) the potential outcomes from using creative approaches to generate dialogue; and (3) the importance of integrating evaluation and reflection into platform design to both manage the platform and to help cement new learning amongst participants. This paper outlines the fundamental aspects of the Watershed Talk platform design, its implementation, and conclusions drawn from evaluation of the experience.
- Integrated catchment management - interweaving social process and science knowledge This paper is available via the publishers website. It provides an overview of a recently completed 10 year integrated catchment management (ICM) research programme. This research was based on the thesis that achieving ecosystem resilience at a catchment scale requires active measures to develop community resilience. The authors define a generic adaptive planning and action process, with associated knowledge management and stakeholder involvement processes, and illustrate those processes with observations from five research themes: (1) water allocation; (2) land use effects on water; (3) land and freshwater impacts on the coast; (4) integrative tools and processes for managing cumulative effects; and (5) building human capital and facilitating community action. The research clearly illustrates the benefits for effective decision-making of carrying out catchment scale science and management within collaborative processes that work to develop trusting relationships. The paper concludes with a call for coastal catchments to be managed within a holistic continuum from ridge tops to the sea. It reminds us that some processes like floods or loss of community resilience have decadal consequences, which support the need for long-term monitoring and investment. The The full range of papers published in the special issue on Integrated Catchment Management can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tnzm20/45/3
- If we are going to survive we must build communities of caring and connection. -- Cecile Andrews
- Relationship building is a way of looking at the world - not just a strategy. -- Robert Putnam
- Thinking is the hardest work there is. That is why so few people engage in it. -- Henry Ford
- Vision without action is daydreaming, but action without vision is just random activity. -- Joel Barker
Please forward this site to interested colleagues. Feedback is welcomed, and visitors are encouraged to suggest sites to add. Thanks to those of you who have pointed to papers and other material for inclusion, and sharing among the wider global community of practice in this area. During 2011 the site averaged around 750 visitors each day, with the highest number of visits in any one day being in excess of 1500.
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