RE: How to use Knowledge Management to strengthen the impact of Evaluation on smallholder agriculture development? | Eval Forward

Dear all,

Below are the highlights from this fruitful exchange.

A special thanks to Paul for raising the topic and to the members who shared their knowledge! 

KM and M&E have complementary objectives and should work in synergy

  • There are evident synergies between monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and knowledge management (KM): both contribute to organizational learning and effective programming designed to generate benefits for people and communities.
  • In practice, identifying linkages and complementarities can be more challenging.  M&E and KM require different roles and skill sets, and are often managed by separate units which, in turn, follow different organizational practices and cycles.

Programmes and projects are moving towards better integration of these functions  

  • In the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program Missing Middle Initiative, Senegal, the M&E and the KM functions work jointly on data treatment, capitalization, and workshops on lessons learned. Knowledge Management activities involve members of the Coordination Unit to ensure that the lesson learning and knowledge capitalization form the basis for follow-up decisions.
  • The Nema Chosso Project (National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development) in the Gambia had M&E and KM working under separate units and faced challenges when it had to document and capitalize on successes and on lessons learned, use them to develop knowledge products around climate resilience interventions, and ensure publication in local press and social media. In response, the follow up project is merging the two units into one whilst including a specialized partner to support communications.
  • IFAD-led rural development and smallholder projects in East and Southern Africa have integrated online M&E platforms to support data collection used by the KM function to generate stories from the field and systematic learning. This approach was pushed at the time when projects where asked to demonstrate their policy impact and contribution to country targets.
  • An earlier KM Project developed at WFP included an after-action review methodology to facilitate learning for field-based operations, which benefitted from evaluation-based inputs. It was field-tested and refined in collaboration with experts from their Office of Evaluation.

Challenges, risks and elements to consider

  • Challenges and tensions can emerge when KM and M&E work together but use different approaches to communication. Knowledge management, for example, might not fully communicate certain M&E evidence. Conversely, the programme and M&E team might d expect more consistent and specific communication to sustain programme level uptake, to a greater extent than is considered necessary by the knowledge management colleagues.
  • There may be instances when M&E and KM are skewed towards “appeasement reporting" to the donors, showing results under a positive light in order to promote funding and disregarding real beneficiaries impact. This may happen in the absence of ethical considerations and social responsibility.
  • There is still little evidence, if any, on how project initiatives and lessons feed into policy, despite the participation of policymakers.

Integration at the organization level: an example from IFAD

  • The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD has acknowledged the natural relationship between evaluation and communication and KM. KM’s role is to foster the development of “feedback loops from evaluation to policy makers, operational staff and the general public” through the production and dissemination of communication products and the facilitation of learning events. These should help ensure that the information contained in evaluation reports is widely disseminated, thus triggering further learning and feedback.

Way forward

  • To ensure that these functions complement each other, they have to be thoroughly planned and synced, preferably at the design stage of the project with clear lines of communication.
  • Steps in this direction could be: 1) discussing with programme management and beneficiaries what they need/expect from M&E and KM products; 2) Agreeing on a joint plan of M&E and KM activities, focusing on complementarities and sequencing; 3) Developing a plan for effective utilization and dissemination of M&E and KM products.