Experienced international consultant in evaluation, agriculture, environment, research, technology and innovation. Throughout 15+ years of my career I've been collaborating with various clients on the efficient acquisition and delivery of financial instruments targeting investments in food, agriculture and environment sectors around the world. These included various international agencies (such as the EU, IFAD, FAO), non-governmental organizations and private sector companies. As an evaluator, I gained experience in working with rural communities and decision makers at all administrative levels. Addressing development challenges through building capacities of stakeholders, MEL and participatory approaches are at heart of my practice. I like to seek out of the box solutions for complex problems and connecting the dots.
A ToC typically records the causal linkages between a chain of activities, results, outcomes and impacts, underpinned by their underlying assumptions. This type of framework is often developed at the design stage of an intervention and followed throughout its implementation.
As projects and programmes are implemented in real life, with all its complexity, the ToC needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. This can be particularly important when interventions come up against unexpected challenges, such as the outbreak of COVID-19, civil unrest, price fluctuations or natural disasters. Evaluators can incorporate any such factors into the ToC review process and
MEL provides a helpful framework and tools to accompany the implementation of targeted interventions, with a view to improving agricultural sustainability.
The MEL system fosters continuous evaluation and learning, which enables the adaptive management of transformational projects. It requires a systematic effort to measure implementation progress and simultaneously enhance continuous and real-time learning among those involved, be they farmers and other rural dwellers, civil society representatives, researchers, policymakers or evaluation practitioners. It builds on a variety of tools, approaches and indicators to assess results, integrate lessons and improve impact. It thus supports improvements in project performance.
Anna Maria AugustynInternational consultant
Dear EvalForward Community,
Many thanks for the contributors to discussion so far: Tom Archibald, Brian Belcher, Harriet Maria Matsaer, Hayat Askar, Moussa Coulibaly, Silva Ferretti, Seda Kojoyan, Nelson Godfried Agyemang, Nasser Samih Quadous and Alan Ferguson.
I’m happy to see many interesting experiences and insights into the topic of ToC review. Thank you also for the useful document resources, video and links.
The following main points emerged from the discussion:
1. There is a shared understanding that the ToC review is a beneficial exercise for the projects as it helps to better capture the underlying assumptions and identify the rationale behind success or failure of the specific interventions. Organizations use those reviews as a learning tool that can help to improve the project implementation or designing the follow up projects.
2. As the projects and programmes operate within the complex systems, similar is with the ToC. There is a visible challenge in adapting the linear approach for measuring the progress with the systems thinking that better captures this complexity. Against this background, the evaluation policies of the donors usually tend to prefer the more focused and fragmented picture of the project implementation.
3. The ToC reviews are often performed within the projects / programmes evaluation, however there are some practical issues with implementing the suggested changes. As the Logframe or other frameworks supporting the project implementation are rather fixed at the project’s outset, it’s difficult to introduce changes in its course.
Concerning my last point, I’ve another issue to consider:
Are you familiar with any evaluation cases where the ToC review resulted in changing the expected outcome or impact indicators of a project? How difficult was to introduce those changes?
I will welcome your comments and any further links or documents.