From Januray 12 – 16, 2004, about 30 representatives from seven Asian countries attended the first IMFNS/FAO-sponsored Model Forest Impact Monitoring and Evaluation Workshop in Lampang, Thailand. There, they gained an understanding of how to develop impact monitoring and evaluation (M&E) standards that are relevant to their model forests.
“We need to move beyond talking about the activities model forests are undertaking towards effectively demonstrating the changes or impacts resulting from those activities,” said IMFNS Senior Project Officer for Asia and facilitator of the course, Brian Bonnell “Only then will the true value of the model forest approach become clear.”
While M&E systems are important to any project in order to ensure that activities are achieving their desired impacts, for model forests they are particularly significant. These systems seek to satisfy a diversity of goals held by a large stakeholder group, and to achieve impacts in areas that are typically difficult to measure, such as partnerships, governance, policy impacts, greater horizontal integration of planning and management, and reduced conflicts among stakeholders.
Providing knowledge and tools
Over the course of the five days, the participants (from China, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Cambodia) took part in seminars, worked in group, and visited the Ngao Model Forest site where they were able to observe projects such as the collaborative management of a wild bamboo forest and the operation of a mulberry paper factory. On site, they were able to discuss and apply relevant aspects of M&E.
Overall objectives of the workshop were:
“Impact monitoring and evaluation is a very valuable tool for project design and management,” said Dr. Jiang Chunqian, Chief of the China Model Forest Secretariat (Lin’an Model Forest) and workshop participant. “Based on the activity, output, outcome, impact and indicators that will be identified, we will be designing an M&E framework for Lin’an.”
Communicating the results of impacts is also key to an effective M&E strategy. Participants said they look forward to a continued exchange of experiences and information amongst each other as they carry out M&E in their own model forests.
The M&E system for model forests outlined in the impact framework is not a new approach but, rather, combines elements from existing M&E systems in use by UN agencies, international development organizations, and others. In addition to explicitly identifying the linkages between activities, outcomes, impacts, and methods to monitor progress, the model forest M&E framework incorporates target setting and risk analysis, and identifies evaluation issues. The entire process is broad-based – a fundamental principle of model forets.
“The value of an impact M&E framework is that it makes explicit the basic assumption of project management,” said IMFNS Executive Director, Peter Besseau. “[T]hat no project or activity should be implemented if a reasonable case cannot be made at the beginning that it will contribute to the desired impacts, and no on-going project or activity should continue to operate as initially designed if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to produce intended impacts.”
Follow-up workshops are planned for all participating Asian model forests in 2004, starting with the Philippines in March. Once finalized, the model forest M&E system examined during the workshop will be implemented at the Asia-regional level. Plans to implement it in Latin American and Caribbean model forests, as well as across the IMFN, are also underway.