Between 2017 and 2022, IOD PARC implemented a large-scale Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) project for a major donor in Nepal. One aspect of the work revolved around creating a ‘resilience monitoring framework’. This framework should make it possible to show how a portfolio with a diverse set of programmes and projects across development projects, humanitarian aid, and reconstruction work in both rural and urban settings contributed to a more resilient and inclusive Nepal. All these programmes and projects had different objectives and used different logical frameworks (logframes) and language to report their contributions to the donor. Our challenge was to find a flexible, evidence-based way to harmonise and streamline reporting to meet our client’s needs and to support programmes and projects to better tell their resilience and inclusion story.
Mapping contributions across themes
We started by identifying three broad ‘themes’ across which we could map contributions: the Resilience of People, Services, and Institutions. These are broad areas covered by most development partners, whether by directly supporting and improving people’s lives, working on improving access to services across a range of sectors, or supporting government institutions to become more effective in ultimately supporting people’s needs. However, what does it mean to build the Resilience of People, Services, and Institutions?
To answer this question, we embarked on a research process whereby we conducted extensive literature reviews into each of the three Resilience Themes. We used MAXQDA, a tool supporting qualitative analysis, to analyse the literature and to identify commonalities within each theme’s literature. This allowed us to identify what we’ve termed ‘dimensions of resilience’. These dimensions are the core building blocks for resilience per theme and represent our understanding of what is important to build resilience in each theme. Of course, not each project or programme can or has to work across all themes or dimensions – but our aim was to capture what a varied portfolio was achieving overall. Where possible, these dimensions were corroborated by discussing them with project staff and ex-post analysis of projects. Eventually, our work culminated in the following Resilience Framework.
Figure 1: Framework for understanding the Resilience of People, Services, and Institutions
This graphic captures the three themes and the dimensions underpinning them: five for the Resilience of People, six for the Resilience of Services, and nine for the Resilience of Institutions. Background documents provided the client with further explanation of what exactly was meant by each dimension, why these were important, and high-level indicators for them. With the framework in place, let’s have a look at how we used the framework.
How the framework supported MEL
In terms of our client’s MEL needs, the framework is supportive in three ways.
- At a high level, it gives the client better insight into what is needed to support a more resilient and inclusive Nepal. Our client, especially at management level, was keen to get a high-level overview of where its support was concentrated in order to assess whether their programming was doing the right things, if there were gaps, and where they might need to adjust or focus more. As such, it supports evidence-based decision-making in an accessible way. Figure 2 below, for example, shows how four fictional projects contribute to the Resilience of Institutions based on an analysis of their logframes. It shows that while a lot of energy is directed at how institutions can become more adaptive and collaborative, very little attention is being paid to supporting institutions to achieve a good level of (in)dependence or its political dynamics. It thus gives management better insight into their programming, thereby supporting evidence-based adaptive management of their portfolio
Figure 2: Contributions to the Resilience of Institutions based on logframe mapping
2. It allowed us as a MEL unit to capture the portfolio’s contributions to the ultimate aim of supporting a more resilient and inclusive Nepal. We mapped all reporting on outputs and outcomes from programmes and projects onto the dimensions and themes. By doing this work ourselves and cross-checking it with those who implemented the activities, we avoided creating additional reporting burdens for already stretched MEL officers while ensuring a consistent view. We could then ‘aggregate up’ – showing how different projects contributed to the same dimension or theme. Ultimately, this allowed us to present headline figures about contributions to the Resilience of People, Services, and Institutions. Figure 3 below demonstrates the kind of headline figures that can be reported – based on analysing an entire (fictional) portfolio of programmes and projects.
Figure 3: Headline message reporting using the Resilience Framework
3. It enabled stakeholders implementing the various projects and programmes to cross-check if their work focused on the right things or if there were blind spots in their activities. This is similar to what is described under (1). However, it also enables implementing partners to identify whether they are actually reporting the right things. Logframes can be imperfect, and there is a chance that implementing partners carry out work that is not reflected in mapping like this but that is important for building a more resilient and inclusive Nepal. By having a framework like this, they can identify gaps in reporting and improve the way they demonstrate their results.
Collaborating to make the framework work
Designing and implementing a resilience monitoring framework like this requires close collaboration between all stakeholders: us as a MEL unit, the client, and the implementing partners. Nonetheless, it is important to accept that there will always be imperfections and further scope for improvement, both in the framework and in the data that feed into it. However, within a context of finite time and resources, our MEL goal is to improve the quality and utility of reporting for all parties involved without creating significant additional burdens for the client or implementing partners – and this resilience monitoring framework and approach achieves exactly that.
Of course, this framework was designed for a particular client in a particular context and would have to be adapted for it to be used elsewhere. However, the approach and ways in which it can generate data that supports the client’s and implementing partners’ needs by strengthening both ‘upstream reporting’ and ‘downstream monitoring’ is replicable and scalable based on different contexts and requirements.
Curious? Want to learn more about our approach to monitoring, evaluating, and learning about resilience? Get in touch!
Contact: Dr Roeland Hemsteede, email@example.com.