Resources to support learning and evaluation in multi-stakeholder platforms
Much interest is being given to multi-stakeholder partnerships and platforms (or MSPs as they are often called), as solutions to tackling some of the world’s most complex problems.
Majority of focus is on the doing of MSPs: how to build and broker them, how to launch them, how to fund them, sustain them, and grow them.
And now, there’s an increasing interest in understanding if and how they work, for whom, and why.
Our work is focused on this very area, and working with MSPs from around the world on continuous learning and evaluation efforts that build strong and effective platforms and partnerships.
Despite the benefits of continuous learning and evaluation for MSPs, the reality is that many evaluative efforts, including those grounded in results based accountability, struggle to provide meaningful and useful data for understanding and improving MSPs.
The reasons for this are varied, but often include:
- Traditional notions of causality, that specify clear cause and effect relationships, are rarely the case in MSPs. Instead, MSPs contribute to outcomes through multiple pathways and combinations of activities.
- The effects or possible results of MSPs aren’t always clear at the start, and may take a long time to accrue — a strategic dialogue, for example, may spark new ideas among participants, leading to unanticipated and unplanned for activities, that generate results for unknown benefactors. Results such as these, along with new ways of knowing and doing, are often difficult to define, and challenging to measure. Learning and evaluation needs to preserve space for these emergent and sometimes intangible results.
- MSPs are rarely fixed- they adapt and change over time as stakeholders come and go; contexts shift; funding increases or decreases; and directions change. Rigid adherence to pre-specified measures of success will underestimate the value of a platform.
- There are often no natural comparators or counterfactuals: what would have happened without the MSP? The value of learning and evaluation systems for MSPs needs to be established through different mechanisms than what many are used to.
Given these challenges, how can those working in MSPs build continuous learning and evaluation into the fabric of their MSP?
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing some insights on how to tackle this question, with a particular emphasis on what we’re calling the Five Key Ingredients for strengthening MSPs through continuous learning and evaluation:
1. A culture of inquiry that supports learning
2. A clear and shared vision for change and the MSP’s unique contribution
3. A set of agreed indicators for assessing progress
4. A practical plan for gathering, analysing and using data
5. A clear approach for sharing, reporting and communicating insights
Download the guide at dayfourprojects.com, and check out the additional resources to help with your learning and evaluation work.
And if you’re interested in learning and sharing further, join our Community of Practice and connect with others working to improve multi-stakeholder platforms and partnerships.