Capacity Development Initiative on Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)

Context

Addressing the climate crisis while enabling an energy secure and sustainable developmental future for India is a critical and urgent problem that needs ambitious and innovative efforts from us all. Given the urgency of climate action, the thoroughness of the pathways to action become critical. Not only do the pathways need to be technically relevant and effective, but there needs to be clarity on results. However, being ambitious and innovative, comes at the risk of efforts not reaching their end objectives as quickly and as effectively. Externalities in the space of climate action too at times might derail planned pathways. Therefore, a thoughtful and reflective approach is what one can inculcate. One that helps outline a well-thought-out strategy towards the bigger bets and that learns from its successes and its failures.

Climate action in India currently involves both policy level work as well as implementation action. A large network of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in India is engaged across diverse programmatic areas, towards impactful climate action.  While bigger bets of climate action have been identified appropriately, the challenge, that this space encounters, is identifying the smaller wins towards this end and hence, charting an impactful strategy. There lies a need for developing a sector wide capacity towards appreciating, understanding and thus, applying a results-oriented lens towards strategy development: Strategy for Impact.

To enable this network of CSOs to better strategise the pathways as well as strengthen self-reflection approaches within the CSOs, a capacity development initiative is being organised. This initiative intends to encourage this network of CSOs on the path of adoption a results-based approach for strategy development.

The Capacity Development initiative

A. Approach of the initiative
This initiative is targeted at strengthening capacities of CSOs on appreciation, understanding and application of the following targeted concepts: a) Programme strategy (Theory of Change); b) Project Theory of Change and the linkage between Programme strategy and Projects c) Results/Learning framework for measurement/evidence generation for both funder reporting and internal reflection; d) Learning methods and mechanisms within the CSOs.

To ensure strengthening of capacities sustainably, the initiative adopts an immersive approach to be conducted over a period of six months between April 2024 and September 2024. The CSOs will be exposed to each of the identified concepts through multiple means including in-person workshops, webinars and knowledge products such as manuals and ready reference videos.

B. Structure of the initiative
The CSO network comprises of more than 70 CSOs across diverse programmatic domains.  The capacities on results-based thinking and application are, hence, expected to be varied. Keeping in mind this diversity, participants were grouped into cohorts to ensure contextualised training delivery. A needs assessment exercise was conducted to help inform the cohort formation.

A consultant, Sambodhi Research and Communications Pvt. Ltd. has been engaged for the initiative. A reputed organisation in the field of MEL capacity development, Sambodhi will be leading all activities of the initiative. The key activities comprising the initiative include:

  1. Capacity development sessions
    Capacity development sessions form the crux of the initiative. Given the diversity of the programmatic domains, the sessions are being conducted in contextualised cohorts. The capacity development sessions have been designed such that the focus areas (as mentioned above) are covered thoroughly.  The sessions are also being followed up with handholding support to a few shortlisted partners.
  2. Knowledge products
    One of the key objectives of the initiative is to sustain the capacity being developed. Hence, the initiative also focused on generating ready-reference knowledge products on the targeted concepts that can act as vehicle of sustainability post the capacity development sessions as well.  The knowledge products are being developed as an open access resource material for wider utilisation by the CSO community.  The knowledge products are being designed in a manner that they not only aid application of the concepts by CSOs but also help create a sector wide narrative of MEL approaches and functions for climate action.
  3. Evaluation of capacities
    Change in CSO capacities on results-based thinking is the objective of this engagement. To assess the changes over the course of the capacity development, an evaluation will be conducted at the completion of the engagement. Given the immediate outcomes expected from this engagement are changes in partner ability to develop comprehensive Theories of Change for projects, Sambodhi will be devising and execute an assessment framework to map and measure the outcome level changes.

C. Status
The capacity development workshops were launched in April 2024. Currently, cohort specific workshops are being conducted by Sambodhi. The series of workshops are expected to be concluded by August 2024, before the evaluation is conducted in September 2024.