Participatory Impact Monitoring for Sustainable Livelihoods

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					                     Participatory Impact Monitoring
                       for Sustainable Livelihoods

                                    by Martin Strele
                    Kairos - Institute for Sustainable Development
                           Bregenz/ Austria, February 2006

In development cooperation the challenge of monitoring and evaluation of
impacts of project interventions gains more and more importance as the
shortcomings of observing the output-level become obvious. The major problem
of assessing the impacts of development cooperation is the difficult attribution of
project interventions to the changes of the actual situation (OECD 2005, GTZ
2004, Weingärtner et al. 2006).
Focussing on impacts of project interventions at the household level, the
Sustainable Livelihood Approach (DfID 2004) provides a suitable set of principles
that covers the same aspects as other concepts of Sustainable Development do.
Observing human, natural, physical, financial and social assets at the same time,
enables the description of the complex nature of cause-effect-relationships that
shape the quality and sustainability of people’s livelihoods.

Two different approaches of monitoring and evaluating impacts

Different approaches on overcoming the so-called attribution gap between
projects’ interventions and their impact on the livelihoods are applied. One
approach follows the planning logic of projects, attributing inputs to activities,
activities to outputs, outputs to outcomes, and outcomes to impacts: the so-
called impact-chain (or results-chain) approach (GTZ 2004). This approach fits
perfectly well into the traditional planning logic of projects but has limitations of
attributing effects from outcome level upwards.

Another approach starts at assessing the situation and its trends and changes in
a participatory manner and later strives to attribute the observed changes to the
effects of project interventions (Neubert 2004). This approach takes the opposite
direction and follows the impact chains from top to bottom. Its advantage is the
more reliable attribution of project outcomes to impacts. Limitations arise out of
the precondition of relying on already surfaced actual changes of the situation
which can be attributed to project activities. This approach is therefore more
suitable for evaluation exercises and can hardly be applied for monitoring

A systemic approach for livelihood monitoring

On the basis of the second approach, a new methodology was developed to allow
for participatory impact monitoring1. This new methodology also starts with
participatory assessment of the livelihood situation. In a second step not only the

 The methodology was developed in the course of a study commissioned by GTZ and FAO in
Cambodia. It was undertaken by a team of six people of the Centre for Advanced Training in Rural
Development (SLE) at the Humboldt University, Berlin. The author was one of the team members
and responsible for the development of the methodology.
livelihood situation but also the livelihood system is analysed. Participatory
methods and methods of Systems Thinking are combined. The most important
factors that determine the livelihood situation are assessed, their interrelations
analysed and the most critical factors for the livelihood system identified. In a
third step the methodology strives to assess the effects, certain projects have on
the changes of the livelihood situation. A special focus lies on the critical factors
and how they are influenced by the project intervention.

A simple tool for aggregation of the results is included in the methodological
sequence, allowing for the comparison of different project interventions and their
effectiveness and efficiency in triggering positive changes of the complex rural
livelihood systems.

The method was tested in eight villages in Cambodia and the results have the
potential to help steer project interventions towards achieving the desirable
results and impacts.


DfID (2004), Introducing Sustainable Livelihoods. A Trainers' Guide

GTZ (2004), Results-based Monitoring - Guidelines for Technical Cooperation
Projects and Programmes, Eschborn

Neubert, S.(2004) in Simon, K. (Hrsg.), (2004) Verwaltungen, Experten, Bürger
im Reformprozess – Wirkungen und Evaluierungen von Verwaltungszusam-
menarbeit mit Entwicklungsländern. Nomos-Verlag, Baden-Baden

OECD/DAC (2005), Managing for Development Results. Principles in Action:
Sourcebook on emerging good practices, 2005

Weingaertner, Strele, Fiebiger, Höltge, Were, Schulmeister (2006), Poverty and
Food Security Monitoring in Cambodia. Linking Programmes and Poor Peoples
Interests to Policies, SLE Humboldt University, Berlin


Martin Strele
Kairos – Institute for Sustainable Development
Anton Walser Gasse 4
6900 Bregenz
Tel/Fax. +43 5574 58445