The ASSP/ASDP-L workshop in Zanzibar was an M&E planning workshop & not a strategic planning workshop. However, we could hardly start talking about monitoring until everyone in the room (including ourselves) was clear about what the Programme was expected to do, achieve – and therefore what should be monitored.

While I have used the Theory of Change to start off M&E planning workshop before, there were a couple of things we did differently this time that I feel worked quite well & I’d like to share. 

Logframes, as many of us know, are often developed by some external “expert” and may not necessarily make a lot of sense to those actually immersed in implementing the project. Also – there are times when the neat & tidy “component clumping” of activities, outputs & outcomes is very far removed from the intertwined nature of a project’s reality.

In a bid not to re-live challenges we faced before – we decided to ask individuals from similar stakeholder groups to work together to map out the logic of the ASSP Programme from their perspective. In other words – we asked them to:

  • Identify the services/products (“huduma”) that they as a stakeholder group were going to receive from the project; and then
  • Map out the changes in behavior that were expected to occur as a result of these huduma; and
  • How the changes in behavior would eventually contribute to changes in peoples lives

The facilitators probed and challenged the participants as they carried out this exercise – reminding them that changes in one stakeholder group could affect the behavior of another (and vice versa).

Finally, the participants were asked to identify and include in their “maps” internal/external factors that could have an effect on their theories of change; as well as recommendations for changing this theory (in this case we focused only on negative effects because of time).
What came out of this exercise was a very “rich picture”!

Asking stakeholders to focus on the huduma they were going to receive;

  • Ensured that they knew exactly what services/products to expect from the Programme and the changes in behavior (“ma badiliko ya tabia“) expected as a consequence;
  • Provided an opportunity for them to question and recommend changes to this theory, which in turn;
  • Started to build a sense of ownership of the Programme; and
  • Reduced the scope of what they needed to think through, as well as allowed them to think through an area they knew most about – resulting in much more detail than you would normally get.

The exercise also;

  • Enabled them to see how the changes in their behavior would or could affect others (e.g. if farmers started to pay for, monitor & assess the service providers, they in turn would influence the quality of services being delivered by the service providers); and
  • Illustrated to them that no one stakeholder was responsible for or had all the power to ensure the success of the Programme – everybody was dependent on everyone else and everyone affected everyone else.

Of course, we as facilitators, will have to relate all this back to the Programme Logframe. But I feel it’s a very small price to pay in return for the wealth of information & the exchange of views & knowledge that came out of this process. Also – the more detailed the theory of change, the easier it was for us to identify the information needed to monitor the Programme.

So, I’ll definitely think about using this process again under similar circumstances!