How Monitoring can address learning needs

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Original Message

From: Irene Guijt, posted on 2008/11/03

Hi again

Offline I was asked to share the learning purposes that I currently use when thinking through some learning endeavour. I came to this list when I was simply taking stock of the great variety of ways in which organisations use the term 'monitoring', conceptually and practically. So it hasn't been developed with a comprehensive 'all learning purposes for all contexts for ever and ever' notion in mind. I haven't looked at this list with the question of whether it works for clarifying evaluations. It is work in progress so critical observations and suggestions would be great.

My list of learning purposes to which monitoring contributes is:

  1. Financial accountability Maintain financial viability or security (Focus on: proof of implementation of agreed plans)
  2. Operational improvement Adjust implementation to be more efficient, effective (Focus on: quality and outputs of activity implementation)
  3. Strategic readjustment Examine/question strategy (e.g., by identifying and testing underlying assumptions) (Focus on: higher level goals of the organisation - impacts, theory of change, assumptions about strategy (implementation and management)
  4. Capacity strengthening Improve individual performance or that of the organisation (Focus on: individual behaviour, attitude, effectiveness, doubts related to work/personal strategy)
  5. Contextual understanding Keep up-to-date on the context of implementation (Focus on: political, social, environmental, economicchanges)
  6. Deepening understanding (research) Understand key uncertainties better and to formulate new questions on which to focus (Focus on: any topic that is unclear, experimental, innovative)
  7. Self-auditing Maintain transparency and therefore trust in (collective) use of resources (Focus on: use of collective resources, such as forest products, micro-credit)
  8. Advocacy Push for political change/in public policies/with decision makers (Focus on: topic related to the policy change being demanded)
  9. Sensitisation Sensitise others to build and sustain support for concerted action (Focus on: wider dissemination of a concern or experience; building critical mass of support for a concern/experience)

In practice, a combination of these is usually at play. I noticed that that the core purpose hugely influences practice. Each learning purpose can thus bring forth a custom-built process, with precise defining of tasks, protocols and responsibilities. So just talking in terms of 'developing the organisational monitoring system and processes' inevitably leads to problems unless distinct purposes are identified and catered for. As I wrote in my thesis earlier this year: " Clarity about learning purpose is key as it helps make monitoring operational (Guijt 2007). Each of these forms of monitoring, due to its purpose, dictates the following features:

  • the relevant time frame (longer or shorter period of tracking);
  • linkage to decision-making (each space where information is used is governed by different priorities);
  • degree of participation of wide group of stakeholders;
  • depth of analysis and rigour (the audience indicates what is legitimate information)."

Reference to my published thesis can be made as follows: Guijt, I. 2008. Seeking Surprise. Rethinking monitoring for collective learning in rural resource management. Published PhD thesis. Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


All replies in full are available in the discussion page. Contributions received with thanks from:

Irene Guijt
Serafin D. Talisayon
Rosien Herweijer
Frey Faust

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