Alternative Paradigms for Design and M&E (Round Table)

September 10, 2020 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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Mr. R K Anil
Prof. Harsh Purohit
Mr. Janmejaya Mishra
Dr. Prakash Bhat
Ms. Saleela Patkar
Mr. Anjan Mitra
Mr. Sagar Venkata (Intern)
Mr. Bhupesh Tiwari
Mr. Ashish Gupta
Mr. Shobhit Mathur
Ms. Reena George
Ms. Nirmala Samant
Mr. Soham Ghosh
Ms. Suparna Diwakar

Notes from the Discussion:

1. There was an overwhelming agreement that there is a need for looking at an alternative framework for design, and M & E. The participants brought forward the following reasons:
• The current way of building the LFA and M&E framework is not really participatory in the real sense of partnership.
• There is a difference between what is put down in the LFA and the real practice on the ground. In many cases, the LFA is prepared to satisfy the donor rather than for the purpose of informing the intervention activities on the ground.
• The perspective from which we develop indicators is a very ‘outsider’ one. Participants of the interventions do not contribute to the development of indicators.
• A lot of the assumptions that are made in the development of the LFA are with respect to the stability of the ecosystem in which the intervention is being implemented. The LFA provides little opportunity for sensing and responding to emergence in the ecosystem in short periods of time.
• Design has a narrative that goes alongside. And as the design gets implemented, perspectives could change, and new data and better understanding could emerge. Being wedded to the LFA then makes it difficult, if not impossible, to respond to this changed context. Decisions may need to change as the context changes, or the understanding of the context changes.
• There is little room for indigenous knowledge and practice to be included in the LFA. For example, many practices with respect to agriculture, forestry, water management etc may not have a so-called ‘scientific’ expression but have been perfected through centuries of use and refinement. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to include them in LFAs.
• The LFA has exacerbated the notion of ‘object’ of development. Even where the LFA attempts to involve the programme participants, the attitude seems to so paternalistic.
• The LFA tends to focus on short-term outcomes. These outcomes are ‘known’ in some way, and need to be measurable, generally through quantitative methods. It is unable to focus on longer term outcomes or effects of the intervention.
• Development is a process not a product. This process cannot be rigidly defined and needs to constantly take into account the feedback that emerges from the system, and therefore, make changes in our process in response. The LFA is being used in a very rigid manner making it difficult to make the necessary process shifts.
• The LFA exacerbates the power imbalance that exists between the organisation that receives funding and the funder. The need for LFA comes from a lack of trust on the part of the funder. The LFA is a way of controlling the intervention and also monitoring / inspecting the work that the organisation is doing.
• Monitoring and evaluation based on LFA is very short-sighted. It does not take into account the efforts that the organisation may have put in over long periods of time, nor does it create the space for the spontaneous shifts that need to be made on the ground. So monitoring based on a pre-determined LFA, and then judging the outcome/impact of the programme based on the LFA, does not take into account outcomes that may emerge from the effort on the ground.
2. Considerations and suggestions
• Donors/Funders need to build trust in the organisation. This is with respect to the intent, passion, relationships built on the ground, etc. An organisation-level evaluation may be done before the funds are given which can include rigorous audit of governance and financial systems. There is a need to build mutual trust and a shared understanding of what is being attempted.
• The primary accountability should be to the participants of the programme rather than to the funder/donor. There is a need to foster true partnership, without money power overwhelming the partnership. In the Indic context, the
• Organic responses to the emerging situations on the ground, while also keeping a long-term view, would enable communities and the organisation to exercise self-determination. A true collaboration and ‘co-production’ will need to be built on a common shared knowledge that exists, and also new knowledge that gets co-created through the process of knowledge sharing.
• The cultural context and history of a place have a critical role to play in the way that interventions get designed and implemented. So the cookie-cutter, programme replication approach should be replaced with principles that can be contextualised, and learning from other programmes shared widely.
• Appreciative Inquiry, meditative practices, the idea of presencing (Theory U proposed by Otto Scharmer) can enable better understanding of the motivations of people in participating in programmes. Design is connected to the level of awareness and consciousness of the designer.
• There is a need to integrate local wisdom in the framing of indicators. Monitoring needs to be participatory enabling review, reflection and learning for all the stakeholders concerned. So the perspective from which monitoring is done is very important; focus on review, reflection and learning rather than policing and inspection.

Way Forward:

All the participants agreed that there is a need for an alternative framework that can be built with rigour. This will require
a) collation and curation of existing frameworks that have been proposed as alternative to LFA,
b) co-creation of a framework taking into account the above considerations, and
c) piloting of the framework in specific locations, refining it, and then sharing in the public domain.



September 10, 2020
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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