[Editor’s note: This post was written by Vesna Garvanlieva Andonova, Project Mana
ger, Senior Economist at the Center for Economic Analyses – CEA, Macedonia. It is part of a series of reflections from participants and facilitators of the Online training to strengthen M&E&L on policy influence in Central and Eastern Europe, supported by the Think Tank Fund.]
The Center for Economic Analyses – CEA, as an economic research think tank, operating for over a decade in R. Macedonia, as a practically “unique” organization from the aspect of issues it covers, dealing with micro/macro economic research, analyses and policy recommendations, almost entirely backed up both with quantitative and qualitative data.
As it widely accepted that “the way to influence public policy is sinuous and forked. Therefore, to track and understand what happened requires resources, time and efforts to systematize. Not surprisingly, the practices of monitoring, evaluating and learning are scarce in developing countries”, I would agree that incorporating the M&E&L, and especially the L-Learning, is an extremely valuable aspect for generating organization knowledge, considering that the process requires significant involvement, efforts and time.
As a participant in the training for strengthening the M&E&L for policy influence, it has been extremely helpful to acquire knowledge especially to “grasp” the learning component of the process in a systematic and integrated manner and how to incorporate it in the everyday functioning of the organization. I found especially useful, the “new” tools for more effective data managing, and embracing debate, reflection, and decision-making based on a lessons learned for effective accomplishment of outcomes rather than outputs.
The introduction of the MEL matrix and the Pathway of Change as tools for the programs that are implemented in a systematic manner, is expected to provide useful data for improved strategy for policy influence. The use of the knowledge from the training to “upgrade” the M&E process with organization discussions and reflection meetings, rather than solely though annual evaluations, already resulted in actions for re-examining the approach, strategies and action plans through more involved decision-making in a more systematic approach (with improved institutional readiness, flexibility and innovation). Still, bearing in mind that the impact on policy is long term and diffused process.
The process for introduction of new approach within an organization especially when it comes to evaluation of the actions directly stemming from the actions of the people is faced with: difficulty for grasping new concepts, change rejections, skepticism, difficulties in implementation due to new tasks, etc. Especially, since the “learning process” advantages will come only after effective and systematic implementation of M&E process.
From the experience it can be concluded that the learning process, combined with an effective communication within the organization that deals with policy influence, is essential for “growing and development” of the organization and crucial for initiation of innovation. While still the impact of evaluation of policy influence/change is a still burdened with: difficulty for evidence based influence, need to involve all stakeholders that are influenced, need for effective communication and to constantly be innovative in the approach for policy influence.