How can we monitor effectively in a dynamically changing and unpredictable situation? Many monitoring approaches measure the predicted – desired results, planned implementation strategies and forecasted pathways of change – using indicators expected to provide useful information over the life of the project. Complexity-aware monitoring is intended to compliment performance monitoring by tracking the unpredictable.
Three principles and five recommended approaches monitor the unforeseen and unforeseeable so that projects can remain relevant and responsive. Recommended approaches include sentinel indicators, stakeholder feedback, process monitoring of impacts, most significant change, and outcome harvesting.
Complexity is commonly misconstrued as synonymous with conflict. However, most development contexts contain a mix of simple, complicated and complex aspects. Complex aspects are characterized by interrelationships, non-linear causality, and emergence. Complexity-aware monitoring approaches are useful in a wide variety of programming contexts. USAID’s “Complexity-Aware Monitoring Discussion Note” is intended to raise questions, stimulate dialogue, and — most of all — inspire experimentation. At this breakfast, Heather Britt and Melissa Patsalides will discuss complexity-aware monitoring and USAID’s efforts to support experimentation with these approaches in the Agency.
Heather Britt is a Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist with USAID/PPL’s Program Cycle Service Center. Heather is a skilled M&E capacity builder with experience working with a diversity of development actors including INGOS, UN agencies, foundations, and local organizations. She has been based in the Middle East for the past twelve years and speaks Arabic. Her evaluation work has included programming related to gender and to fragile states. She has a special interest in systems thinking applications, complexity and emerging methods in evaluation.
Melissa Patsalides is the Monitoring and Evaluation Team Leader in USAID’s Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research (LER). This team is responsible for improving the practices of performance monitoring and evaluation within USAID and for encouraging the use of evidence gained from these practices, by providing guidance and tools, building capacity, and supporting an organizational culture that values M&E. Melissa worked with the Peace Corps and a number of NGOs before joining USAID more than 10 years ago. She draws on considerable experience in difficult programming environments as she promotes cutting-edge M&E solutions in the Agency.