Author: USAID Learning Lab
Year: 2013
Full Citation: USAID Learning Lab. (2013). Complexity-aware monitoring: Discussion notes. (Monitoring and Evaluation Series). Washington, D.C: Author
Associated Resource Tool(s):
Overview: This Discussion Note outlines general principles and promising approaches for monitoring USAID development assistance in complex environments, and highlights its difference with performance monitoring. It is intended to be complementary to PMP. It is used in contexts where “cause and relationships are poorly understood” identified by the “degree of certainty about how to solve the problem” and “level of agreement among stakeholders about how to solve the problem”. The guide presents a framework, with sample cases, to analyze the characteristics of complexity in particular contexts. Three key principles for implementing Complexity Aware Monitoring are:
  1. Synchronize monitoring with the pace of change (leading indicators, coincident indicators, lagging indicators)
  2. Attend to performance monitoring’s three blind spots, (broad range of intended and unintended outcomes; alternative causes from other actors and factors, and non-linear pathways of contribution)
  3. Consider relationships (dynamic interconnectedness), perspectives of different actors, and boundaries of both the internal and external environment.
In regards to methods, the guide describes five tools:
  1. sentinel indicators,
  2. stakeholder feedback,
  3. process monitoring of impacts,
  4. most significant change, and
  5. outcome harvesting.
Each of these approaches is elaborated briefly with examples, and linked to references.

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