Underpinning any project Rikolto (previously known as VECO) manages across the globe, our Planning, Learning and Accountability (PLA) system is a learning-oriented monitoring & evaluation system that provides a framework for systematic data collection, sense-making and documentation. This system supports project planning and management processes, facilitates organisational and institutional learning, and ensures Rikolto’s downward and upward accountability.
The PLA system is based on a number of principles:
- Utility: the PLA system needs to be useful for the programme actors who produce and use the information.
- Participation: by involving the programme team and partners in the design and implementation of the monitoring processes, Rikolto ensures that its M&E processes are useful for the programmes rather than an additional burden. It fosters self-assessment and face-to-face interaction to clarify what is actually happening in the value chains and its environment.
- Learning: the PLA process aims to generate new knowledge, support learning, plan and motivate future activities, and build M&E capacity and reflective thinking among the different people involved.
- Adaptive process: the PLA system seeks to provide the programme with a continuous system for thinking holistically and strategically about how it intends to achieve results and therefore focuses on both the process and the results. Furthermore, it embraces the continuously changing environment through adaptive planning and monitoring mechanisms.
- Feedback: the PLA system allows Rikolto to seek feedback on its interventions and performance from partner organisations and farmers, while at the same time committing itself to providing feedback to those actors (two-way & downward accountability).
- Multi-faceted: the PLA system acknowledges that the different levels within Rikolto require different information and inputs. What is needed by adjusting planning and data collection correspondingly will improve the usefulness for every member within the organisation.
- Systematic documentation: Rikolto aims to invest in relevant and systematic documentation of the information obtained, lessons learned and decisions made during the monitoring and evaluation process. This should support better reflection and analysis as well as allow monitoring and evaluation findings to be more easily shared and communicated internally and externally.
- Transparency: the PLA system and related processes need to be open and honest. Transparency also means openness when communicating and sharing M&E findings (programme-related and financial) to our partner organisations and other stakeholders.
- Realistic & pragmatic: Rikolto aims to develop a PLA system and procedures that are realistic, effective, cost-effective, pragmatic and as simple as possible. This means reducing the burden of report-writing for partners to a minimum, prioritising information needs, organising effective data collection processes, etc.
Complex environments require a mix of methods to capture both the visible changes as well as the emergent dynamics that play under the surface. This means that our PLA system offers a rich toolkit (ranging from quantitative farmer surveys over global assessment tools such as SCOPEinsight to innovative story-based pattern detection through SenseMaker) along with flexible yet rigorous M&E practices.
A programmatic database captures the essential monitoring and evaluation information of the whole organisation. Through this database, we can generate a wealth of dashboards to visualise our performance and support project management, such as number of partner organisations, beneficiaries, indicator values, etc. Furthermore, the data collected will support documentation and communication activities to help build the body of evidence in favour of sharing knowledge and scaling up proven innovations for a thriving food system.