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Apply monitoring and evaluation tools

The toolbox presents a number of common methods for Monitoring and evaluation.

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Common challenges

Adaptation activities take place within complex systems and with the pressure to develop indicators of performance for adaptation now and to understand what are the attributes of a project, organisation or network that mean that it is likely to adapt well, there are some obvious dangers of trying to oversimplify a complex situation and in doing this identify indicators that distract or, by picking them to be indicators skew the process. Creating real, sustainable and effective change in order to adapt is a slow and complex business, taking much longer than most evaluation processes. Thus evaluation processes that can identify and clearly articulate what conditions support a system to be well adapting and what it means for an organisation or network to be progressing from 'starting' to 'accomplishment' in terms of adaptation are helpful. Methods that can capture something of the complexity of the system (beyond linear causality) e.g. Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change enable the capturing of 'surprise' and unanticipated consequences of an intervention which is useful in challenging assumptions of how change happens and what type of intervention is likely to be most effective.

Practitioners encounter many challenges in designing and using M&E systems for adaptation. For example the following challenges have been identified in recent literature on M&E for adaptation:

  • achieving results in both long and short timeframes,
  • dealing with the cross-sectoral nature of adaptation interventions
  • ambiguous definition of adaptation
  • identification of targets
  • choice of indicators used to monitor performance
  • lack of experience to draw on as the implementation of projects and programmes that specifically target adaptation is still relatively recent
  • difficulty in defining baselines in order to measure project or programme impact.
  • uncertainties around the timings and amount of change
  • the effects of climate change will not be felt for decades so it is difficult to tell if the actions we are taking now will have the desired effect
  • uncertainty about how society, technology, the country as a whole and the climate will change over the same period
  • focus on things that are easy to measure, or where monitoring already exists even when they may not be the most relevant in developing our understanding of the impact of adaptation interventions
  • difficulty in measuring 'soft' areas of capacity building although these may be very significant in supporting effective adaptation and this could provide a disincentive for undertaking activities that are not easily measurable
  • existence of many other factors influencing a particular outcome or output although it is not always easy to attribute them to a particular intervention
This clearly makes it difficult to know what to measure as an indicator of success. Also, as adaptation is mainstreamed into existing policies and risk-management processes of organisations it will become harder to attribute the actions taken for adaptation to the desired outcomes.


Read more in the Toolbox under the following category:

Tools for monitoring and evaluation.

This section is based on the UNEP PROVIA guidance document

Criteria checklist

1. You want to monitor and evaluate implemented adaptation actions.
2. The purpose of the evaluation is clear.
3. The underlying principles and evaluation criteria have been established.
4. Appropriate indicator types have been identified.
5. It has been considered who else needs to be involved in the evaluation and how they will contribute.