A couple of weeks ago I posted a question to the AdaptDev and Pelican [Platform for Evidence-based Learning and Communication for Social Change) communities about Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Maps (M/E/L Maps). Here’s what I asked:
I had an idea last week about producing “M/E/L maps” to help us track, reflect on, and communicate (internally and externally) about what progress we are making towards our goals – either at organizational level, or by program area, or both.
These maps would show where we are trying to get to, where we’ve come from, what progress we’ve made towards our destination, who our fellow travelers are, what the obstacles we’ve faced are, what the possible paths towards our destination are etc. etc.
So as to avoid re-inventing the wheel, or to make sure that our wheel-adaptation is informed by previous efforts, I wondered whether any of you have come across this sort of thing – the use of engaging graphical representations of progress and potential ways forward as an aid to reflection and learning, or, more specifically the use of of M/E/L maps to show destinations, journeys, obstacles and pathways?
If you’ve come across anything similar to this idea, I’d really appreciate a pointer, please. I’ll be happy to share resources and keep you posted on our journeys!
I promised to share the resources that I got in return. So, with apologies for the delay, and with thanks for all the encouraging responses I received, here’s some of what I got.
Oh, I’m primarily sharing the stuff that wasn’t shared with the wider lists, the stuff that I was able to get my head around, and the stuff that is fairly easily shareable. If others posted things to me privately that they think that others might be interested in seeing, and might be able to get their heads around better than I could, feel free to share, either in the comments on this blogpost, or through the AdaptDev and Pelican groups!
I got lots of suggestions about using mapping software to plot the geographical location of communities and projects. Next time I’ll be clearer that I’m using “maps” in a metaphorical sense, to mean graphical representations of context, features, actors, pathways, and journeys, towards a goal of some sort. Or slightly more grandly, something which combines a system map, a theory of change, and data about how things are going with the program/project and which can be used to facilitate collaborative reflection and learning. (Thanks to Marcus Jenal for teasing that out of me!).
Timelines as M/E/L tools, for example this from Better Evaluation and this from the Asia Foundation. (Thanks to Rosie Pinnington). The Asia Foundation’s Strategy Testing method, which informs our existing approach to M/E/L, was also flagged to me (Thanks to Alix Tiernan for that reminder).
A heads-up from ImpactMapper who seem to have some neat software for visualizing outcome frameworks, reported data, and theories of change, and have set up a Slack community on measurement and evaluation. (Thanks to Valentine Makhouleen PS: My application to join the Slack community seems to be pending, and, let’s chat!)
A heads-up about “Rich Pictures”, a technique which allows you to show processes, progress, supply chains, projects, etc. etc. as an exciting, engaging visual representation. More info on this and other approaches to system-diagramming from the Open University, here. (Thanks to Alistair Leadbetter).
Pointers to a number of resources about systems thinking, and systems-focused evaluation, including systems diagrams, most of which are accessible from here. (Thanks to Bob Williams. Bob, your systems concepts in action book is on my desk – thanks to Ethel Mendez for sharing).
Last, and perhaps least, given the artistic talents of the Global Integrity team, we made use of the idea of M/E/L Maps in our most recent quarterly reflection and learning sessions. We started the session off with everyone on the team drawing pictures/maps of the progress that they’d seen towards a particular project-related goal over the first 3 months of 2019, and then used those pictures as a creative springboard for discussing successes, challenges, and changes we might make to our tactics. Here’s a post about an earlier session, led by our Programs and Learning lead, Michael Moses. Keep an eye on our website and @globalintegrity for more!
And if you come across any useful M/E/L Maps, particularly ones with hidden treasure, please drop me a line 🙂
Alan that is great, thanks for sharing these resources. How I’d love communities to chart their expected impact(s) of projects at baseline (or better yet, to inform funding/ design) and compare them to implementers’. Warm regards from chilly Prague, Jindra
PS – maybe see you here in Oct for the IDEAS Conference?
Alan, I love that you’re encouraging participatory learning/eval – so much more is needed in our space. I do a lot of causal loop diagramming. Most recently, I did this to assess the impact of an emergent anti-corruption community across Latam & turned it into a participatory activity for all teams to try out at a staff retreat. Vensim is free software to do it as well! https://vensim.com/ I hope that is helpful!