How we monitor and evaluate our work

IIED’s emphasis on effective monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) reflects our determination to make change happen. We are committed to continual learning – from our work, each other, our partners and beyond.

A woman holds a ruler on a piece of paper and another one draws with a pen.

Mapping workshop in Nakhon, Ghana (Photo: Axel Fassio/CIFOR via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

IIED’s work is based on three elements: our manifesto, our institutional theory of change and our monitoring evaluation and learning system. These work together to ensure that we are fully focused on delivering impact in the most effective way possible.

Our evolving theory of change describes how we will address the big blockers identified in our manifesto, through six interconnected propositions. Around these propositions, we will form dynamic, multi-skilled, time-bound teams, each bringing new ideas, innovations and solutions to scale. 

Our monitoring evaluation and learning system, the comprehensive Learning and Impact Framework, allows us to track our progress on this work, learn from experience and adjust our course as necessary. 

Targets, results and evaluating progress 

IIED’s existing robust system for institutional monitoring, evaluation and learning, the Learning and Impact Framework (LIF), has enabled us to develop and share outcomes, hold ourselves accountable to our funders and partners, and to become a trusted convenor in policy action research. 

The new institutional monitoring evaluation and learning system to track progress in advancing our manifesto will build on the strengths of the LIF and enrich it with innovative learning processes and tools. 

This will include generating insights from IIED’s portfolio related to each proposition, those of partners, and explore the expected and unexpected connections between different interventions. 

The backbone of the LIF will remain the four impact and learning principles, which will be adopted at every level of IIED work: 

  • Ask open questions — what has changed? Rather than ‘what difference has IIED made?’ 
  • Explore evidence of what works, rather than just hunting for confirmation bias
  • Treat success and failure as a positive basis for generating insights that support learning, and
  • Embed learning in a decision-making cycle that adapts IIED’s portfolio.

These principles will guide the various IIED learning cycles happening at the institutional and proposition/portfolio levels.

Monitoring, evaluation and learning methods

IIED's work addresses complex and inter-linked global challenges. To assess outcomes at this level of complexity, we will continue to employ a wide range of monitoring, evaluation and learning methodologies – and we are constantly testing new innovative approaches to analyse how change has come about.

Supporting the MEL community of practice

IIED's emphasis on robust MEL for our own work links to an increasing global awareness of the importance of these issues. Both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement stress the importance of monitoring and evaluation for guiding the implementation of policies and programmes.

Our MEL team has co-created several knowledge products on real-world use of innovative evaluation methods, such as the series on better evidence for sustainable development or the papers on process tracing and Bayesian Updating; significant policy papers on evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); practical guides and handbooks to integrate climate risks into evaluation, use evaluation to connect the SDGs with national priorities, and establish MEL systems to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

The MEL team will continue to contribute to global MEL thinking by working with multi-lateral organisations, NGOs, communities, and local and national authorities, and it will support them to enhance their institutional MEL capacities. It will also continue supporting them in delivering innovative evaluations to improve their policies and practice, as in the case of the evaluation of Global Environment Facility support to sustainable forest management

Monitoring our performance on gender

There can be no social justice or sustainable development without gender equality and gender equity; this applies not just to the work we do, but also to how we operate. 

Our gender equality policy sets out our vision for securing equal opportunities and equitable outcomes for all our staff and partners, formalising our commitment to gender equity and equality in our research work, our work with partners and the way we operate as an organisation.


Stefano D'Errico ([email protected]), head of monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL), Strategy and Learning Group