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 has developed a comprehensive strategic framework that links together our five-year strategy (2019-2024), our institutional theory of change and a new Learning and Impact Framework. These three elements work together to provide us with a robust set of tools to ensure that we are fully focused on delivering impact in the most effective way possible.

Our institutional theory of change describes how we will address the global challenges identified in our strategy. It sets out how we develop propositions that improve communication, generate evidence and build capacity for change by creating interactions between different stakeholders and shifting power dynamics.

Our comprehensive Learning and Impact Framework (LIF) will be an essential tool for implementing the strategy, allowing us to track progress, learn from experience and adjust our course as necessary. It will capture evidence of impacts and learning from our work and serve as the principal accountability mechanism for IIED with our funders, as well as a key point of reference for our partners, our trustees and our staff.

The LIF puts learning at the centre of our work.

Core principles

The LIF is based on four core principles; these will facilitate better-informed decision making at institutional, programmatic and project levels. We will:

  1. Ask open questions: we will avoid making assumptions about our impact, and will use more searching, open questions such as "what has changed?", or "what has made a difference?" instead of the more self-referential question "what difference have we made?"
  2. Generate evidence about what works and what doesn't work: we will use a variety of methods to collect and analyse data to generate valid evidence. We will investigate not only the validity of our own theories of change, but also alternative theories and explanations
  3. Discuss both success and failure openly: we will foster a culture of open learning which doesn’t blame failure. Each major monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) exercise will have dissemination plans to discuss the effectiveness of different approaches internally and with our partners, and
  4. Ensure learning informs decision making: one of the main aims of our LIF is to integrate learning into strategy and policy. We will improve the synchronisation and sequencing of decision making and learning. At the beginning of each financial year, the monitoring, evaluation and learning team will map out what learning is needed, and when. 

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 significant policy papers on evaluating the SDGs and will continue to contribute to global MEL thinking. We also work with NGOs, communities, and local and national authorities to enhance their institutional MEL capacities.

Assessing influence over policy and practice – an example

In 2014 the board of the Uganda Wildlife Authority decided to give local communities a greater share of the fees for gorilla watching at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. IIED undertook an internal evaluation to examine whether the Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (U-PCLG) had successfully influenced this policy decision.

We used a combination of process tracing and Bayseian updating to asses U-PCLG's influence, and found this evaluation methodology delivered both rigour and transparency.

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. In 2016 we published a gender manifesto that sets out our vision for securing equal opportunities and equitable outcomes for all our staff and partners, and in 2019 our Gender Equality Champions’ Network is leading our efforts to move towards an institutional gender policy, formalising our commitment to gender equity and equality in our research and in IIED itself.

Value for money at IIED

Demonstrating value for money is ever more important for organisations using public funds, with aid budgets under pressure, development organisations need to show that they are efficient, that poor people's lives are actually improving, and that the environment is protected.


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