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Monitoring and evaluation for adaptation

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Monitoring & evaluation (M&E) of adaptive management practises are processes, tools and techniques that systematically and periodically measure and analyse the processes, outcomes and impacts of adaptation programme activities to achieve the intended objectives. Monitoring is the routine collection and analysis of information to track progress against set plans and check compliance to established standards. Evaluation on the other hand is the systematic investigation of the merit, worth or significance of an object. The extent and effectiveness of investments made for adapting to a changing climate will have a defining influence on how well countries are able to achieve their development objectives in the near and long term. As the negative impact of climate change intensifies and as investments in adaptation action increases, it is crucial that rigorous systems are put in place for measuring the impacts of climate change and investment impacts over time. Doing so will strengthen the effectiveness of investments, and thereby mitigate the loss of life and livelihoods in the context of climate change. 

Responds to the following needs

  • Efficient climate adaptation programme
  • Cost-effective adaptation activities
  • Climate change impact assessment

Relevant CTCN Technical Assistance

Stages of M&E process

1. Setting objectives:  Setting or clarifying the objective of the M&E system is the first step in the process. The objective has to be in alignment with the broader goals of, for example, a national adaptation strategy or programme or a plan of action and be in line with available information on climate change hazards and exposures. It is important that adaptation objectives are derived from an adaptation context assessment. This implies that the practitioners and evaluators should be well aware of the context of how the intervention benefits and affects the target segment, the non-climate factors involved in the success of the intervention, the beneficiaries etc. It is in this context that the M&E objectives have to be determined. Three possible categories of activity and their potential contribution are adaptive capacity, adaptation actions and sustainable development.

2. Adaptation theory: Establishing an adaptation theory of change implies that the phenomenon involving the implementation of the investment is known. Therefore, the theory concerning the components of the system, the results, spill overs and probability of success are known. The adaptation theory of change sets the basis for attribution (i.e. what part of the achievement of a goal can be attributed to the investment). This adaptation theory links key activities to adaptation outcomes. It also determines the conditions needed to reach the objectives identified by breaking down activities into the different steps needed to reach an objective. This would include outlaying activities, outputs and outcome(s) to reach an identified objective. Typically, this theory of change is illustrated by a table or other visual illustration of expected inputs, outputs, outcome(s) and impacts of the adaptation intervention

3. Choose indicators: Choosing the indicators depends on the processes that have to be monitored and how accurately the indicators capture the progress of the process. The context, local or national, is also important for the choice of indicators. Choosing indicators entails multiple considerations, including the following:

  • Baseline and Benchmarks. Indicators that measure change necessitate the identification of a baseline against which progress is measured. In the case of multiple processes a baseline scenario has to be developed. Baseline scenarios are useful when the future state is being measured with respect to the current stage. Though monitoring is a continuous process, sometimes measuring progress requires that specific intermediate target points are set. For investments that have standard processes, that is, the processes are well defined and common, benchmarks for monitoring with respect to time period can be set. For example, if a new drought-resistant crop has to be introduced, there will be guidelines that have to be followed in terms of time of planting, time frame and quantities for watering and adding fertilizers etc. These are well defined and standard practices that need compliance for which process indicators can be designed.
  • Prioritisation based on critical resources. When implementing an adaptation investment, it is likely that not all resources will be fully available. Sometimes some resources are critical for the success of the investment, that is, their appropriate use determines the success of the intervention. These critical resources have to be judiciously used and may require a particularly rigorous monitoring mechanism, given that deviations can lead to implementation failure.
  • Measurement tools and resource requirements. The measurement tools, processes and resources required to implement the M&E system will have to be identified at the outset. For example, in measuring increases in farm productivity, the resources required include field investigators, maps and measuring equipment. Resource requirements would define the budget and timeframe of the M&E system. This also helps in selecting the right bundle of indicators that are efficient in terms of M&E resource requirements. Afforestation can be tracked by field investigators as well as through remote sensing, but, based on context, only one of them could be more efficient as well as costeffective. Identifying tools provides clarity in terms of the processes that will go into executing the M&E system. Sometimes only a representative sample is studied, this choice being dependent on the tool.
  • Data Sources and Assumptions. Data sources have to be identified for measuring baselines, defining benchmarks and measuring indicators. Sometimes the data sources are the beneficiaries of the adaptation intervention. The assumptions define the boundaries for which the indicators hold good and are effective enough to measure what they are expected to measure.

4. Implementation and Execution of the M&E system: The final step in the M&E process is its implementation.

5. Triangulation techniques: Triangulation refers to using more than one method of investing the same thing in order to validate the results of the first method. Often, particularly for evaluation, alternative methods of measurement have to be identified because a single measurement mechanism may be inadequate to evaluate the success of the intervention, or else, due to a high error margin in one method, another method may be used to supplement it. When assessment is made using samples, more than one sample may be taken. For indicators that are tracking critical resources, triangulation methods can be adopted to ensure a tighter monitoring system.

6. Results, Interpretation and Information Dissemination for action: The results and interim and final reports have to be interpreted and communicated to those responsible for implementing the adaptation intervention. This step is an important part of the M&E process, as it helps rectification measures to be taken if the process is not on track.

Existing M&E frameworks

Framework Developer or proponent Description
Results based monitoring and evaluation   M&E strategy focused on performance and achievement of outputs, outcomes and impacts which use feedback loops to achieve goals
Robust Decision-Making Rand corporation Decision-making process that identifies future conditions critical for a plan's success without predicting future
Opportunistic impact measurement GIZ Impact evaluation framework that measures two states of a system, i.e. with and without the intervention in case of event
Tracking Adaptation and Measuring Development (TAMD) IIED Combination of how widely and how well countries or institutions manage climate risks and how successful adaptation interventions are in reducing climate vulnerability and in keeping development on course
Outcome Mapping Approach IRDC Provides a set of tools to design and gather information on the outcomes, defined as behavioural changes
Logical Framework Approach USAID A systematic approach to designing, executing and assessing projects that has objectively verifiable indicators for goals, purpose, activities and outputs in a project
Objectives Oriented Project Planning (ZOPP) GTZ Provides a systematic structure for the identification, planning, and management of projects
Monitoring and Evaluation Framework UNDP Provides guidance and builds adaptation capacity to design rigorous initiatives and monitor progress

Case studies

Also see following publications and webpages:


CTCN, UNEP-DTU Partnership, & CATIE Good practise in monitoring systems for adaptation to climate change 

IFRC, 2011 Project/programme monitoring and evaluation guide