How we monitor and evaluate our work

IIED is updating its strategy and as part of this effort we want to be even more serious in monitoring and evaluating our work. 

A word cloud with words relevant to monitoring, evaluation and learning (Image: IIED)

At IIED, we are moving from the traditional M&E question 'are we making a difference?' to humbler and more searching questions, such as 'what is making a difference?', 'what has changed, for whom, under what circumstances, how and why?'.

The institute has robust monitoring and evaluation systems to assess its effectiveness in terms of:

  • Changes in the body of evidence
  • Changes in interactions, liaison and power dynamics
  • Changes in the capacities of our partners to generate and use evidence, and
  • Changes in policies and practice.

We also participate in regular evaluations that hold us to account not only for the money we spend on behalf of our donors, but also for the results we aim to deliver. Evaluations, such as the external review in 2017, are also opportunities for our teams and partner organisations to reflect on and learn from experience so that we can constantly improve our work.

Over the next two years, we will update and strengthen our monitoring and evaluation systems further by improving our ability to assess causes and effects in complex settings.

We will use this approach to assess not only IIED's contribution to social and environmental change, but to generate valuable evidence for influencing the development of effective sustainable development policies and practice. This shift will allow us to broaden our vision in our search for what is necessary and sufficient to achieve social and environmental change.

Thanks to a greater focus on systemic impact, we will get a better understanding of our contribution alongside the contribution of others and the contextual conditions that enable changes in local-to-global systems. 

IIED's theory of change

IIED has an institutional theory of change that identifies four inter-linked outcome areas of influence: co-creating knowledge, building bridges, building capacities, and contributing to changes in policies and practice.

Illustration of  IIED's theory of change

Our assumption is that changes in the body, use and framing of knowledge are needed to inform and help shape policies and practices at different levels, from the local to the global. For this, we believe, strategic engagement of key stakeholders in knowledge generation is essential.

For this engagement to be effective it requires interactive changes in power dynamics and in the capacities of both powerless and powerful actors. 

We believe that policy and social change are not predictable and linear processes. Instead, they emerge from many different angles of influence and different types of knowledge creation.

In day-to-day operations, this means that IIED's theory of change unfolds into four distinct effective pathways to change: multi-stakeholder dialogue, research to decision making, targeting decision makers, and empowering the powerless.

IIED's pathways to change

  1. Multi-stakeholder dialogue: convening networks and facilitating dialogues to share local knowledge, build capacity of less powerful actors, and influence decision makers.
  2. Research to decision making: building on existing bodies of work and engaging local actors in direct partnerships to develop practical solutions that support pro-poor governance.
  3. Targeting decision makers: reframing the knowledge of the decision makers and develop policy frameworks to domesticate global policy and make it relevant to the local conditions.
  4. Empowering the powerless: building capacity and enable the voice of people/countries with less power to engage in knowledge generation and national and global advocacy.

At IIED we are fully aware that social and environmental change usually results from a combination of multiple factors or conditions. These combinations of conditions combine in complex ways to form 'mechanisms' that describe and explain change under given circumstances.

To account for and assess this level of complexity, we have applied a set of robust monitoring evaluation and learning methodologies, and we are constantly trialling and testing innovative approaches to identify results, and unpack how change has come about for whom. 

IIED has proved consistently progressive in using monitoring and evaluation to influence discourse, knowledge and processes of policymaking and governance by making these more evidence based, and inclusive. The assessment of our own work is no-less robust.

To better understand the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of our interventions we use our capabilities in impact assessment, value for money, cost-benefit analysis, monitoring mechanisms, performance and process evaluation. This skillset enables us to investigate whether our contribution leads to transformational change, how effective our ways of working are, and in what circumstances they generate knowledge and unleash social interactions that drive positive change.

Gender review 

Gender equality is essential to achieving a fairer and more sustainable world. We are undertaking a gender review and audit to assess how we address gender in the way that we work. A small internal team is leading the institute through an audit process to reflect on equality and equity, and examine our organisational polices, structure, and culture.

We have published a gender manifesto that details our key goals and a series of commitments to making our gender promises a reality. This is an ongoing process and different aspects of this work will be reported and acted on an ongoing basis. 

Assessing policy influence – exploring methodologies

In late 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 conducted an internal evaluation to examine whether the Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (UPCLG) had successfully influenced this policy decision.

The evaluation team used a combination of process tracing and Bayesian updating to assess U-PCLG's contribution. The evaluation team found that this rigorous evaluation methodology allowed for a close dialogue between theory and evidence and provided a high level of transparency. 


Making our programme evaluations available online allows us to share lessons learnt more widely and contribute to and inform key debates in the field of international development.

External reviewExternal review
IIED commissions reviews of its work every five years. 

Find out more about our latest external review
Find out more about an external review of IIED in 2012 

Evaluation of IIED’s environmental economics workEnvironmental economics
In autumn 2013, we contracted independent consultants Olof Drakenberg and Anders Ekbom to review the contribution of environmental economics and economics to IIED's work. We would like to thank them for producing a well-researched, rigorous report with a constructive critique. Read the full report 

Cover imageParticipatory Learning and Action
In the summer of 2013, we contracted independent consultants Mary Myers and Mary Hobley to evaluate PLA and outline possible options for its future. We would like to thank them for producing a thoughtful, well-argued and stimulating report. Read the full report | Read the report annexes

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.

Cover imageRead our value for money statement