The international community has increasingly come to acknowledge that ‘politics matters’1 for development, and consequently there is a small but growing, number of projects and programs that are seeking to ‘work politically’. But what does this new way of working mean for monitoring and evaluation practice? The challenges of thinking and working politically – of engaging with local leaders, elites and coalitions in the struggle to achieve sustainable developmental change through local political processes – suggest that conventional monitoring and evaluation practices may not be sufficient to fully capture value and impact in the context of this kind of complexity.

The Implications of Working Politically

Technical and political assessment

Working politically requires a level of engagement with local leaders, networks and coalitions that brings with it a recognition of the importance of informal relationships and institutions, as well as the formal organisations and power structures, which are more often identified in program management processes and analysed in monitoring and evaluation practice.

Monitoring and evaluation frameworks for these programs, therefore, need to be able to analyse both technical and political aspects of the work; to understand and assess the – less tangible – results of program engagement in these informal processes and relationships as well as the values and outputs of more technical inputs.

Assessing long term impact

The recognition that some of this information may take some time to emerge and that the full impact and outcomes of this kind of work may not be evident until some time after a particular program has come to an end.
However, programs still need to know whether they are on the right track: whether their approaches are likely to lead to the desired change, and whether their strategies and stakeholder engagements are appropriate for the change being sought.

Attribution for donors

It is also clear that donors want to be able to identify results during the program’s life. Donors want to understand the specific contribution made by their resources, and how this can be attributed directly to a given intervention.