IEA Training Manual - Module 8

5.3 How Can We Use Learning Opportunities?

In this final section, you are going to design a monitoring meeting that helps you and other participants monitor progress and cultivate learning.

As discussed earlier, learning opportunities naturally present themselves at the beginning and end of each IEA stage and each IEA cycle. These are the times when you need to reflect and articulate lessons learned to improve the next course of action.

Given the limited time available, we suggest that your core IEA team organize regular but brief, mid-stage and/or stage-end monitoring and evaluation meetings to serve two purposes:

  1. Monitor progress toward and capture lessons learned to improve the next IEA stage and the next IEA cycle.
  2. Cultivate a learning, improvement-oriented approach throughout the whole IEA process.

The two types of meetings—monitoring and evaluation—can be organized using the same principles, with due attention to their complementary differences (Table 1).
Based on the previous sections of Module 8, design a meeting that serves both monitoring and learning purposes (Exercise 7).

Considering the importance and the number of issues to cover, here are some practical considerations for organizing these meetings:

  1. Allow sufficient time (3–6 hours) for these meetings; the first part can be dedicated to monitoring issues, and the second to consolidating learning, and improving the next stage(s).

For monitoring progress, you might want to arrange these meetings using a focus group  discussion format which gives the meetings structure and flexibility. Design your focus group questions to cover three aspects: monitoring progress, capturing lessons learned, and articulating suggestions and commitments for improvement. Each discussion could be followed by discussing and filling out the relevant stage of the self-assessment matrix.

End the meeting by summarizing the progress and recommendations for improvement of the next stage and/or the next reporting cycle with special reference to desired impacts. Make the monitoring meeting notes available to all participants, especially for the user groups identified earlier in this module (Section 2.2).

  1. Be sure to invite core group members, key stakeholders and targeted policy-makers.
  2. A semi-formal or informal setting, as appropriate, will be most conducive to learning.
  3. Create continuity by revisiting the previous monitoring meeting’s notes.
  4. Be careful to manage gender balance and representation of underprivileged groups.

Gender balance and involvement of non-conventional groups can challenge the process at the beginning. However, it also contributes to equity and innovation. Women and other stakeholders (e.g., youth), who are not commonly invited to such processes, often have unique information and indigenous knowledge that can either challenge or confirm the information gained from conventional groups. Such non-conventional knowledge has high potential for offering innovative ideas for problem solving, and for providing breakthrough solutions. The diversity these representatives create in the monitoring group provides additional motivation and excitement for learning, and demand for improvement. For these reasons, seek opportunities to involve both targeted policy-makers and stakeholders in the monitoring meeting who possess or have access to non-conventional and indigenous knowledge.

A learning approach to the national IEA process provides valuable opportunities to advance informed—evidence based—policy making with scientifically credible, and politically legitimate environmental assessments. Furthermore, it encourages willingness to learn and to act.

See Exercise 8.5.3

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