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Four Project Scenarios
Measures of Success is structured around four scenarios that show the many challenges of managing conservation and development projects around the world. These projects are implemented by various types of groups, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, local communities, and advocacy groups. We will draw on these scenarios throughout the guide to illustrate our approach to project design, management, and monitoring. The complete scenarios are also presented in Appendix A. Although the scenarios are hypothetical, they are based on real sites and projects. We hope that you will find elements of your project among them so that they may give you some ideas for your site. The projects presented in these scenarios are being carried out by our project team.
Tropical Forest Scenario
Suppose you are the manager of an NGO that is responsible for managing the Indah Biosphere Reserve. The core area of the reserve contains approximately 100,000 hectares of tropical moist forest which includes a mixture of primary and secondary forests. The 80,000 hectare buffer zone around the core area contains 30 small villages whose residents include native and migrant peoples. Residents of the villages are primarily subsistence farmers who grow grains, other food crops, and a few cash crops in small shifting agricultural plots in the forest. Residents also collect timber and nontimber forest products (NTFPs) which they use in their homes and sell in local markets. From what you can tell, it appears that the major threats to the forest include expansion of farms into forest areas, local overharvesting of forest products, commercial logging, expansion of cattle ranches, and the development of a large dam for hydro-electric power generation. At this point, the NGO that you are working for is planning a project that will involve working with community members to develop a few of the forest products for national and international sale and other interventions.
Suppose you are a wildlife biologist working for the local office of the Government Park Service to coordinate a project to design and implement a conservation plan for Karimara National Park. The park is 750,000 hectares of savannah and grasslands in a semi-arid, subtropical setting with an additional 500,000 hectares of land in wildlife management areas (WMAs) around the park. Outside of the WMAs are a number of settlements inhabited by semi-nomadic livestock herders who graze their cattle in the WMAs and occasionally in the park. Residents of the settlements depend on their livestock and limited hunting and gathering of wild animals and plants for subsistence. Major threats to the park include overgrazing, overhunting, and poaching of large mammal species, and the effects of a rapidly increasing and unregulated foreign tourism industry. The Government Park Service is considering taking a number of steps to protect the park against these threats.
Suppose you are the formally educated son or daughter of the traditional leader of a coastal village who has been chosen by your people to help them find the best way to maintain their resources for future generations. Your village is located at the mouth of a river flowing from upland forests through mangrove forests into Bocoro Bay. The residents of your village get most of their food from fishing and gathering shellfish in the river and coral reefs surrounding the bay. Residents cook their food and build their houses using wood from the mangrove forests growing along the coast. Over the past few years, you and your neighbors have noticed that residents of neighboring villages are increasingly coming into your village's traditional fishing grounds. In addition, large fishing boats from other countries have begun operating in the same area. The elders of the community have noticed over time that local fishermen have to go farther away from the community to catch enough fish to eat and sell and that they are catching smaller fish. In addition, silt and pollution coming down the river have ruined many of the reefs. Furthermore, it is becoming harder to find shrimp in coastal areas near small rivers where the mangroves have been cut down. The elders are now proposing to enhance your people's traditional resource management systems to conserve the plant and animal resources in the bay for future generations.
Suppose you are the manager of a local chapter of a conservation advocacy group whose members live near the Everson Watershed. The wetlands in the watershed serve as important habitats for migratory birds and for a number of fish and game species. These species support extensive recreational uses of the area including birdwatching, canoeing, fishing, and hunting. The wetlands are also part of the water supply system for major urban areas in the watershed. The wetlands are threatened by growing development and urbanization including road construction and dredging. They are also affected by water pollution (especially from agricultural chemicals) and invasions of exotic plant and animal species. You are planning to work with local landowners and governments to purchase or obtain conservation easements on lands containing critical wetland and upstream habitat. In addition, your organization is hoping to work to educate the public about the importance of the upstream habitats in maintaining the wetlands. Finally, you are hoping to devise a management plan to help control some of the impacts of exotic species.
Purpose of This Guide
Conservation and development
projects have as their primary goal the conservation of natural ecosystems and species. They are based on the philosophy that, in order to maintain economic and community development, a healthy and viable natural resource base must be sustained. They operate by involving and addressing the needs of human stakeholders—the people who have an interest in the natural resources of the project site.
A common challenge found in our scenarios and all other conservation and development projects is to be able to measure the success of project interventions. In order to ensure that desired conservation impacts occur, you need to know which actions work and which don't—and you need to know why. You also need to make sure that your project activities have a positive impact on the stakeholders the project is designed to benefit. Finally, if you are supported by outside organizations or are working with or for local communities, you need to be able to demonstrate to them that you are accomplishing the goals and objectives that were set out at the start of the project.
In this guide, the term project is not limited to referring to part of a formal, externally funded program. Instead, it is used to refer to any set of actions undertaken by any group of managers, researchers, or local stakeholders interested in achieving certain defined goals and objectives. For example, a project could include steps that community members take to revive traditional resource-harvesting customs.
In response to the challenge of measuring project impact, an increasing number of practitioners are attempting to fully integrate monitoring into the design and management of their projects. These practitioners are faced, however, with a number of constraints in accomplishing this integration. For example, project staff are often so involved with day-to-day operations that they may feel that they don't have the time or money to invest in monitoring. Likewise, field staff may believe that monitoring can only be done by experts or scientists and that they are not qualified to do the job. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, people may simply feel that they don't know how to design comprehensive and useful management and monitoring plans.
Practitioners are managers, researchers, and local stakeholders who are responsible for designing, managing, and monitoring conservation and development projects.
In this guide, we use monitoring to refer to the periodic collection and evaluation of data relative to stated project goals, objectives, and activities. Many people often also refer to this process as monitoring and evaluation (M&E).
Our motivation in writing this guide is a strong belief that, although these constraints are real, they can and must be overcome if conservation and development projects are ultimately to succeed. Although sound project design, management, and monitoring require an investment of time and money, we think that this investment will save resources in the long run by ensuring that the project is effective. Without adequate planning and monitoring, you have no sure way of knowing whether the project is making a positive difference or, worse yet, causing unintended negative impacts. In addition, we believe that the people who are most qualified to design, manage, and monitor projects are the field-based practitioners and local stakeholders who are most familiar with local conditions—not outside "experts" or "professionals." Finally, although every site has unique conditions making it impossible to develop a project design, management, and monitoring "cookbook," we feel that it is possible to come up with general guidelines that can help people determine what they need to do and how best to do it.
Biodiversity is the variety and variability of life on earth. It is an abbreviation for biological diversity.
The purpose of Measures of Success is to demonstrate a simple, clear, and systematic approach to designing, managing, and monitoring projects that seek to conserve biodiversity. Whether you are a project manager, village leader, or researcher, it is our hope that this guide will assist you in developing and implementing more successful conservation and development projects.
Adaptive management is a process originally developed to manage natural resources in large-scale ecosystems by deliberate experimentation and systematic monitoring of the results. (See the references at the end of chapter 8 for more information about adaptive management.)
Principles Behind This Guide
A fundamental principle behind Measures of Success involves applying the concepts of adaptive management to conservation and development projects. In this context, adaptive management involves integrating project design, management, and monitoring to provide a framework for testing assumptions, adaptation, and learning.
In this guide, we are using project assumption to refer to a causal chain of project activities and factors that affect a target condition. In scientific terms, it is equal to a hypothesis. We are using underlying assumptions to refer to the effects that other conditions and factors could potentially have on this causal chain. Although it is helpful to divide assumptions into these two categories, there is definitely a gray area between them—many underlying assumptions could actually be part of a project assumption.
Testing assumptions is about systematically trying different interventions to achieve a desired outcome. It is not, however, a random trial-and-error process. Instead, it involves first thinking about the situation at your project site, developing a specific project assumption about how a given intervention will achieve the outcome, and determining what underlying assumptions are behind this project assumption. You then implement the intervention and monitor the actual results to see how they compare to the ones predicted by your assumptions. The key here is to develop an understanding of not only which interventions work and which do not, but also why.
Adaptation is about systematically using the results of this monitoring to improve your project. If your project intervention did not achieve the expected results, it is because either your assumptions were wrong, your interventions were poorly executed, the conditions at the project site have changed, your monitoring was faulty, or some combination of these problems. Adaptation involves changing your assumptions and your interventions to respond to the new information obtained through your monitoring efforts.
Process Hint: See chapter 2 for a more detailed discussion of assumptions in the context of the projects cycle and chapter 6 for examples of common project assumptions.
Finally, learning is about systematically documenting the process that your team has gone through and the results you have achieved. This documentation will help your team avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Furthermore, it will enable other people in the broader conservation and development community to benefit from your experiences. Other practitioners are eager to learn from your successes and failures so that they can design and manage better projects and avoid some of the hazards and perils you may have encountered. Through sharing what you have learned from your project, you will help conservation efforts around the world.
The Threat Reduction Assessment approach to project design, management, and monitoring is described in greater detail in chapter 3.
A second key principle behind Measures of Success involves taking a strategic Threat Reduction Assessment (TRA) approach to project design, management, and monitoring. Conservation and development projects typically involve complex mixtures of biological, social, economic, and institutional factors. The TRA process presented in this guide attempts to simplify project design and monitoring by directly identifying, addressing, and tracking the threats to biodiversity at a given site. In effect, threat reduction provides both a framework for developing the objective of the project and a framework for measuring conservation success. This strategy involves obtaining a mixture of social and biological data to measure project outcome—a fundamental shift from the traditional approach which involves only assessing the biological effects of project activities.
Style of This Guide
Measures of Success is written primarily with conservation and development practitioners in mind. For simplicity, we use the word "you" to refer both to the reader and the group that he or she is working with—this does not mean that we assume the reader is necessarily the leader of the group.
To meet the needs of this audience, this guide has been written to be as simple and as easy to use as possible. The first time that key words are used they are highlighted in semibold italics and defined in a sidebar or highlighted in italics and defined in the text. We also collect the terms and definitions in a glossary in Appendix B.
We have also scattered Process Hints in sidebars throughout the book that point out ideas that you may find helpful while using the approach presented in this guide. We also use many examples and drawings to illustrate the information being presented. These examples are drawn from the four scenarios that have been developed specifically to represent real-world conservation and development situations and projects.
Finally, you will notice that we spend a good deal of time defining words. In addition, our approach involves spending substantial time considering ways of phrasing goals, objectives, and other items in your Project Plan. We focus on definitions and language because we believe the success of this approach critically depends on everyone having a common and clear understanding of what the project is trying to accomplish. We hope that clear and specific definitions of terms will also facilitate cross-project learning by providing a common language for discussion.
Structure of This Guide
Project cycle refers to the steps involved in developing and implementing a project and monitoring plan, and analyzing the results.
An overview of the general process described in Measures of Success is presented in the accompanying project cycle diagram. In addition to the starting and ending boxes, the diagram contains five diamonds, each of which represents a different stage in the overall cycle. These diamonds generally need to occur in the order represented by the letters A–E. The diamonds themselves, however, are part of an iterative process that involves going through the cycle numerous times as outlined at the bottom of the sketch.
Although Measures of Success is presented in a sequential and highly structured fashion, we realize that most people working on a project would not follow such a restricted step-by-step order. Instead, an experienced practitioner would "work the problem from both ends"—thinking first about the audiences for monitoring information and then about goals and maybe then about information needs and then maybe finally going back to the conceptual model. So, although for clarity we have presented the approach as a linear process in this guide, we would encourage you not to feel bound to it.
Start: Clarify Group's Mission
A mission statement provides a vision for the future of your group—your long-term desired outcome and the strategy for getting there. Before setting out to design a new project, you must have a clear understanding of your group's mission. If you plan to work with other groups on the new project, it is also important to understand their missions and how your mission relates to theirs.
Process Hint: Don't worry if you have trouble understanding any of the words used in the description of the contents of each step in the project cycle. Most of these terms are described in each specific chapter
Excerpted from Measures of Success by Nick Salafsky, Richard A. Margoluis, Anna Balla. Copyright © 1998 Richard A. Margoluis and Niklaus N. Salafsky. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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About the Biodiversity Support Program
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Clarify Group's Mission
Chapter 3. Design a Conceptual Model Based on Local Site Conditions
Chapter 4. Develop a Management Plan: Goals, Objectives, Activities
Chapter 5. Develop a Monitoring Plan
Chapter 6. Implement Management and Monitoring Plans
Chapter 7. Analyze Data and Communicate Results
Chapter 8. Use Results to Adapt and Learn
Appendix A: Project Plans for Scenarios
Appendix B: Glossary of Select Terms