KNOWFOR was a five-year, £38-million, DFID-funded knowledge program that forms part of the International Climate Fund forests portfolio. It involved a partnership between the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Bank Program on Forests (PROFOR) (hereafter referred to as partners).

Subtitled ‘Improving the way knowledge on forests is understood and used internationally’, KNOWFOR provides high-quality original and synthesized knowledge products for a wide range of audiences in the forest and land use sectors aimed at addressing the disjuncture between the supply and use of knowledge. KNOWFOR placed a strong emphasis on the enabling conditions and the role of partner systems in supporting knowledge uptake.

KNOWFOR’s approach to designing and monitoring for outcomes

There are challenges inherent in attempting to monitor and evaluate programs that try to influence policy and practice through knowledge generation – these include issues of attribution, issues associated with the relational nature of how change occurs and the long timeframes often involved.

To address these challenges KNOWFOR explicitly focused on assisting partners to develop fit-for-purpose internal approaches to design, monitoring, evaluation and learning (DMEL). The KNOWFOR partners, with the expert advice of Clear Horizon Consulting, have individually and collectively invested in the development and implementation of new approaches to DMEL for knowledge uptake. The investment in DMEL aims to contribute to organisational management as well as inform a wider conversation on effectively linking short-term localized interventions to broad, long-term social, economic and environmental benefits.

Details of how KNOWFOR diagnosed these challenges, produced an over-arching evaluation framework and implemented outcomes-oriented monitoring approaches across a diverse knowledge-for-development project portfolio can be found in the documents below.

Evaluating KNOWFOR

Building on the extensive investment in partner DMEL capacity, the KNOWFOR evaluation was conducted as a ‘partner-led’ process whereby internal monitoring and evaluation representatives from the three implementing partners helped devise and conduct most of the evaluation activities. This process was supported and facilitated by Clear Horizon Consulting, who was engaged as a DMEL partner for the program from 2014 onwards.

The rationale for adopting a partner-led process was twofold. First, the program wanted to use and stay true to the principles of the recently developed DMEL approach for the program. Second, partners wanted to try something different from a typical external evaluation. KNOWFOR is a complex and technical program, and partners noted that it took external evaluators a long time to understand other similar programs and their findings often seemed to add little to what was already known. The rationale was that a partner-led evaluation would be more efficient and in-depth because it would harness partners’ technical knowledge and capability.

During the evaluation, partners developed key data products that were sources of evidence to inform the evaluation. The key data products were ‘deep-dive’ case studies, outcome stories, lessons learned stories and the program-wide results chart. Details of how these products were produced and synthesized can be found in the KNOWFOR evaluation toolkit. Partners also co-developed with Clear Horizon Consulting a number of data quality and assessment tools that helped make consistent sense of the evidence collected, these included an evidence quality assessment tool, project design and outcome rubrics, as well as a gender responsiveness rubric. Details of these can be found below.

 KNOWFOR evaluation evidence

The KNOWFOR evaluation produced a range of evidence in line with the guidance outlined above. In addition, DFID led a survey of KNOWFOR boundary partners in 2013 and 2015. The findings from this survey can be found here.

In addition, CIFOR produced the following evidence base to inform the evaluation: