The fastest, best and most resource-efficient way of learning with and from each other is through regular exchange. How often you meet, and with whom, depends on what the impact-analysis data show – and also on what specific points you want to discuss.
You can call learning-focused meetings to address monitoring data or to discuss evaluation results.
Learning-focused meetings driven by monitoring data should take place regularly, as you will regularly have new data that need to be analyzed. These meetings should primarily center on discussing the ongoing project in terms of the monitoring data and current experiences – ideally with the whole team participating.
The following questions may help as you examine the monitoring data:
- To what degree have you reached your objectives, and where have you fallen short? Why?
- To what degree have you deviated from the planned results?
- At what points do you need to look more closely at results and determine causes, for example with the help of an evaluation?
Learning-focused meetings focused on evaluations take place at significantly broader intervals. The fact that evaluations deal with causes and relationships enables even deeper discussions and learning processes. When learning from evaluation findings, you’ll both address whether your activities are going to plan and engage more directly with the plan itself.
You can discuss conclusions and recommendations for the project’s future direction, while at the same time focusing on the project’s objectives and impact analysis.
- Is it necessary to define new objectives?
- What effects would this have on the project’s management?
- Did the impact analysis prove feasible, and did you obtain the findings you’d hoped for?
Nonprofits are described as knowledge intensive. Ensuring that knowledge is maintained in your organization involves careful consideration. Yet the literature list below may help you establish processes and infrastructure that generate, maintain and use existing knowledge in your organization.
- The Bridgespan Groups provides valuable insights on knowledge management
- Insights on where the non-profit sector stands with regard to advances in knowledge management
- Case study insights elaborated by Humes et al. on Knowledge Management practices in nonprofits (published in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour)
To facilitate further discussion, you’ll need aggregated findings such as final project reports.
Possible questions to address could include:
- What were the greatest successes?
- Were there failures? What opportunities did you miss?
- Where should the activities be adapted? Were best practices identified?
- Does the logic model function in practice? Does it need to be further developed? Are the assumptions underlying your project correct?
Regular reflection and learning is particularly relevant for the project team. However, it is also possible and entirely appropriate to include external stakeholders in the process. On the one hand, these groups or individuals contribute different experiences and perspectives, which in turn can have a beneficial effect on the learning process. Most important, however, is to register their expectations and bring them on board with regard to supporting (and financing) any adaptations to the project or objectives.
You will have already identified your stakeholders in your needs assessment and context analysis.
YEA assesses current monitoring data in regular meetings, comparing them with past values and drawing conclusions.
The assessment shows that the demand for mentors is rising, even as the youth participants’ satisfaction with the quality of the support has declined.
As an explanatory factor, some mentors bring up the excessive demands on their time: They are encouraged to give interested youth an opportunity to attend trial sessions, but these take away time for the project work.
The group considers together how this dilemma can be resolved. It reaches the obvious conclusion that additional mentors must be added in order to satisfy the demand.
Monitoring and evaluation findings can be used for learning purposes even outside the context of a single organization. They can also serve as the basis for dialogue between organizations – especially those that are pursuing similar project approaches or serving the same target groups.
This exchange can help in defining key success and quality criteria for your target group, while also clarifying what expectations and objectives are realistic. In the process, can you identify service gaps that you might be able to fill with suitable offerings?
The best way of learning together is through personal discussions. It’s also possible to learn indirectly from others, of course – as long as all participants report transparently on their work, their findings and their experiences. (More on this in "Reporting on results.")