Knowledge management is seen as a crucial element to ensure the success of land governance programs. LAND-at-scale, a land governance support program for developing countries supported by RVO (Netherlands Enterprise Agency), has taken an integrated approach to knowledge management since its inception. We talked to experts in the field to hear first-hand what they have learned from their experiences. They underscored the importance of knowledge management for understanding monitoring & evaluation so that it can inform the effective adaptation of programs and benefits from peer learning in South-South networks. Their lessons, which we summarize in this blog, validate the LAND-at-scale approach and are valuable to the wider land governance community in setting up future programs.
Three fundamental components of the knowledge management program within LAND-at-scale are monitoring & evaluation, adaptive programming, and South-South exchange. Monitoring & evaluation improves the management of program outputs, outcomes, and impact through a continuous assessment of programs. It can inform the need for adaptive programming, which means being ready and willing to respond to changes in the political, social, and operational environment and adjusting programmatic actions accordingly. South-South exchange generally refers to technical cooperation among program partners in developing countries to share best practices and overcome shared challenges.
As the LAND-at-scale program gets fully underway in 2022, and in order to contribute to effective knowledge management practices of LAND-at-scale program partners, we interviewed a range of experts on these subjects to get their insights.
We asked Anna Locke, the Principal Research Fellow for sustainable natural resources at ODI, whether knowledge management played a systematic role in the Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND) program, which was a £38mn program of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that ran from May 2015 to March 2021. Anna served as one of the principal knowledge managers for this program.
She said that knowledge management was absolutely key for the LEGEND program, underlining the importance that it be done systematically in order to reflect on the knowledge being gathered to identify the most important questions that need to be asked to tailor project interventions.
“We pressed pause about halfway through the project. In the first part of the project, efforts on knowledge management had been about generating a lot of new evidence. Then we felt that we needed to pivot to be able to use and apply that evidence more concretely and systematically to reach a wider set of audiences and to make sure that the evidence was relevant for those debates, and this was done in close partnership with the UK government, which was very keen on adaptive management,” said Anna.
“We also realized that we needed to group our efforts and learning into a few more focused points. We reflected on which products and evidence had the most impact and had been most relevant to people's thinking and practice. We were then able to identify what we would focus on over the next two or three years. I would thoroughly recommend that there are moments for pause and reflection built into any project with the ability to actually look honestly at what you're doing,” she emphasized.
Julian Quan is a Professor at NRI and was also leading knowledge management of the LEGEND program. We asked Julian if learning activities ever led to adapting their program strategy. Julian highlighted how the LEGEND Bulletin played a key role in communicating a wide range of up to date information from the program and from other sources to FCDO. “We tried to craft the bulletin in such a way that it would be readable and interesting to a much wider audience, with up to date reporting on developments on the ground in context. I think it produced good results on its own terms. This was one adaptation that was made,” said Julian.
We also spoke with Raymond Achu Samndong, who is the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) Manager at the Tenure Facility. We asked him about the efforts of the Tenure Facility to support South-South exchange across countries to encourage learning from experiences. Raymond told us about a learning day they organized in Bogota, Colombia, where they brought all of their partners together from the Global South. The aim was to listen to and understand their partners’ capacity and knowledge about these issues, including how they engaged with projects supported by other donors, as well as the key gaps and challenges they faced and how they could be better supported.
“Partners from Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have a different understanding and experience of resource-based monitoring. With this knowledge, we were able to identify partners that have more capacity and experience, and we could also identify partners that have very limited capacity and limited experience and result-based monitoring. Then we developed support strategies on how we can strengthen the capacity and support them in their project monitoring and evaluation,” emphasized Raymond.
We also spoke with Giulia Maria Baldinelli, Knowledge Management and Research Specialist at the International Land Coalition (ILC), about South-South exchange. The ILC is a global alliance of civil society and farmers' organizations, United Nations agencies, NGOs and research institutes that works toward tenure security and land rights around the world. Giulia indicated that South-South learning exchanges are extremely important to the ILC network, as ILC members hold a vast amount of knowledge that they can share with their peers at the country level and also across countries.
Giulia said “the main initiative through which this learning happens is the Land Collaborative,” which supports multi-stakeholder platforms to be more effective and responsive to emerging land governance issues. “This learning happens mainly in dedicated learning cycles or knowledge exchange sessions. We really want to promote horizontal learning between participants and support the implementation of learning so that the learning doesn't stop when a learning event or a cycle finishes,” underscored Giulia.
We then spoke with Dunia Mennella, ILC’s Monitoring & Evaluation expert, about the need to find a balance between measuring impact in a quantitative way versus more qualitative approaches. Dunia described how the ILC takes a combined approach to monitoring and evaluation and measures impact by balancing both qualitative and quantitative information using them both to tell their stories and to analyze and monitor results.
“Over the past three years, we have introduced a contribution analysis that we do on country level initiatives, namely, our national engagement strategies, to better map their contributions to changes in policies and practices for people-centered land governance, which is our goal. In this analysis, we present lessons learned as well as challenges. We have balanced both quantitative and qualitative descriptions, because when it comes to advocacy and policy change, numbers count, but they have to be counterbalanced by a description of those numbers,” said Dunia.
Dunia also made an excellent point, underlining that the lifespan of a project may be up to a decade, and thus undertaking a contribution analysis can show that setbacks can still be part of a successful story. “When it comes to influencing policy and making sure that those policies get implemented, it takes such a long time frame to actually see change happening, that no setback is really a setback,” suggested Dunia.
Watch our series of knowledge management videos on adaptive programming, South-South exchange and monitoring & evaluation.
The LAND-at-scale program was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and is executed by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). This program has a budget of 32 million Euros over a period of 6 years. The aim of the program is to directly strengthen essential land governance components for men, women and youth that have the potential to contribute to structural, just, sustainable and inclusive change at scale.