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What do you do when things have changed so much that assessing what was done and achieved against the original plans is not useful?

Since 2002, working with numerous colleagues as co-evaluators and primary intended users, I have developed Outcome Harvesting as an alternative to conventional monitoring and evaluation. It serves the needs of the managers, donors and evaluators of innovative interventions attempting to solve intractable problems or new, unexpected challenges in development and social change.

In 2013, the UNDP evaluation office selected Outcome Harvesting as a promising innovation — one of eleven — in monitoring and evaluation practice. After ten World Bank Institute teams piloted a customised version of Outcome Harvesting, in June 2014 the Bank published a booklet of the cases and now lists the tool amongst its resources for internal monitoring and evaluation. USAID has chosen Outcome Harvesting as one of five approaches especially well-suited for evaluation practitioners operating in dynamic, uncertain situations, i.e., in complexity.

How do you know and learn from what you have done and accomplished when faced with complexity?

Outcome Harvesting has proven especially useful for understanding the achievements of hundreds of civil society and governmental projects, programmes and organisations in over 140 countries on all seven continents coping with considerable uncertainty and a substantially dynamic environment. Colleagues and I have used Outcome Harvesting to monitor and evaluate a great diversity of initiatives: human rights advocacy, political, economic and environmental advocacy, arts and culture, health systems, information and communication technology, conflict and peace, water and sanitation, taxonomy for development, violence against women, rural development, organic agriculture, participatory democracy, waste management, public sector reform, good governance, eLearning, social accountability, and business competition, amongst others.

Click on the Outcome Harvesting Forum link below to join the discussion and sharing of experiences and perspectives on Outcome Harvesting. I hope that through this forum the lessons being learned world-wide about how to adapt the innovative approach will be shared, challenged and advanced.

For more information about the theory and practice of Outcome Harvesting, including examples of actual applications and resource material, please go to the Outcome Harvesting website.

Ricardo Wilson-Grau