PIPA workshop for the ASSETS project
A project-internal Participatory Impact Pathways Workshop (PIPA) for the ASSETS Project was held on 5th and 6th of September, 2013. The goals were to trial the PIPA methodology as a way of working with stakeholders to discuss the key problems being addressed through ASSETS, develop a joint vision of what ASSETS’ work will contribute (theory of change) and identify strategic pathways and activities for ASSETS to ensure it achieves its desired impact. This was the first workshop I led as (officially) a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of CIAT. Participants included key members of the ASSETS Team from the University of Southampton, Conservation International and CIAT-DAPA researchers. The report of the workshop with some of the corresponding materials produced can be seen here.
Since we had participants that could only talk in detail about what is going on in two of the three sites (Malawi and Colombia), most of the exercises were based on these two distinct theories of change. Very useful for future work with, for example, CCAFS, where we will focus on some LAM site theories of change, and their aggregation- interactions in support of a broader regional theory of change. So two problem trees were drawn, and two OLMs discussed, but only one vision. In my opinion that seems to work well, as the problems, and of course the partner & stakeholder networks, specific strategies, changes needed are (very!) site specific whereas this “visioning” view of the future tends to be more “summative” and to work well for the general impact of the project. For example, for all sites, beneficiaries [in the future] “have a better understanding of the impacts of different land use trajectories on food security, and sufficient information on trade-offs and next users of ASSETS outputs “are applying a more holistic approach, multiple spatial and temporal scales, assessing impacts on different beneficiaries, [and formulating/ designing] policies across sectors”.
A key issue for me and my facilitation skills this time was that participation was mostly virtual – an innovation for the PIPA methodology. It proved a challenge to follow the usual PIPA workshop format of plenary instructions – break out groups to complete exercises – back to plenary sharing and discussion cycles. I realized how used I am to “wandering” in and out of group conversations, and thereby gauging whether the instructions were well understood, and ensuring we are all working “on the same page”. This is priceless for when we re-group and discuss, I realized also how richly “comparative” these discussions tend to be. The timing was a bit off too- it seems like the group in Southampton moved a lot quicker than we did here, perhaps due to my tendency to get excited and go off on tangents (which I usually do with ALL groups, but his time could only do with the people working here!). In general though, the experience was very instructive and a happy one.
The ASSETS project will now work on validating the results of the Colombia/Peru workshop with national stakeholders and on developing the methodology for use with the Malawi team and the international project team, to develop both locally-specific and over-arching understanding of how to achieve our desired impacts. More discussion should go into the strategies for getting the models (which are designed for easy use by anyone) and their associated training to be more AAA (available, applicable and accessible) by the right people. Many good prospects of expanding synergies with next users and partners are coming soon to ASSETS, and the corresponding plan to harness these opportunities.