4.4 Future Outlook

What are the practical lessons learned from the results, and what are the changes they suggest?
What are the upcoming changes in the context?
What, in response, is the impact plan — and accompanying measurement system and set objectives — going into the future?

An impact plan and a theory of change are best understood as a living dynamic set of ideas. The purpose of impact measurement is to be able to understand with confidence how these ideas perform in practice, and consequently, to be able to use real information in making a plan for the future. This implies responsiveness and flexibility, and that both the organisation and the investor are able to learn, change and improve throughout the monitoring and evaluation process, and over the term of the investment.

At the high level, the future outlook aspect of monitoring and evaluation is to ask if things are generally moving in the right direction, and if the mission is still relevant, and the approach valid to pursue. This is mostly dealt with in the evaluation of impact risk, though looking forward, the frame needs to expand to include any upcoming changes in the context, and the risks and opportunities they may present. These typically relate to:

  • changes in policy or funding
  • social or environmental change — in particular, changes relating to beneficiaries or habitats and their changing needs
  • new developments in the sector — e.g. new findings or approaches from other organisations, new research, new technologies

The challenge is then to integrate the assessment of these risks and opportunities with the findings from the results, and to produce a specific response.

An investor will look to see that the organisation is able to demonstrate it is fulfilling the learning, improving and moving forward aspect of the impact plan — ensuring that knowledge of results and changes in the context are feeding into planning, and that any changes being made to activities and working processes in response are clearly stated, and justified. Responsiveness applies also to the measurement system, which must likewise change with changes in activities (and the different data that may need to be collected), as well as to the question of whether or not it has been effective in producing the necessary evidence (i.e. are the results of the measurement system meeting the required quality of information, and if not, how can the system be improved?)

The findings, changes and future outlook set the bounds for defining new objectives for the upcoming reporting period, and for the next round of monitoring and evaluation.

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