First Steps in the Transition to New Feed the Future Indicators
In March 2018, Feed the Future released a new monitoring and evaluation framework under the Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) guidance. Through this series of blog posts, Fintrac’s Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning (MEL) team is exploring challenges and strategies to help guide Feed the Future programs during this transition.
In our last piece, we introduced the basics of the GFSS transition and provided a series of guiding principles for MEL teams. In this post, with reporting season and the close of the fiscal year right around the corner, we lay out practical steps implementing partners can take to ensure a smooth transition under the new GFSS guidance.
While Feed the Future projects that end after September 30, 2019 are not required to start reporting on new indicators until October 2019, there are critical steps teams can take right now.
1. Map out your transition
Being proactive is key to a successful transition to the new MEL framework. At Fintrac, our teams took the first step by getting familiar with the new indicators (a great resource is the Feed the Future MEL Webinar Series) and identifying how changes under GFSS will affect each project’s MEL Plan.
Changes to performance indicators under GFSS generally fall into one of the following categories — updated, dropped, replaced or unchanged — and are conveniently available along with relevant explanations in Appendix 2 of the Feed the Future Indicator Handbook. Our teams use information from the Handbook to identify changes to each indicator in the project’s MEL Plan under GFSS and then note the changes within the body of the activity’s performance indicator table. As part of this exercise, we also make note of changes in reporting disaggregates and include comments on possible practical implications of changes. The resulting “transition table” is then circulated to key staff for review and discussion.
This simple but powerful exercise provides a useful resource to return to throughout the process of revising the MEL Plan, negotiating contract modifications and updating data collection tools.
2. Proposing changes to the Mission
Once the project team is unified on a path forward, the next step is sharing the proposal with the Mission. Schedule a face-to-face meeting, provide your transition table in advance and be prepared to discuss details of the transition: are there any performance indicators under GFSS for which you are currently able to report on according to their complete definition? If yes, does the Mission expect you to do so in the Feed the Future Monitoring System (FTFMS) for fiscal year 2018? While it is difficult to foresee the full implications of changes under GFSS, getting on the same page with your Mission as early as possible will avoid confusion.
3. Contract modifications & budget changes
The changes under the new GFSS guidance are significant, and their implications for project contracts and budgeting should be taken seriously and discussed early. Did your project have contract-bound targets for incremental sales, gross margin or loans? Now is a good time to revisit those and consider whether you will need to work with project management teams on contract modifications or budget changes.
4. Implications for MEL budgets
As we noted in our previous post, one of the common features to all the new GFSS indicators is an expanded scope under the market systems approach. MEL teams are now tasked with interpreting the impact of activities across the entire value chain. How will your team meet the challenge? Whether you are launching additional survey efforts, expanding your routine monitoring activities or relying on additional data deliverables from your partners, now is the time to consider whether additional funding or changes in allocation are required.
5. Collecting baseline data
While MEL teams are conducting annual results surveys for FY 2018 this fall, it is also an ideal time to collect baseline data on new indicators. At Fintrac, we are reviewing and modifying data collection tools to include new questions that will allow us to report on revised and/or new indicators and disaggregates. This is also a good time to identify questions from previous survey efforts that may no longer be relevant under the new guidance. Questions that are no longer relevant can be phased out in order to minimize the time requirements for data collection and reduce the risk of survey fatigue.
6. Setting targets
The expanded market systems approach under GFSS presents new challenges for setting targets on interventions across a broad set of stakeholders. Take advantage of this annual data collection cycle by collecting information that allows your team to make informed assumptions when setting targets for new indicators.
7. Updating routine data collection systems
With the new fiscal year approaching, now is the ideal time to update routine data collection systems to be responsive to new indicators. Fintrac MEL teams are working to include additional data points to accommodate new disaggregates, thinking creatively about tracking achievements in the private sector and engaging our technical teams in the design of new data collection tools. We have found that work planning sessions for the upcoming fiscal year are a perfect opportunity to review activities and earmark those for which data can be collected via routine monitoring.
As MEL practitioners, we can ensure a smooth transition for projects under GFSS by taking a proactive approach. Communicate early and often with management teams and USAID Missions, and focus on how the changes provide opportunities to improve project implementation. Stay tuned for future posts as we move through the process together.
Liz Whitcher is an M&E Specialist at Fintrac. She supports projects in Tanzania and Zimbabwe with M&E system development, data analysis and capacity building.