Implementing green growth involves a diverse range of stakeholders including decision-makers from government, business, and communities who will often have differing experiences, perspectives and interests (UNCSD, 2007 and IPCC, 2012). Communication and engagement with these stakeholders as part of the M&E process may be undertaken at the local level, for example, in relation to a specific project or system, or at a national level for example in relation to a national green growth policy or plan.
Effective communication and engagement inclusive of these varied stakeholders and their priority issues ensures the results are relevant (Chess and Johnson, 2007; Degnbol, 2005; and Schiller et al., 2001). Furthermore, this approach improves efficiency in the system as more people at different levels are allowed opportunities to work together to implement the system and follow-up on the results. A meta-analysis by Danielsen et al. (2010) on environmental monitoring found that the level of involvement by local stakeholders profoundly influenced the scope and speed of resultant decision-making. When locals were involved in monitoring, it took less time between data collection and action. The study found that the more locally-based and participatory approaches led to 3 to 9 times faster management decisions than macro-level scientist-executed monitoring (Danielsen et al., 2010). For this to occur, local stakeholders must understand the data, methodology, and the issue being addressed (Ura et al., 2012).
The Sujala Project in India (Case 3) was characterized by a highly inclusive M&E approach with processes implemented to enable the local community to engage in everything from indicator development to data collection and reviewing results. An information management system was used to provide timely and appropriate information to both project managers and beneficiaries and engaging them in assessing performance. This inclusive participation of local communities throughout the project helped foster agreement on the program priorities and activities and by responding to their needs and input, built credibility which made the program more robust over the long-term and lead to expansion of the program (Raju et al., 2010).
Formal on-going involvement of stakeholders can enable ownership and learning. Specific measures have to be built into program and project management processes to ensure continued and effective involvement of stakeholders (UNDP, 2002). For example, environmental monitoring committees made up of representatives from relevant stakeholder groups can ensure consistent communication between green growth planners and stakeholders, providing an important advisory, monitoring and watchdog role (Deaton, 2010).
The timing of communication is also important, with the aim being to disseminate and communicate M&E results to key stakeholders as soon as possible (UNDP, 2002). If this is not done, the process is deprived of reliable and regular adaptive management and M&E cannot serve its purpose effectively. It is also important that the lessons extracted have the potential for broader application, and can be shared for wider organizational or sectoral learning. In relation to green growth, the sharing of lessons and best practices is critical to the institutionalization and integration of green growth strategies in national development planning and programming.
The Watershed Management and Poverty Alleviation project in Karnataka, India (known as the Sujala Project) was characterized by an intensely inclusive and flexible M&E process with active stakeholder engagement, which led to the project’s overall greater effectiveness, efficiency and robustness. In a review of the project, many of the project’s approaches have been incorporated into India’s national watershed policy guidelines (World Bank, 2013).
The Sujala project targeted around 500,000 hectares of the Karnataka watershed, a semi-arid zone subject to periodic droughts, severe soil erosion, erratic rainfall, and depleting groundwater. Impoverished farmers in the region generally produced only one crop per year with yields 2 to 5 times less than optimal (Raju et al., 2010). The World Bank invested USD 100.4 million into this project from 2001 to 2009 with goals of alleviating poverty, increasing productivity of the natural resource base, and improving environmental management in a region where the primary livelihood was rain fed agriculture (World Bank, 2012).
The project undertook a combination of capacity building, development planning, and data provision to help both technical experts and local community members make improved agriculture and natural resource decisions. M&E was a key facet of the project. The overall M&E objective was to develop an information management system that provided timely and appropriate information to a large number of implementing partners, including community-based organizations (CBOs) and beneficiaries, to facilitate the sharing of information and to regularly assess project performance. The monitoring was employed in a way that de-mystified the monitoring technology for communities. A local agency in Karnataka conducted the monitoring and generated the maps and reports, and presented the information through a bi-lingual database customized for local users (Raju et al., 2010). The data generated was also shared with local implementing partners to use in participatory planning sessions with beneficiaries. According to the World Bank, “this was also the first time that high resolution satellite images were placed before grassroots communities to help them plan interventions” (World Bank, 2012).
The M&E system involved extensive community engagement from indicator development to data collection to reviewing results. Inclusivity with the local communities throughout the project helped foster agreement on the project priorities and activities, and ultimately led to more sustainable impact of the project (Raju et al., 2010). Including stakeholders throughout the process, responding to stakeholders’ needs and input, and building credibility along the way also made the project more robust over the long-term. This was evidenced by the decision to add a second phase and expand the project after the initial period (Government of Karnataka, 2012). The M&E system was not without challenges. The intensively inclusive process required significant time and effort by local managers and beneficiaries – an aspect that doesn’t appear to have been captured in the overall cost estimate. For example, an official from the central District Watershed Office stated, “The frequent audio-conferencing backed by regular [results] reports was very useful in monitoring progress. It helped keep all of us on our toes throughout the duration of the project. Of course, this was useful as a management tool, but I would not like to be monitored like this for other watershed activities that we do on a regular basis. It is too intense” (Raju et al., 2010).