February, 2023

Measuring our contributions to systemic change

Our Insights Lead details our approach to monitoring, evaluation and learning

At ETP we regularly question how we can most effectively demonstrate our contributions to change, and our influence on the tea sector.

Our Insights Lead, Tiphaine Valois, outlines how we have developed a monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) framework to address this challenge.

The impact of our approach to MEL is threefold:

  • It keeps us accountable to our key stakeholders – that is, smallholder farmers, workers, women, and young people – as we deliver our Strategy2030, and also to our members and donors, who invest in our initiatives;
  • It supports us to adapt and improve our interventions based on what we learn, so that we can best deliver change; and
  • It has the potential to inspire and catalyse stakeholders to (further) support our work.

At ETP, we recognise that for us to contribute to our vision of a thriving tea industry that is socially just and environmentally sustainable, we have to take a systems change approach.

That’s why, together with our members, we work collaboratively across projects, business pilots, and policy interventions, with diverse partners, whilst sharing our learnings, all to enable us to contribute to achieving our vision.

Did you notice that we specify that this all ‘contributes’ to us achieving our vision?

When attributing complex changes (such as structural, behavioural, attitude, policy, or practice changes) to one intervention or organisation, that assumes that this intervention or organisation was the only catalyst to change. In doing so, it takes away any agency from the stakeholders who changed their behaviours, policies, and practices, and negates the influence of other factors.

By recognising that ETP only contributes to complex changes, we acknowledge that whilst our intervention supported or influenced a change, it did not achieve this change by itself. Crucially, our approach accredits stakeholders’ own contributions and agency. This concept is at the core of our approach to MEL.

“Crucially, our approach accredits stakeholders’ own contributions and agency. This concept is at the core of our approach to MEL.”

When it comes to specific interventions, we are strengthening how we integrate MEL into an interventions’ structure. This takes us beyond collecting data for just compliance, and instead prompts us to use data as a driver for change. Our aim is to make evidence-based decisions at each step of a project’s lifecycle. Whenever possible, we also involve project participants at different stages of the data management process, ensuring their dignity, and recognising the power dynamics created by the information that we hold.

At a global level, our aim is to bolster how we communicate about our contributions to impact, whether it is through our projects, business pilots, policy work, or stakeholder engagement. We have developed a ‘Global Impact Framework’ to support this. By aligning our framework to our global Theory of Change, it methodically identifies the key data points to demonstrate our Strategy2030’s progress. We are also committed to publishing annual reports detailing our work, impact, and operations – the first of which will be published in March 2023.

“Our aim is to make evidence-based decisions at each step of a project’s lifecycle.”

To better understand ETP’s influence on the tea sector, we are internally rolling out an Outcome Harvesting methodology. Outcome Harvesting is a MEL approach that ‘does not […] measure progress towards predetermined outcomes or objectives [, but] rather […] collects evidence of what has been achieved, and works backwards to determine whether, and how the project or intervention contributed to the change.’ (Reference: Outcomeharvesting.net).

In adopting this approach, we aim to continuously monitor the outcomes that we have influenced, and regularly reflect on how these contribute to our overarching vision.

This blog is the first in a series as we explore each aspect of our MEL framework. Throughout the year, we will reflect on our practices and share our learning about our efforts to demonstrate how we are, step-by-step, contributing towards a thriving tea that is socially just and environmentally sustainable.

Click here to read more about ETP’s Strategy2030.