Funded by the Governance and Civil Society Program, Ford Foundation (usa) 1Table of Contents

Assessment and Learning that Values the ‘Golden Goose’

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Assessment and Learning that Values the ‘Golden Goose’

Cutting across these key players are action points in which all have roles to play to carry forward the challenge of assessing and learning that strengthens social change. Many questions are still on the table calling for more precise insights, nitty-gritty dilemmas remain to be thrashed out, and thus practical hands-on work needs to be undertaken. The principles outlined in this document need to be fleshed out for different organisational set-ups, capacity levels and social change processes. For all those involved – activists, intermediaries, evaluators, donors – generating practical ideas and sharing inspiring examples is essential. This means investing in:

  • Concrete efforts to systematise and review the respective benefits and limitations of different grounded case studies that have enabled critically reflective learning and assessment.

  • Training efforts for social change organisations around the idea of how to assess social change, based on existing stock of experiences and approaches plus recognition of core non-negotiable principles and purposes.

  • Peer support opportunities for those in social change organisations to ask and receive ideas for addressing dilemmas and challenges on assessment and learning processes.

  • Seeding experimentation with particular combinations of approaches and methods with detailed documentation of the processes.

A new model of assessment and learning is needed that places developmental social change at the heart, rather than myopically focusing on the interim steps. SPARC refers to development as ‘the golden goose’ (Patel 2007) and urges a model of assessment and learning that places the goose at the centre, rather than its golden eggs. Assessing and learning about development as a process of social change means charting the ‘golden eggs’ that can be discerned, in the form of processes that multiply and serve increasing numbers, building capacities and provoking shifts of thinking in government as well as among the poor. However, by valuing only the eggs, the goose is in danger of serious neglect. Sheela Patel cautions: “With few insights about how to understand it and measure its level of maturity and sustainability, external assessment processes are too rigid to understand these dynamics. Sadly, the goose is often killed due to lack of understanding”. A model of assessment and learning that builds on the reflections in this document would be more effective at strengthening social change that tackles the persisting injustices about which all of and everyone in development should, in theory, be concerned.

    Annex 1. ASC Participants (in alphabetical order)

Core Participants


Organisational Affiliation

Link to the ASC initiative

Cindy Clark

Just Associates, Washington DC

Participant, Themes 1 and 2

Marta Foresti

ODI, London


John Gaventa

Institute of Development Studies, UK

Overall guidance

Irene Guijt

Learning by Design

Participant, overall coordinator, case study editor

Mwambi Mwasaru

Human Rights Commission, Kenya

Participant, case study author

Valerie Miller

Just Associates, Washington DC

Participant, Theme 1

Sammy Musyoki

Institute of Development Studies, UK

Participant and co-coordinator

Natalia Ortiz

As Raiz, Colombia


Sheela Patel

SPARC, Mumbai

Participant, case study author

Molly Reilly

Just Associates, Washington DC

Participant, Themes 3 & 4, case study author

Roger Ricafort

Oxfam, Hong Kong

Participant, Theme 1 and Mumbai meeting

Evelyn Samba

Action Aid International Kenya

Participant, case study author

Ashish Shah

Action Aid, Kenya regional office


Ritu Shroff

Oxfam Great Britain, Cambodia


Lisa VeneKlasen

Just Associates, Washington DC

Participant, Themes 1 and 2

Additional Participants


Organisational Affiliation

Link to the ASC initiative

Jockin Arputhnam

NSDF, Mumbai

Participant, Mumbai event

Sherry Bartlett

Independent consultant

Documenter, Mumbai event

Sundar Burra

SPARC, Mumbai

Participant, Mumbai event

Celine d’Cruz

SPARC, Mumbai

Participant, Mumbai event

Biki Kangwana

Institute of Development Studies, UK

Documenter, Mombasa event

Kattie Lussier

Institute of Development Studies, UK

Documenter, Mombasa event

Aseena Vaccajee

SPARC, Mumbai

Participant, Mumbai event



    Annex 2. References

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Batliwala, S. undated. From Evaluation to Learning in Social Change. The challenges of “Measuring Development, Holding Infinity”.

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Eyben R., T. Kidder, A. Bronstein and J. Rowlands. Forthcoming (2007). Thinking about Change for Development Practice: A Case Study from Oxfam GB. Development in Practice.

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Gaventa, J. 2005. Reflections on the Uses of the ‘Power Cube’ Approach for Analyzing the Spaces, Places and Dynamics of Civil Society Participation and Engagement. CFP evaluation series 2003-2006: no 4. MBN Secretariat, The Hague.

Guijt, I. 2007. Critical Readings on Assessing and Learning for Social Change. A Review. Institute of Development Studies (UK) and Learning by Design (Netherlands).

Guijt, I. (Ed). 2007. Negotiating Learning. Collaborative Monitoring for Forest Resource Management. Resources for the Future, Washington DC.

Guijt, I. 2007. Facilitating Learning for Social Change: Ways Forward for ICCO’s Support. Insights and ideas emerging from discussions with the Steering Group, December 13-15, 2006. Internal report. ICCO, the Netherlands.

Guijt, I. 2004. ALPS in Action: A Review of the Shift in ActionAid towards a new Accountability, Learning and Planning System. Report written for ActionAid International. July 2004.

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Just Associates, 2007. Making Change Happen 3: Power. Concepts for Revisioning Power for Justice, Equality and Peace. Just Associates, Washington DC. .

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Mott, A. 2003. Strengthening Social Change Through Assessment and Organizational Learning. Report on The Gray Rocks Conference - An International Exchange with Grant Support from The Ford Foundation. September 2003. Community Learning Project, Washington DC.

Mwasuru, M. 2007. Assessing Social Change Through Participatory Action Research: The Case of Kasighau Small-Scale Miners. Case study produced for the ‘Assessing Social Change’ initiative.

Pankaj, V. 2007. Measuring Social Change: Lessons from the Field. June 2007. Transforming Evaluation II (2).

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Reilly, M. 2007. An Agenda for Change n the USA: Insights from a Conversation about Assessing Social Change in Washington, DC. Case study produced for the ‘Assessing Social Change’ initiative.

Samba, E. 2007. Sauti Ya Wanawake. The Role of Reflection in Women’s Social Change Work. Case study produced for the ‘Assessing Social Change’ initiative.

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Win, E. 2006. ALPS and Change. PowerPoint Presentation by EverjoiceWin, ActionAid International, Zimbabwe given at Money and Movements International Meetings, November 9-11, 2006, Mexico. (PPT)

Woodhill, J. 2007 (in press). M&E as learning: Rethinking the dominant paradigm. In: J. de Graaf et al., eds. Monitoring and Evaluation of Soil Conservation and Watershed Development Projects. World Association of Soil and Water Conservation

Zuidberg, L., E. van Walsum, and M. Nugteren. 2006. Final Report. Lot 7 Gender Study for Evaluation of the Theme-based Co-financing Programme. Ref. 2005 / S 4-003592. Volume 1: Main Report. 2nd Draft.

1 Mott 2003, p5.

2 This paragraph is based on Woodhill, forthcoming 2007.

3 An emergent property becomes apparent when several simple entities or processes operate in an environment but form more complex behaviours as a collective. Certain properties emerge that the entities/processes do not have themselves.

4 See

5 This section is largely based on a note written by C. Clark, V. Miller. S. Musyoki and L. VeneKlasen ‘Theme 2 Part One: Methods, Tools and Processes for Assessing Social Change’ to kick start the second thematic discussion of the ASC group.



8 ‘Complex’ is not the same as ‘complicated’. A complex system has many elements that can interact with each other and their environment. Complex systems display a level of organization without any external organizing principle being applied. Part of the system may be altered and the system may still be able to function. In complicated systems, parts have to work in unison to accomplish a function. A key defect in a critical part brings the entire system to a halt.

9 See for 34 M&E methods.

10 See


12 See

13 With thanks to Iñigo Retoloza Eguren for these insights.


15 Based on Guijt 2004 and Win 2006.


17, pg 25-26),

18 Ibid, pages 30-35.

19 This case draws on texts from the SPARC website ( and reflections by ASC participants during a visit to SPARC, Mumbai in November 2007.

20 All information is from the author’s personal knowledge of the organisation. This excerpt is based on a longer piece written for ICCO, Guijt 2007.

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