Navigating the New Feed the Future Indicators
Feed the Future (FTF) recently underwent a shift to its second phase of implementation, guided by the Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) developed following the Global Food Security Act of 2016. With the change has come a revised common results framework and a host of both new and modified standard performance monitoring indicators released in March 2018. This post explores critical aspects of the new guidance and implications on implementing partners (IPs).
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Focusing at the implementation level, there are a total of 27 standard indicators (required as applicable) that partners will be using to monitor their activities. These indicators are a mix of new/new to FTF (18), unchanged (7) and tweaked (2). Moreover, the 27 implementing level indicators can be disaggregated into the following categories: Economic Growth (16), Health (7), Education and Social Service (1), Gender (1), Resilience (1) and Youth (1).
In October 2018, IPs will be required to report targets using the new FTF Phase II indicators. In October 2019, IPs will begin reporting results achieved toward the new indicators into the Feed the Future Management System (FTFMS).
WHAT DO THE CHANGES MEAN FOR IMPLEMENTING PARTNERS?
We see three key features of the revised indicators that guide our path forward.
Greater focus on results
The revised indicators push implementers to focus on actual results achieved, rather than effort expended to deliver services. The shift toward evaluating achievements is evident in the decision to drop output indicators such as number of organizations participating in favor of new indicators such as number of organizations with increased performance improvement. Here, FTF and GFSS push implementers to higher standards of self-evaluation.
Greater focus on market systems
One of the primary changes in the updated indicator set is a strong focus on market systems. Indicators that primarily focused on smallholders are revised to track the impact achieved on upstream and downstream stakeholders across agricultural value chains. Here, FTF succeeds in providing improved guidance as IPs work to adapt to a new, expanded implementation approach.
Expanded definitions, clearer guidance
With more extensive and challenging expectations, FTF has provided improved guidance and an insightful webinar series designed for Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) staff. Not only do revised indicator definitions include increased detail and explanation, they also provide clear examples and scenarios partners may expect to encounter.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO WE FACE?
Revisions to core evaluation criteria against which implementers are measured presents a challenge, and as IPs, we may feel as though we are being asked to hit a moving target. By definition, the design and execution of FTF activities is directly guided by the results framework. In some cases, where key indicators around which interventions were designed have been dropped, IPs will need to work closely with their operating units to find a way forward that aligns with new guidance while maintaining programmatic focus.
After making course adjustments, MEL practitioners will need to consider how to incorporate changes in our key frameworks into the context of monitoring progress and evaluating success of a multi-year project. This will require creative thinking about when and how past achievements can be compared to ongoing results tracked using different metrics.
Finally, partners may find themselves with the same MEL resources but an expanded scope of work. Revised indicators with expanded definitions and additional disaggregates mean that partners will need to work efficiently to meet new reporting requirements without overextending MEL teams.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Through this series, we will unpack how IPs can strategically approach the challenges and opportunities for growth that come with the transition to FTF Phase II. In future posts, we will explore some of the key operational changes that will be taking place as a part of the shift and get perspectives and advice from partners in the field and others. In the early stages of the transition, there are several steps we can take all take as implementers:
Learn – Take advantage of the resources USAID continues to provide during the transition period. Get familiar with the new indicator definitions and handbook, attend the MEL webinar series and ask questions. Don’t wait, be proactive to ensure a smooth transition.
Communicate – Early and open communication with operating units, subcontractors, project staff and other IPs is critical to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding expectations, strategy and timeline.
Stay on Course – Ensure core interventions continue on schedule as planned, while adapting management strategies to align with change as is practical and reasonable.
Paul Stanchfield is Fintrac’s Senior MEL Manager. He has more than 10 years’ experience in program analysis, M&E system development for agriculture projects, and knowledge management.