How does a global philanthropic leader—whose investments and influence span the globe—build an effective progress monitoring and learning system to improve impact investment decision-making?

As innovation advisors, we take a broad view in our work with clients. We critically assess an organization’s multiple sides, highlight positive attributes, and identify inconsistencies. Part of our role involves helping clients understand the following: 

  • Strategy and results measurement are integrated. 
  • Progress monitoring presents an opportunity to take stock and learn over time.
  • Our clients’ organizational impact is directly tied to their ability to learn, and course correct amidst change.  

We adopted this view when a client wanted to revamp its monitoring and learning system to

  • improve its processes for reporting on progress toward strategic goals and 
  • empower its program officers with evidence to make more informed investment decisions and adaptively manage its programs.  

Because of the breadth of skills and expertise required—sophisticated data analysis, indicator construction, ex-ante modeling using globalized economic models, and facilitated engagement of program officers—our client enlisted a consortium of partners to manage the project. As consortium lead, our goal was to improve the client’s internal processes and position the client—and the projects in which it invests—for greater long-term impact in investment decision making. 

We considered the following questions:

  • What should this progress monitoring and learning system accomplish? 
  • What are the system’s attributes and objectives? 
  • Which decisions will this system inform?
  • How do program officers turn strategic priorities into tangible outcomes? 

Over two years, we designed and built a multifaceted monitoring and learning system that supports the client’s work, that is sustainable, and that is flexible. We organized inputs, oversaw quality control, advocated for consistent and forward-looking design choices, and managed the workflow. Today, the organization uses a state-of-the art web-based tool to visualize its results and track progress. They have access organized, structured, and streamlined data resources. Internally, the client has well-documented internal guidance and quality review processes.  Longer term, we see an opportunity to amplify the organization’s learning and adaptive management capabilities, building off the progress monitoring system now in place. 

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