Integrated development, which intentionally combines multisectoral approaches to address complex development challenges, is gaining in reputation and popularity. As more programs around the globe use integrated approaches, researchers, development practitioners and other aid professionals need guidance on how to measure the impact of these approaches.

FHI 360’s integrated development team, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the FHI Foundation, has been creating new tools and resources to support integrated development programs. On November 30, 2016, FHI 360 hosted a webinar, “Shedding Light to Measure Right,” and introduced two of these new resources: the Integrated Development Evidence Map and Guidance for Evaluating Integrated Global Development Programs.

A panel discussion of integrated development models, multisectoral approaches and real-world lessons followed. Cindy Clapp-Wincek, Retired Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research, moderated the discussion, which featured four experts: Benjamin Aisya, from the Uganda Community Connector project; Donald Cole, from the University of Toronto; Greg Guest, a research director at FHI 360; and Beth Larson, from Tostan.

The moderator and panelists talked about their experiences from around the world covering sectors such as health, environment, governance, education, nutrition and economic development.

  • Benjamin Aisya has played a key role in incorporating USAID’s collaborating, learning, adapting (CLA) method into the Community Connector program in Uganda. He stressed the importance of involving communities in the program cycle early when key monitoring indicators are being determined. According to Aisya, the most effective approach to evaluating the multisector Community Connector project involved modifying indicators according to the tangible outcomes that the community decided were the right fit. Using this approach also built a bridge between quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Beth Larson said that the process of finding methods that can streamline and improve the evaluation of Tostan’s “organized diffusion” approach is ongoing, but that those efforts will help balance the needs of monitoring and evaluation teams that are working across programs. Tostan’s organized diffusion approach uses a social mobilization process that increases program impacts by spreading new ideas organically from person to person and community to community.
  • Donald Cole and several colleagues published a paper on the Mama SASHA (Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa) program in Kenya. This paper provides rich documentation of real-life perspectives on monitoring and evaluating integrated programs. Cole specifically discussed the value of using impact pathways, where all project stakeholders co-construct their program theory. He also talked about the importance of involving program staff, community members and key partners in the evaluation process in order to develop a multilevel perspective.
  • Greg Guest also emphasized the added value of using mixed methods to measure the effects of programs that use an integrated approach and of working with a broad range of stakeholders. In addition, he stressed the importance of assessing the cost-effectiveness of monitoring and evaluation processes.

The panel discussion showed that there is a growing number of stakeholders working to improve the way integrated programs are measured and evaluated, and that implementers and evaluators are coming up with creative solutions to help with this work. And, while there is a substantial body of experience in evaluating integrated development efforts, the dialogue on how to measure the impact of those efforts needs to be a bigger part of the broader discussion about advancing multisector solutions. The speakers ended on a hopeful note for the future of the evaluation of multisector programs and for the growing community of thoughtful individuals who are dedicated to building the evidence base on integration.