Participatory impact assessment to improve practice and policy
Researchers at Feinstein International Center have developed and adapted participatory approaches to measure the impact of development and humanitarian projects since the early 1990s. Participatory Impact Assessment: a design guide is an updated version of their 2009 guidelines for PIA. Much of the experience on which this is based comes from measuring the impact of pastoralist projects in Eastern Africa. The guide provides practitioners with a flexible framework for designing ways to measure the impact of livelihoods projects. The importance of comparison is stressed: much of the value of PIA comes from comparing situations at two points in time, or comparing project and non-project impacts, influences and changes.
PIA helps to overcome some weaknesses in conventional monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment approaches, such as measuring activities rather than real impact, overusing external rather than community-defined indicators of impact, and weak or non-existent baselines. It shows how participatory methods can be used to attribute impact or change to project activities. Many PIA methods yield numerical data; the guide describes how use of these methods can produce statistics to describe project impacts.
PIA can produce evidence for developing good practice and policy. For example, the many PIAs conducted in the USAID-funded Pastoralist Livelihoods Initiative (PLI) in Ethiopia since 2005 helped formulate best practices and eliminate wasteful or inappropriate activities, such as emergency livestock vaccinations, while promoting effective interventions such as early commercial destocking for pastoralists during droughts. The Ethiopian Government adopted these good practices as policy in its 2009 guidelines on livelihoods-based drought response. The PIA results also contributed to the international Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS).