Systemically – in dialogue – intercultural – process oriented



If we change an element in a system, the system as a whole will also change. This is why it is important for me to always look where my client in his or her organisation stands in the overall system, so that we can work out the impacts of possible changes together.


Several different actors will have several different interests and perceptions. These differences are commonly explored and assessed in a process of dialogue. At the centre of my approach is my desire to discuss things, to feel what the individual actors perceive and take note of the conclusions they draw. To me, a joint project incorporates entering a common process of learning even though different actors may have different interests.


Consultancy in other cultural contexts presupposes that one refrains from imposing one’s own cultural standards on these contexts. Even though organisational cultures may resemble each other world-wide in principle, their cultural peculiarities continuously demand that their essential distinctions be worked out. Various forces in civil society (governmental and non-profit) have to be considered in intercultural contexts as well.


What counts in planning a project is to have a vision without already having determined the individual steps to be taken. After each step, together with all those involved, one has to take a look what effects interaction and co-operation is having and what the next steps may be.


Methods and Instruments

Impact Plus has repeatedly contributed to conceptual discussions on participatory project management during the last years, especially on methods and tools for impact monitoring.


Participatory Impact Monitoring

PIM is especially suitable for self-help organisations and for NGOs who aim at members’ active participation in identification, planning, implementation and evaluation of their projects.

It is not necessary for outsiders to observe and evaluate activities. This often brings negative feelings and is seen as “control”. PIM encourages internal reflection and evaluation of activities by group members. Members will be motivated to assess the outcome of their efforts because they are most interested in the results of their activities.

Results from PIM are meant primarily for group members, to observe, assess and direct their own activities.

Another advantage is the reduction of information which has to be documented and interpreted. The danger of producing “data cemeteries” which are collected and stored, but not evaluated diminishes, since the group collects and documents the info itself.

Once or twice a year, there will be “Joint Reflection Workshops” with other groups at the same level of the organisation (horizontal exchange) or with other levels of the organisation (vertical exchange). Results of PIM are shared, so members can learn from each other and improve communication flow. Experiences with the PIM procedures are evaluated so the method can be improved.


Social Indicators

In results-oriented approaches to planning, management, monitoring, and evaluation, measurable results are often required. For this purpose, the planning stage already includes the design of indicators through which one expects to achieve quantitative and qualitative measurements. This, however, is relatively difficult: the indicators are often not specific or relevant enough, the implementation of metrical measurements can be hard or time-consuming, and the measurement of the effects upon the target groups – and, more so, of the changes in attitudes and behavior – seem hardly feasible.

Impact Plus has different approaches in order to obtain adequate solutions:

  • To the extent that it is possible, the target groups themselves are involved in the design of indicators. The use of Participatory Impact Monitoring (PIM) and NGO-IDEAs allows for the development of indicators that both the target group and external actors can measure and adjust.
  • In addition to each quantified indicator, Impact Plus develops “exploratory questions” for each observation field with the help of the participants. These are open questions that can be asked on a regular basis in order to identify changes that are not foreseen by the system of indicators.
  • Along with the indicators, further differentiated questions related to causality are asked, e.g., what led to these changes? What obstructed these changes?

A form for the definition of indicators serves to document questions regarding aspects such as the measurement units to be used, the kinds of differentiation in the collection and analysis that must be carried out, the forms for collection and documentation to be applied, or the ways in which these must be integrated into the reporting system, among others.



NGO-IDEAs is a cooperation of about 40 non-govermental organisations (NGOs) from South
Asia, East Africa and the Philippines and 14 German NGOs working in the field of development
cooperation. It identifies and develops jointly with all partners, concepts and tools for
NGOs in the areas of Outcome and Impact Assessment and Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E).
NGO-IDEAs is further being supported by VENRO, the umbrella organisation of development
non-governmental organisations in Germany as well as PARITÄT, the legal holder of the project.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has cofinanced
the project.

NGO-IDEAs is not just another study evaluating the impact of NGOs’ work – it combines
research & development, knowledge management, learning & training as well as advice &
coaching to initiate a collective learning process for all partners involved. Additionally, NGOIDEAs
intends to create a valuable resource base for use by NGOs.

NGO-IDEAs aims at:

  • Empowering community based organisations or groups and the poor among the rural communities to use and practice impact monitoring for project management
  • Empowering NGOs to further improve the effectiveness, impact and sustainability of their efforts
  • Making social changes more visible for implementing and funding NGOs, thus improving development practice
  • Improving public recognition of NGOs and CBOs and their contribution to development.

The NGO-IDEAs “Impact Toolbox” is to enable NGOs and grassroots organisations to monitor
projects together with the so called target groups involved, in a manner that will enhance
positive outcomes and impacts, and reduce negative ones. It focuses on joint setting of goals,
on monitoring them and finally on taking joint decisions about the further design and direction
of interventions.
The instruments of the NGO-IDEAs “Impact Toolbox” are simple and participatory.
Simple means: setting out from people’s knowledge and know-how, therefore, easy to understand
and apply. Application can easily be fitted into the “normal” activities of the NGOs or
grassroots organisations. The participatory character emerges through democratic elements
promoting a “Culture of Learning” that the people can assimilate.


Monitoring Self-Effectiveness

The NGO-IDEAs Manual is designed to support organisations to trim their monitoring and
evaluation procedures in order to increase the orientation towards outcomes and impacts and
to guide the organisation to steer an outcome and impact oriented project management. NGOIDEAs
is dedicated to the common goal of creating inclusive monitoring systems, which promote
the empowerment of all stakeholders affected. One basic assumption is that the awareness
of the own effectiveness is motivating and empowering to action. The Manual is based on
NGOs’ working experience and takes many examples from their practice of promoting self-help
in various sectors. The applicability is, however, not limited to NGOs.

This Manual introduces participatory elements to enhance (self-) effectiveness. Step by
step, the organisation’s management will be able to analyse whether existing elements of their
monitoring system are designed in a way suitable for achieving relevant outcomes and impacts.


Tiny Tools

Why “Tiny Tools” for assessing change? Currently, change is mostly assessed by NGO staff or external experts. The vision of this paper is that communities assess and reflect change themselves and make use of that reflection with appropriate tools. All the tools presented here are rela-tively quick and easy to learn (therefore “tiny”).

With Tiny Tools we can assess change in one session. They can therefore be used where there are not baselines. They are structured and systematic, and they are all widely tested: Experience shows that these tools lead to new insights, mobilise enthusiasm and increase the capacity of communities to bring about further change. The Tiny Tools are in line with what Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) wanted to achieve. Many are slight variations of PRA tools. For a de-tailed description of concepts, see the NGO-IDEAs Impact Toolbox ( and the NGO-IDEAs Manual Self-Effectiveness (

The tools are designed to visualise change, but also enable communities to reflect on the reasons of change or verify assessments. They may be implemented once or continuously over time. We know that the time of community members is precious, and limited. Therefore all Tiny Tools can be performed in a relatively short session, provided facilitators (it could be field staff or project officers) are experienced – and the community knows and trusts them. The amount of time spent on the application of the tools may however be prolonged according to the needs of a community or NGO. All of these tools are easy to learn for a facilitator experi-enced in participatory processes.

Which tool should be introduced to which community? It is typically the decision of a development organi-sation (or external experts) which tools they want to introduce into a community. The staff need to assess which tool will lead to learning and action. It could also be that the staff realise aspects of change that they do not understand well enough. These tools are good for exploring change that we have not planned for and not anticipated. They are also good for exploring change in a context where we have no prior information. Communities are the best experts for their situation, but we emphasise that the tools should be used in ways that benefit and empower the communities or individuals participating. The tool im-plementations should lead to consequences on the grassroots as well as the NGO level.


concept development

Impact Plus hat in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten wiederholt wesentlich Impulse im Bereich des partizipativen Projektmanagements gegeben, insbesondere hinsichtlich des Monitorings von Wirkungen.


Participatory Impact Monitoring






Monitoring Self-Effectiveness



Tiny Tools





method of operation


Wir verändern ein Element im System und damit verändert sich das gesamte System. Von daher ist es mir wichtig, immer genau zu schauen, wo mein Klient oder meine Klientin innerhalb ihrer Organisation im gesamten System stehen, und die Wirkungen möglicher Veränderungen gemeinsam auszuloten.


Mehrere Akteure haben unterschiedliche Interessen und Wahrnehmungen. Im Dialog werden diese Unterschiede gemeinsam erkundet und bewertet. Es ist mein zentrales Anliegen, ins Gespräch zu kommen, zu erfahren, was die einzelnen Akteure wahrnehmen und welche Schlussfolgerungen sie ziehen. Unter einem gemeinsamen Projekt verstehe ich, einen gemeinsamen Lernprozess zu gehen, auch wenn sich die Interessen teilweise unterscheiden.


Die Beratung in anderen kulturellen Kontexten setzt voraus, dass keine eigenen kulturellen Maßstäbe übergestülpt werden. Auch wenn Organisationskulturen weltweit sich prinzipiell ähnlich sind, fordern ihre kulturellen Eigenarten immer wieder dazu auf, ihre wesentlichen Unterscheidungsmerkmale herauszuarbeiten. Dies gilt sowohl für den Profit-Bereich als auch für die an öffentlichen Belangen orientierten Akteure und Vereinigungen, die mit den Mitteln öffentlicher Einflussnahme auf den Staat und die Akteure des politischen Systems einwirken.


In der Projektplanung gilt es im ersten Schritt immer, eine Vision zu haben, Ziele zu setzen, ohne dass wir bereits die einzelnen Schritte festgelegt haben. Und nicht alle Einzelschritte lassen sich im Voraus festlegen. Nach jedem Schritt muss mit allen Beteiligten geschaut werden, wie sich das Zusammenspiel und Miteinanderarbeiten auswirkt und welches die nächsten Schritte sein können. Wirkungsorientiertes Monitoring ist dafür ein wichtiges Instrument.