Project planning and initiation

Engagement of a range of stakeholders, from the beginning, is fundamental to the success of many monitoring projects, including those which are community-based.

Depending on the objectives of the project, it could be that no single organisation is equipped to deal with the magnitude, variety and complexity of tasks involved. Also, the stakeholders who have identified a need for monitoring might be different from those who will need to do the work, and also different from those who are expected to respond to what the monitoring project reveals.

In the context of international forest agendas, these stakeholders – who might include communities, governments, donors and investors – often have diverse needs, expectations and knowledge. These will all need to be considered in order to achieve objectives relating to sustainable forest management and protecting forest people’s rights.

The building of a partnership, and agreement upon a common vision and aims, based upon the unique interests and contributions of each group, can support the development of a robust project and enable stakeholders to act in concert when necessary. It can promote effective communication, and inclusive and transparent decision-making, and therefore equity and accountability among participants. Partnerships reduce the risk of, and help to address, conflict and conflicts of interest, and can also strengthen the sustainability of the project by creating a greater sense of ownership of its outcomes.

The scope of the project and the monitoring methods should be as straightforward as possible so as to be easily understood by all stakeholders: all participants should be able to understand, explain and justify project objectives and monitoring activities. This is important for many reasons, from correct application of the monitoring methodology, to avoiding interview fatigue and frustration among local survey respondents who don’t understand the need for sometimes lengthy, repeated interviews. A straightforward monitoring method will create a more robust, repeatable system.

The principles of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) (see our FPIC article) provide a valuable source of guidance for ongoing interactions with communities, both for external actors hoping to initiate a project, and for communities considering participating in one.

During the planning stage, it is also important to agree on governance of the project, which influences the ease and clarity with which different stakeholders can contribute and collaborate productively. This includes agreeing clear roles and responsibilities of all actors.

It is worth thoroughly considering appropriate channels and frequency of communications within the partnership, which may have important effects on trust, motivation, and uptake of results. See our section on data-sharing, and explore our case studies for learnings on communication and reporting.

Beyond the initiation stage, project plans and governance can be strengthened through ongoing monitoring and evaluation, with all partners being involved in giving feedback and suggestions for improvements.