CIAT’s Results-based Management Strategic Thinking

Updated June 2019


CIAT invests in Results-based management to its Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning to enable innovation, institutional evolution, and forward thinking to assure efficiency and effectiveness of its research for development and to address the following five areas, as illustrated in figure 1:

1. Accountability – across the wide range of CIAT’s partners, incl. funders, users and peers.
2. Decision making – long-term strategic planning of research portfolio and programs as well as ad hoc requests.
3. Adaptive management and learning – enables CIAT’s staff to be able to respond to and grasp opportunities and also learn
from its failures and successes.
4. Communication – tools and mechanism used in an Results-based Management approach can strengthen planned internal
and external communication of the how, i.e. processes, and the what, i.e. findings and results.
5. Resource mobilization – informs the proposal pipeline and allows for flexibility to tailor to specific funders needs.

Figure 1

It is important to note that not all of these purposes are equally addressed at all times, but depend on what level Results-based Management is being applied, e.g. along the steps of a program/ project life-cycle, or organizational strategic planning.

Principles and Operational Realities 

1) Responsive to accountability to funders, partners, stakeholders and ultimate end-users/beneficiaries with a focus on results, outcomes, and use.
2) Simple enough to be applied throughout the project and program life-cycle, to capture CIAT’s achievements and lessons to feed into future work.
3) Flexible and adaptive to be responsive to various demands, while following some common standards and processes that are supported by management information systems.
4) Innovative and creative – building on interoperability for harvesting from the various systems in place.
5) Decentralized and geographically distributed – the global Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning team is placed in three geographic hubs for outcome delivery: LAM, Africa and Asia to support the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning work.
6) Integrating – to ensure that findings of foresight, ex-ante, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning and ex-post Impact Assessments are taken into consideration in designing new programs and major proposals.
7) Pragmatic – acknowledging that not everything can be measured, highlighting the need for qualitative narratives that can complement and support any selected quantitative information.

Integrated Service Delivery

When striving to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, it is important to be able to show what our contribution is. We want to be able to show results along the impact pathway from inputs to activities, outputs, outcomes and ultimately impact and throughout our programs’ and projects’ life-cycles.

CIAT has adapted its Results-based Management framework from the International Development Research Center’s Research Quality Plus 3 and is illustrated in figure 2. It depicts three spheres: control, influence and interest. They show that the research executed by CIAT and the production of research outputs are largely under our control as a R4D organization. The influence that the research might have on partners and stakeholders’ behavior change (e.g., change in capacity) and on policy and practices is usually within the sphere of influence. The long-term development impacts to which the research contributes fall within the sphere of interest, where we have little, if any, influence over how the research outputs are used and how they contribute to change of the development results.

Figure 2

Given the differences between these spheres, distinct monitoring, evaluation – incl. impact assessments – and learning approaches are identified for each of the spheres. These include:

– Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for research quality (sphere of control),
– Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for research use and effectiveness (sphere of influence),
– Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for development effectiveness (sphere of interest).

Some practical key components are: i) Impact Pathways and Theories of Change at different levels, ii) appropriate qualitative and quantitative indicators, iii) targets, iv) tools to monitor progress and the trajectory of CIAT’s contributions, v) reflection exercise, annual reporting and planning, vi) use of online program management information system, called MARLO 4 , to provide support to processes and alignment across the organization, vii) project performance monitoring, viii) quality assurance via an iterative feedback process, and ix) financial planning and financial reporting.

CIAT’s Approach to Learning

Building in triple-loop learning can make a major contribution to reflection and to supporting adaptive management, so that project teams can better deal with uncertainty. CIAT’s learning is embedded within the modular monitoring, evaluation, impact assessment and foresight activities as shown in figure 2. CIAT aims for “transformational learning”, also called ‘triple-loop learning’ (see figure 3), so that CIAT teams and partners can learn from their work and make necessary adjustments in an outcome-focused environment. The first loop asks ‘Are we doing things right?’, i.e. in the sphere of control, delivery of milestones, quality assurance of conducted research. The second loop critically checks ‘Are we doing the right things?’, i.e. in the sphere of influence and interest do CIAT’s research and its results address the correct problems and provide appropriate development solutions?

Eventually, the third loop reflects at a meta-level ‘When and how do we know we have learnt?’. CIAT encourages users to embrace all three loops to be built-in along the organizational level, program and project lifecycles. However, it is recognized that the third loop is often hard to be fully looked at when faced with budget constraints.

Figure 3