What Conservation Can Learn from Other Fields about Monitoring and Evaluation

Salafsky, Nick; Margoluis, Richard
February 2003
BioScience;Feb2003, Vol. 53 Issue 2, p120
Academic Journal
The field of conservation suffers from having no common approaches for measuring bottom-line success, describing the assumptions made by practitioners, comparing projects' effectiveness and efficiency, and capturing learning. As a result, managers and practitioners are limited in their ability to learn from one another, and donors question the value of their investments. In this respect, the conservation sector affords interesting parallels with some other fields. Beginning in the mid-1800s, some public companies began to present their information in a standardized fashion and hire independent accounting firms to audit their books and certify that the information was accurate. Over time, the system became institutionalized and was regulated by governmental agencies. Conservation practitioners can benefit from the experience gained in these fields. To this end, Foundations of Success, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Conservation International and with support from the Moore Foundation, has undertaken a systematic survey of how monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is done in a variety of fields, including business, development, public health, education, and social services as well as conservation. One lesson that emerges is that the development of M&E approaches in all of these fields has gone through a parallel evolutionary process. Having common M&E approaches will provide practitioners and managers with the information they need to make better decisions. And it may inspire confidence in individuals, donors, and society as a whole that the field of conservation is worthy of substantial and continuing investment.


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