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Monitoring for impact

Lessons on natural resources monitoring from 13 NGOs

A handbook on organizing and implementing effective natural resources monitoring programs based on the experiences of and lessons learned by thirteen NGOs.

Executive Summary

Creating monitoring programs may seem easy, but actually isn’t. There are three primary impediments: money, credible data, and communication skills. We emphasize communication skills because the best data in the world is useless if it lies fallow. But credible data is also critical to convince skeptics and engender trust. We emphasize money because there is never enough and because credible data must be collected and communicated using available resources. Without these three ingredients, a monitoring organization’s efforts are wasted and the opportunity to affect policies and events is squandered.

NGOs play a vital role in society. They provide important information to governments in development of their natural resources management plans. Good, independent information provided by NGOs on the status of natural resources and government and private industry activities -- that is, monitoring data -- helps societies improve their natural resources management.

The case studies

Thirteen environmental monitoring NGOs provided case studies for this handbook. Abridged versions highlighting specific points about the development and execution of monitoring programs of the case studies can be found at the back of this volume. The full text of each case study is printed in volume II of this handbook.

The NGOs were selected using three criteria:

  • they have monitoring programs that are aimed at influencing environmental policy;
  • they are independent; and
  • they collectively represent experience from around the world..

There are many approaches to successful monitoring. These guidelines can be altered to meet local needs. The 13 NGOs above demonstrate successful monitoring using diverse intentions and can take many forms. We present them as a guideline that can be altered to meet local needs. Successful NGO monitoring programs typically include a variety of smaller projects, each focused on a different aspect of the NGO’s mission. Examples include counting logging trucks leaving a harvest site; interviewing citizens or officials; reviewing a company’s application for an oil concession; collecting field data on an endangered species; or analyzing satellite photos. Each of these activities can be found among the 13 case studies. All examples:

  • include a project that monitors a specific and relevant issue;
  • includes some form of intentional data collection; and
  • provides timely and effective communication of important results.

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