Managing for sustainable Development impact

Managing for Sustainable Development Impact: Making informed decisions

Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation uses its Managing for Sustainable Development Impact approach across a range of sectors and domains in a variety of food system related contexts. We also aim to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our approach helps addresses some of the most pressing concerns in these complex issues by taking a systems perspective in understanding and responding to a changing context. This requires engaging primary stakeholders in learning processes, designing effective strategies and related monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes, and focusing on capacity development.

An integrated approach

We promote an integrated approach to planning and M&E processes in order to have a more sustainable impact.

This involves ensuring that people are engaged in those processes via learning and adaptive management.

Our Managing for Sustainable Development Impact work is therefore primarily aimed at development initiatives and the parties that are involved such as coordinators, directors and M&E officers, and also technical experts like food security experts and livestock specialists.

Support where needed

Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation assists customers and partners in establishing better strategic planning and M&E processes which inform decisions for change in a complex context. This involves the active engagement of relevant staff and stakeholders.

We offer support to many organisations, programmes and projects in developing theories of change. These lead to:

  • the development of M&E policies, plans and related learning agendas;
  • better ways of thinking through data collection methods and analyses;
  • support for sense-making and decision-making processes.

In doing so the planning and M&E capacity of relevant staff and stakeholders is strengthened.

Experience in evaluations

Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation also carries out external (impact) evaluations for a range of clients to find the robust evidence and useful information needed for informed decision making. We encourage engagement among staff and stakeholders in the evaluations to make them utilisation-focused.

This is achieved based upon the rich experience within Wageningen University & Research in both theory and practice, combined with our close contacts with international evaluation experts and with a solid background in a range of methodologies fit for various evaluation purposes.


As change is about people, motivating them to actively engage in change processes is crucial for success.

It requires a mindset change from seeing M&E as an external demand for proving something works to (also) seeing it as a useful learning process to improve and adaptively manage for impact.

For this purpose, Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation engages people in learning oriented planning and M&E processes and supports the required capacities. This also involves strengthening leadership without which many of these processes cannot take place. In all of this work we pay close attention to communication as the red thread that binds everything together.


Monitoring and evaluation for improved nutrition

The SPAR supermarket Rural Hub project in South Africa shows how the M&E needs and capabilities of multiple partners can be addressed and put to use.

After developing a Theory of Change (the foundation for a results framework and learning agenda), the partners co-developed methods and tools for monitoring and evaluating processes and outcomes. A scientific baseline study on Food and Nutrition Security was conducted among households shopping at SPAR stores. This was complemented by action research on local food choices involving school children.

Findings and insights from the studies are used to inform a nutrition campaign targeting low-income households. Intensive monitoring and regular reflection support improvement and potential upscaling of the Rural Hub model.

Joint evaluation of development interventions

We were involved in the joint evaluation held as part of the Dutch funding system for development cooperation from 2012 (baseline) to 2015 (endline) in eight countries. We focused on evaluating organisational capacity in four countries (38 organisations in the South) and strengthening civil society in three countries (28 organisations).

As these were complex issues to evaluate, theory-based evaluation approaches were used to assess whether changes in organisational capacity or civil society could be attributed to Dutch support. Rigorous and qualitative methods based on process tracing and contribution analysis were used.

The main conclusion of the joint evaluation was that ‘Dutch development cooperation is effective’.