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OPINION: Empowering communities to monitor the impact of their work

Saleemul Haq reflects on how a programme supported by CDKN in Bangladesh is spreading an innovative new bottom-up approach to monitoring and evaluating community based adaptation


As climate change adaptation activities begin to proliferate across the world – from top down plans and programmes to bottom-up community based approaches – the arena of Community Based Adaptation (CBA) is gaining prominence.  A fast growing community-of-practice meets annually at the International Conference on CBA; the seventh in the series is due to be held in Bangladesh from 18 to 25 April 2013.

A particularly interesting and innovative CBA programme is taking place in Bangladesh itself.  Undertaken by a consortium of NGOs (“Action Partners”) and research organisations (“Research Partners”), it engages with twenty communities across all the major natural and urban ecosystems found in Bangladesh.  Called Action Research on Community Adaptation in Bangladesh (ARCAB), the two main innovative features of the programme are:

  • It is being planned as a long-term action-research programme to run for the next three, four and even five decades (since climate change will occur over that time scale, adaptation needs and practices will also have to evolve over a similar time scale);
  • Even though it is being implemented in one country, it is designed as an international knowledge sharing programme.

Monitoring and Evaluation Framework

The first stage of the programme which is being supported by CDKN has been to develop, in a consultative manner involving all the partners, a long, medium and short term monitoring and evaluation framework (link).

The next phase, over the following year, entails baseline data collection to establish the “baseline year” situation, with interventions to follow from the year after.  Each year Research Partners will continue to monitor results while Action Partners will carry out the interventions.

An interesting feature of the ARCAB Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for Community Based Adaptation (called “M+E4CBA”), is that it started with a traditional top-down, value-for-money, donor-perspective approach towards CBA,  including cost benefit analysis of community based adaptation (“CBA of CBA”).  However, it is now moving towards a more bottom-up approach of empowering communities to decide what is important for them and to do their own monitoring (including monitoring of the NGOs, researchers and indeed government). The latter approach represents much more of an “empowerment” than a value-for-money approach.

The second interesting feature is that before the ARCAB M+E Framework was even completed it was exported to several countries in Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somaliland.  Save the Children Somalia/Somaliland have adopted the tool for their latest DRR-CBA project that covers 1,800 climate vulnerable poor pastoralists and households. They are also looking at how it can be used by their projects in Ethiopia. The Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance (ACCRA) is using the indicators developed as part of the ARCAB M&E Framework within its logical framework.  This ‘South-South’ learning was possible because of the consultative nature of the framework preparation, with the partners involved spreading the word to others – including in Africa.


The ARCAB experience speaks to an interesting aspect of generating knowledge on adaptation to climate change around the world. As adaptation is a learning-by-doing enterprise, knowledge on successful adaptation practices has to be generated and transferred in real time; it cannot afford to wait for the traditional approach of relying on scientific peer reviewed papers alone. Thus ARCAB is developing new ways of co-generating knowledge by both practitioners as well as researchers.

The writer is Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh and also Senior Fellow at the London based International Institute for Environment and Development.

 Picture courtesy of Michael Foley Photography @ Flickr Creative Commons


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