Assessing and Learning for Social Change
A Discussion Paper
This paper represents the analysis and experiences of a small group of experienced development professionals through a series of workshops, case studies and webinars (Assessing Social Change Group) to answer the question, "what processes for assessing and learning about social change can help improve the strategies and results of organizations working to transform inequalities in favor of the poor?" In assessing social change, issues to raise include:
- relationships and power dynamics among stakeholders, particularly donor – recipient relationships,
- challenges in scaling up and scaling down especially to ensure citizen's participation and engagement, and
- issues of accountability to donors and to beneficiaries. Social change is defined as the "collective process of conscious efforts to reduce poverty and oppression by changing underlying unequal power relationship…that seek a systemic, structural impact".
The paper argues the mainstream M&E approaches that follow a linear and pre-determined logic are not applicable for assessing and learning about this type of social change. Rather, it is necessary to adapt a combination of available methods, frameworks and concepts, using a well-articulated theory of change as the guidance. Some basic questions to consider in the process of articulating social change are "Who should benefit from the change? What power forces impede progress? What is the timeframe and ingredients of that process that are within and outside one's control? How do the individuals and groups involved think that particular types of change occur? Who owns/drives/initiates/ carriers the process – and what legitimacy does it have?"
The paper provides multiple examples of how some NGOs are addressing power issues and working to reduce forms of inequality. Core competencies for individuals and organizations that work for social change are also defined and described. There is a companion volume of annotated readings and research.