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LEADER Monitoring and Evaluation

2. Evaluation Planning

What is the Evaluation Planning?

What is the Evaluation Plan all about?

The Evaluation Plan (EP) is a mandatory1 new element within the Rural Development Programme (RDP) monitoring and evaluation system for 2014-2020. Submitted by Managing Authorities (MA) as part of the RDP it aims to provide foundations for a more targeted RDP-level evaluation system by specifying the arrangements to ensure that the right level and type activities are undertaken at the right time and that these are properly informed and resourced. The EP brings together the various planning tools used to structure, manage, steer and resource RDP evaluation including the essential building of evaluation capacity.

The EP also acts as a reference document for the management, conduct and follow-up of evaluation activities during programme implementation as well as providing the basis for informing the Annual Implementation Reports (AIR)2

Why is it relevant to LEADER?

The evaluation of LEADER is part of a hierarchical or ‘ascendant’ approach evaluating the contribution at each level to the next, e.g. local to regional to national and EU. If LAGs and their LDS are to contribute to this effectively then this requires planning, if they are to monitor and evaluate their own LDS effectively then this too requires planning and preparation.

At the Rural Development Programme level

At the RDP level the minimum EP requirements specify an ‘evaluation topics’ sub-section which should include “the assessment of the contribution of Local Development Strategies, the added value of the LEADER approach and the partnership principle3. It should also include planned support for evaluation to be provided at LAG level”. This is prepared by the MA.

The MA will use it for planning, steering and coordinating evaluation tasks including LEADER. Evaluators may rely on it in designing their work e.g. to identify data sources etc.

LAGs should use the EP to clarify their understanding of their roles and responsibilities within the RDP evaluation process and the resources which will be available to them. LAGs are responsible for the design, development, delivery, monitoring and evaluation4 of their Local Development Strategy (LDS). The LDS must describe the arrangements for monitoring and evaluation and the LAG capacity for doing so. This is in effect an LDS evaluation plan. The fit of this LDS evaluation plan with the RDP level plan is a critical element of its design. In order to ensure that all type of data could be available to the RDP level, MA and LAGs need to plan and clarify in advance what is the minimum that each LAG should be prepared to collect data for and evaluate. It may be worthwhile considering building common and shared among MA and LAGs data base tools to streamline sharing of the minimum required information for evaluation.

What needs to go in an RDP level evaluation plan for LEADER?

The evaluation topics and activities sub-section should contain a description of the anticipated evaluation activities needed to support LEADERs effective implementation, the achievement of its objectives and to report on RDP achievements. Descriptions of methodologies are not needed. The aim is to ensure that LEADERs contribution to the RD priorities objectives and any programme-specific objectives are adequately evaluated (including result and impact indicator values assessment and analysis of net effects). This includes the contribution of the LDSs and the added-value of the LEADER approach.

In this section the MA should therefore describe:

  • a framework for the overall evaluation of LEADER comprising the above elements. Typically this would include specification for LAG reporting requirements, core indicators, associated data sets, evaluation questions, criteria to be applied and timelines and milestones for monitoring and evaluation activities;
  • the means to incorporate LDS achievements and evaluation outcomes into RDP level evaluations; and
  • the support actions necessary for preparing the LAGs for evaluation activities, data needs assessment, definition/interpretation of indicators, evaluation techniques, quality control, guidance etc.

Crucially the CPR states that “Member States shall ensure that appropriate evaluation capacity is available’ therefore MAs planned support for LAG level evaluation should be provided in advance of LDS preparation so that LAGs can design their own evaluation plans.

In the section describing the evaluation governance arrangements the MA may wish to involve LAGs. LAGs representatives often participate in regional or national level evaluation Steering Groups or technical working groups bringing invaluable local knowledge and contacts, as well as a practical perspective on monitoring and evaluation.

What do LAGs need to do?

Plan: your LDS must describe what it proposes to do in relation to monitoring and evaluation, the provisions made to enable this to be done and the LAGs capacity to deliver. Some serious planning is therefore needed during the development stage. As LAGs are obliged to provide the necessary information for RDP level monitoring and evaluation, it therefore follows that their LDS plans should respect the RDP Evaluation Plan framework as well as the LDS specificities.

As with the RDP evaluation plan retro-planning is essential, treat evaluation as a project, identify what are you going to need to deliver and when, what steps and resources do you need to put in place, when is this needed to ensure you can deliver on time! The real value of this evaluation planning is in making evaluation more effective and easier, putting the foundations and systems in place, planning it in. Your plan should provide;

  • a framework for assessing your LAGs performance in implementing LEADER and its specificities; including
    • the specification of the relevant data to capture relevant procedural, physical, financial and relational elements;
    • the systems and mechanisms to manage financial and output data to ensure that the data specified and reported relates to the RDP and LDS specific indicators and targets;
    • proposals for disseminating and utilising evaluation results e.g. through amending the LDS and its delivery; and
    • the way in which your monitoring and evaluation activity and processes will be designed and delivered to complement RDP level evaluation of LEADER

MA’s, NRNs and LAGs should read the relevant sections of the Evaluation Planning Guidance prepared by the Helpdesk of the EENRD5. This provides the main steps which should be reflected in the LDS plan.

LAG Evaluation Plan Outline (Indicative)
What are the LAGs objectives for monitoring and evaluation, covering both LDS and RDP levels? See Part 3
What are the governance and coordination arrangements through which the processes will be managed? See Part 4
Are there any specific LDS or LEADER topics or themes the LAG or MA will wish to research or evaluate? See Part 5
What are the data requirements for monitoring and evaluating the LDS and how this will be managed? See Part 6
What are the tools and methods to be employed? See Part 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10
What is timeline and any relevant milestones? See Part 8
What is the proposed approach to communicating evaluation activities and for the communication of evaluation findings See Part 9
What are the resources required? See Part 10

What about the 2007 – 2013 Programme evaluations?

In preparing for their involvement in the ex post evaluations of 2007 – 2013 RDPs LAGs and MAs should reflect on how well prepared they are. The process of planning for the new approach should provide a basis for considering the extent to which the necessary pieces are in place, identify any gaps and what needs to be done in order to fill these gaps.

1 Submitted as part of the RDP and required under the Common Provisions Regulation EU) No 1303/2013 [PDF ] and the Rural Development Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 [PDF ]
2 With no Mid Term Evaluation for 2014 – 2020 these AIRs are more important with special AIRs required in 2017 and 2019.
3 The ‘partnership principle’ is the public private partnership inherent in the LEADER approach and the LAGs on which it is based.
4 Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 Articles 30.3 (g) [PDF ]
5 Helpdesk of the European Evaluation Networks for Rural Development, Our publications

The text on LEADER evaluation in the toolkit is a practical guide aimed at contributing to how all actors involved in LEADER could make LEADER evaluation more effective. It does not serve as guidance for formal RDP evaluation related to LEADER. For the latter please visit Evaluation Helpdesk resource page

  • The MA, NRN and LAGs should work together from the earliest possible stage to develop the overall evaluation approach including the respective responsibilities and associated resources.
  • Get the building blocks in place from the start, it is so much easier for everyone than trying to reconstruct things later on.
  • Think about baselines, if you don’t know where you stared how will you know what you have achieved?
  • Learn from your own experience, what worked well in evaluation, what worked less well and what were the reasons?
Last update: 19/06/2014 | Top