NRN Self-Assessment Profiles
The Network Support Unit (NSU) for the Swedish Rural Network has not applied a formal monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework to assess its networking activities; as a consequence it does not collect monitoring data, nor does it have strict M&E indicators, the latter are ad-hoc indicators.
Assessment takes rather place through an implicit intervention logic based on the network’s yearly Activity Plan. The rationale for the network activities, and hence its working groups (WG), is to identify current opportunities and challenges, establish specific objectives for the year in question and recognise possible results from the specific activities.
The network and its activities are divided into eight WG focusing on different priority areas. The priority areas are reviewed regularly and change according to needs. The aim and mission of the WG are to gather, analyse and disseminate information, to initiate cooperation and when needed to address methodological approaches, and finally, to follow up that experiences are shared and conserved. Consequently, seminars and workshops are organised for thematic stakeholders to gather and to exchange ideas and to network. Each such event is evaluated by an evaluation form, which is adapted according to the theme, scope and participants of the event (please see Existing Tools Used by NRNs for Self-Assessment for examples). Moreover, the work of each WG is based on a work plan in which both product and effect goals are laid out. Once a WG terminates, such goals are evaluated.
The Swedish NRN commissions regularly an independent evaluator to study the activities undertaken by the network, e.g. in 2009 OpenEye examined specific aspects of NRN activities to feed into the mid-term evaluation of the Swedish RDP. As a result a report was published (please see below). It was planned that in the second half of 2012 another contractor would study the structure and process of, learning and knowledge within, and cooperation and synergies built by the Network.
The NRN has its Communications Strategy in which the priority objective is to increase the exchange of knowledge, experience and dialogue. Within the NRN strategy there is a number of outcome targets. In the Communication Strategy these have been collated into five categories and are evaluated in the yearly report.
Furthermore, the NSU distributes reports to be completed by participants of so-called inspiration activities. In the report template (please see Existing Tools Used by NRNs for Self-Assessment for examples) participants are asked to give examples of results and lessons learned from the specific activity. The questions are of “yes” and “no” type and cover different aspects of the Rural Development Programme, e.g. whether the event has increased the knowledge base regarding the programme, or whether participants have shared past experiences, and general information exchange and sharing.
Until the end of 2001 recipients of network cheques needed to complete a full report on what activities were undertaken with the support provided. The NSU followed up with individual telephone calls to establish concrete results and whether any future activities-knowledge sharing has been planned. The cheques were slowly substituted by a so-called “petty-cash” arrangement during 2011. This has provided more effective workflows (less bureaucracy) as a result.
Moreover, the NRN produces different types of publications and undertakes surveys in relation to both dissemination of communication tools and activities.
Finally, in the annual reports of the Rural Development Programme, usually chapter 5, NRN activities during the past year are discussed.