Managing the Network
Sharing and dissemination of monitoring and evaluation findings
In accordance with Article 54(3) of the Rural Development Regulation (RDR) No 1305/2013 [PDF ], all National Rural Networks (NRNs) are expected to include ‘activities regarding the sharing and dissemination of monitoring and evaluation findings’ in their 2014-2020 Action Plans. This NRN requirement reflects the increased emphasis on the monitoring and evaluation aspects of Rural Development Programmes (RDPs) (including the monitoring and evaluation of rural networks) during the 2014-20 programming period.
A number of challenges can occur for NRNs during the sharing and disseminating of monitoring and evaluation findings. Hence, as with any other communication activity of NRNs, it is very important to keep in mind the basic steps of communication planning. In particular, one should consider what the objectives of the communication are, who the target audience is, and what the key messages and the most suitable forms to achieve the objectives of communication are. At the same time, one should not forget the assessment (monitoring and evaluation) of the communication activity itself.
NRNs operate in the rural development policy context. Therefore, the dissemination of monitoring and evaluation results is expected to particularly contribute to the NRN objectives of ‘improving the quality of implementation of RDPs’ and of ‘informing the broader public and potential beneficiaries on rural development policy and funding opportunities’ (as per Article 54(2) of the RDR).
Questions that NRNs need to ask when identifying the target groups, formulating the messages and the most efficient tools and channels for the dissemination include: ‘How the dissemination of ‘monitoring and evaluation’ results can contribute to the improvement of rural development policy delivery?’ and ‘How can it improve the awareness of the broader public and potential beneficiaries on rural development policy and funding opportunities?’.
The scope and purpose of the activity and expected results need to be clarified from the beginning (at the same time as trying to map out possible risks, constraints and threats that are external to the NSUs). If, for instance, the purpose is to inform the public about the results of certain thematic areas of RDP monitoring and evaluation, one would need to define what is the main message to deliver through this activity, what is the specific target group and what the most efficient form of communication is.
Dissemination of monitoring and evaluation findings has to be seen in the framework of the policy cycle. This means that the needs of target stakeholders are often different at the start of the programme than towards the end. For instance, during the early stages, NRNs may want to consider informing the wider rural public about the results of the ‘ex-ante evaluation of programmes’. During the programming they may want to think about providing information concerning ‘monitoring’ issues that beneficiaries would also need to be engaged with (in order to improve monitoring practices). Whereas towards the middle of the programming period the ‘ex-post evaluation’ (of the previous programme) may become more pertinent and of interest for both the programme management and beneficiaries.
In addition to the dissemination of monitoring and evaluation results, NSUs can take a pro-active role in the RDP evaluation, through raising awareness about the importance of evaluation in general (e.g. through training events and programmes, such as the Italian NRN’s E-VALPROG programme [PDF ]) or through carrying out analysis that can be used in the context of the RDP evaluation (such as the case of LEADER evaluation carried out the Danish Network [PDF ]).
In August 2013 the Wales Rural Network hosted a training workshop on monitoring and evaluation. The workshop provided the opportunity for the Welsh Government, the Axis 3 and 4 groups and the programme evaluators to discuss various aspects of monitoring and evaluation. The event was designed with the aim to (i) provide information about monitoring and evaluation to the Axes 3 and 4 groups, (ii) to provide information on emerging themes from evaluation, (iii) to learn lessons for the future, and (iv) to provide information on new programming proposals. A major aspect which emerged from the event was a call for a training programme (particularly targeted at Local Action Groups) to be put in place for monitoring and evaluation from the outset of the 2014-2020 RDP.