Evaluating transformative change in tropical forest landscape initiatives

This briefing prepared by the Partnerships for Forests (P4F) Evaluation Manager (NIRAS-LTS International) explores the issue of transformative change in tropical forest landscape initiatives. It examines; Why is transformative change, and its assessment, important?; What is transformative change?; What is transformative change in forest-landscape and sector contexts?; and How to assess transformative change.

Development actor ambitions increasingly seek to catalyse transformative change, to achieve more sustainable and inclusive change. But definitions lack clarity and practical approaches for assessing transformative change are needed. To respond to growing climate, sustainability, and livelihood challenges in forest and land use sectors, development agencies have increasing ambitions for their programmes to achieve transformative not just incremental change. Donors increasingly seek to engage the private sector to leverage scarce aid resources to catalyse ‘more inclusive growth across whole sectors’ (Ripley, 2019). This briefing outlines a Transformative Change Framework (TCF) which offers a way forward for better design and evaluation of transformative change in target systems.

The Partnerships for Forests Programme (P4F) funded by UKAID, seeks to catalyse investment in business models for sustainable forests and land use. It has transformative ambitions: ‘We’re delivering significant results across our portfolio, contributing to a growing evidence base for our approach to creating transformational change within the forests and land use sector’. This briefing delves into how transformative change (i.e. change that is systemic in nature) is anticipated to occur resulting from programme interventions and draws on early empirical insights from evaluative learning studies using a Transformative Change Framework. It explores what transformative change is and how to assess it. An independent evaluative-learning team is providing the P4F programme with guidance on how to define, evaluate and learn about transformative change in forest-landscapes and sectors.

This briefing was prepared in September 2020 and aims to inform the P4F programme, but also DFID, BEIS and the wider community of practice, by presenting the TCF, which has been field tested in baseline or early implementation studies in 2020, with further studies planned for 2021