Learning that Can't Wait - CIF Learning and Evaluation Initiative

co-authored with Anna Williams

Urgency is a word often associated with climate change. The scale and urgency of the climate crisis demands scaled-up action to prevent a range of future—and current—consequences: from extreme weather events, to poor air quality affecting the health of millions and shifting weather patterns jeopardizing agricultural production and water supplies.

Urgency, though, is not typically a word associated with evaluation or learning.

This needs to change, given the growing threats posed by climate change and the high commitment to scaled-up climate action and finance as reflected by the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. There is an equally urgent need to rapidly learn about how to mitigate and prepare for climate change around the world and to make the best use of the valuable resources deployed.

The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) is pioneering a new initiative to address the learning gap, identify strategic lessons from implementation to date and to inform future decisions for its work and that of other climate finance institutions.

 

A New Paradigm, Cognizant of How People Learn and Apply Learning

Led by an Advisory Group comprised of CIF stakeholders and external experts, and armed with a newly approved Business Plan, the CIF Evaluation and Learning Initiative seeks to enable learning that is timely, relevant to real world needs and experience, and applied to projects and programs.

Photo of CIF country representatives

Field visits, such as this one to a forest improvement project in Mexico supported by the FIP, are just one way to learn

The Advisory Group and wider CIF community recognize that in the face of such urgency, we simply do not have the time (or resources) to rely on overly academic, traditional, or compliance-driven approaches to evaluation and learning.  Rather, we must focus on generating practical and timely insights that help investors and practitioners make the best possible decisions in real time. This means:

  • Involving key stakeholders—especially leaders, implementers and other stakeholders in recipient countries—up front in the design of evaluations to enhance relevance and use.
  • Using methods that respond to each context, addressing the real-life complexity and multi-sectoral nature of climate change interventions.
  • Fast turnaround times and robust engagement and feedback mechanisms for generating and applying findings to ongoing investments.  

People learn in different ways, often through tacit knowledge, accumulated experience, conversation, and informal networks. Providing spaces and platforms for such exchange becomes a priority for learning that is South-South, within and amongst multilateral development banks (MDBs), amongst local stakeholders, amongst technical experts and—especially—between major climate finance funds. These principles and approaches are embedded in the strategy underlying the CIF Evaluation and Learning Initiative.

 

A Focused yet Broad Learning Agenda

The Initiative prioritizes four learning themes identified by stakeholders: transformational change, including better understanding and assessing the role of the CIFs and others in supporting the transformation to low-carbon, climate resilient development; scaling private sector investment; local stakeholder engagement and benefit; and assessing unique elements of the CIF design and approach.

These themes are broadly applicable to other major climate funds, including the Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund, which are also conducting evaluation and/or learning in these areas. It is therefore important to learn from each other and augment the collective intelligence and insight so that all forms and sources of climate finance are used effectively and maximize results

The CIF will roll out this bold new Initiative over the next year, through a range of activities and approaches. Learning communities will be formed or stimulated to engage in participatory evaluation design processes. New and innovative evaluation methods will be applied to respond to the unique challenges of overarching themes like transformational change in a complex adaptive system. Those which seem particularly appropriate include contribution analysis, process tracing, rapid stakeholder feedback and outcome harvesting, to name just a few.

The wider CIF community will be invited to engage in and drive these activities, leveraging local, national and global insights. This range of experiences and expertise will enable learning across sectors, institutions and geographies.

The CIF’s mature portfolio—with $8.3 billion in resources expected to attract at least an additional $58 billion in co-financing for over 300 projects in 72 developing countries—is particularly ripe for evaluation-based learning and sharing amongst a range of influential institutions and actors.

Indeed, the CIF was founded with a mandate to serve as a learning laboratory for scaled-up climate finance.  This pioneering initiative positions the CIF to deliver on this promise. Given the urgency of climate change and the need for well-informed climate finance, the time to learn and improve is now.

Look out for more news about opportunities, lessons, and insights emerging from this ambitious effort.

 

***

The blog post first appeared on CIF Voices. Climate-Eval and the CIF through its Evaluation Learning Initiative are collaborating on a shared learning agenda common priority themes on transformational change, private sector investment, and local stakeholder engagement and benefit.

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