Learning from monitoring and evaluation


People taking part in a forest visitor survey. New Forest Forest ParkA large amount of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data is collected in various formats throughout the Forestry Commission, which has the potential to inform practice, decision-making and policy. However, much of this data is unprocessed, lacks analytical value because a baseline was missing, or is not made available to interested stakeholders. Furthermore, both locally and nationally, active processes for the analysis and interpretation of trends and implications are rarely in place, or are applied inconsistently across different parts of the organisation.

There are some important consequences of this:

  • The Forestry Commission and its partners are missing important opportunities to learn from experience, communicate successes, and develop organisationally.
  • M&E remains under-resourced and is seen as a burden by staff, for whom data gathering has little relevance to their day-to-day activities.
  • Staff are rarely involved in the analysis of data and the informed strategic thinking that flows from it. As such, there is no formal structure or system for learning from previous experience and informing best practice.

This research aims to assess best practice in M&E, and provide models to ensure the findings of M&E are assimilated and applied in ways that help make the organisation and its partners to be more responsive, adaptive and sustainable.

Research objectives

  • To document and develop a working typology covering the various approaches to M&E that are, or could be, used by the Forestry Commission and its partners.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of different M&E approaches in terms of organisational learning.
  • To identify, document, develop and communicate the most effective approaches to learning from M&E.

Project activities 2010-2012

  • Literature review to establish key principles for successful learning organisations and M&E that enhances learning. Review sets out ideals of M&E design, application and organisational orientation.
  • Scoping interviews with Forestry Commission staff at policy, programme and project levels to examine orientation to learning from M&E.
  • Action research in ‘live’ M&E projects  to apply, test and develop the principles identified in the literature review.

Project outputs

Learning from monitoring and evaluation – a blueprint for an adaptive organisation (PDF-126K)
Report setting out principles for learning from social forestry M&E within the Forestry Commission and its partners.

Planned project outputs

Report and workshop to present and test guidance on M&E design, application and organisational orientation to promote learning.

Funders and partners

Forestry Commission logo
This project is funded by the Forestry Commission Social Research for Forestry in Sustainable Society programme and is part of Forest Research’s Forest governance: planning, partnerships and participation research programme.


This was a three year project running from 2010-2012.


Jake Morris