DESCRIBE THE PROCESS FLOW AND RELATED COMPONENTS OF SERVICE TRACKING, MONITORING, EVALUATION AND PRECISION LEARNING
It is essential to monitor and evaluate the achievements of RAS to improve and optimize the contribution of the service to rural livelihoods. A foundation for structured learning from experience is high-quality monitoring and evaluation based on reliable information about the results and impacts of the services. Strengthening of the RAS is of critical priority in order help rural producers exploit innovation potential. If the RAS system is strengthened to provide services and advice which effectively address modern challenges and producers’ needs, it will have multiple positive impacts. Assessment is a necessary precondition to strengthen RAS both at the level of service providers and the national policymaking (leading to systemic impact). Monitoring and improving RAS processes involves identifying, investigating and eliminating problems responsible for inefficiencies in operations.
To make a distinction between assessment and evaluation: “The process of collecting, reviewing and using data, for the purpose of improvement in the current performance, is called assessment. A process of passing judgment determining relevance and fulfilment of objectives is called evaluation”.
The objective of a RAS assessment methodology is to generate evidence to inform decisions. The assessment should enable identification of gaps and provide entry points for improving services, as well as provide recommendation for change. This can also be used as a monitoring tool, however, for the assessment to be useful, the tool needs to be complemented with clear and appropriate indicators that are adaptable (as defined in O1).
Assessing the human resource capacity in terms of staff having the rights skills in this changing environment can be quite a challenge in terms of measurements. In our project we plan to utilize the GFRAS Guideline which provides ideas on skills required to carry out the tasks involved in modern RAS such as:
- Plan and manage effective RAS;
- Advise and communicate effectively with farmers;
- facilitate farmer empowerment and organisational development; and
- take new knowledge and technology to practise on farms.
GFRAS has also conducted comprehensive work around identifying the capacities required for the modern RAS, utilising the FAO corporate strategy on capacity development , which works around the three levels:
- organisational capacity,
- individual capacity and
- institutional capacity.
Across the three levels, the following are seen to be required functional capacities for RAS:
- Knowledge capacity: to access, generate, manage, and exchange information and knowledge (relevant for RAS advisors)
- Partnering capacity: to engage in networks, alliances, partnerships, and build relationships (relevant for RAS advisors)
- Implementation capacity: to implement and deliver programmes and projects, from planning to monitoring, and evaluation (can be relevant)
Based on the analysis of capacities required for effective RAS, training material to facilitate these skills and capacities were developed (GFRAS, 2017). These materials we will study and utilize relevant sections.
The draft assessment methodology by FAO uses the eight parameters for quality of services: Performance, Features, Reliability, Conformance, Durability, Serviceability, Aesthetics, and Perceived quality. "Using these for measurement will require a high degree of involvement of the users of the services." Another list of services characteristics from quality aspect: Timeliness, Adequacy, Ease of access, Relevance, Responsiveness, Applicability, Reliability. We will examine in our project the main types of quality criteria and choose those relevant for RAS provision at the field level.
In order to achieve a well-functioning monitoring, evaluation and training system, it is necessary to represent all the processes of the advisory service provision in definitive documents which we call Methodologies, that build on the static information about competences, indicators and data sources, as defined in the previous work steps, but put these components in the perspective of the process workflow on a timeline, and taking into attention all relevant elements, such as defining the actors, channels, subject, location, date, time, direction. In our project we approach the challenge of assessment from the perspective of the service providers, with the aim of better targeting their capacity development efforts.
Our main target group of O2 are the service providers (RASPs), however, the design will reflect the needs of the other participating actors, namely, advisors and their clients. The innovative elements belong to the main project concept. The Methodologies published in the Guidebook will ensure transferability and the impact will be realized during the service implementation, learning and certification actions.