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Page history last edited by Cristina Lamb Guevara 10 years, 5 months ago


People act on the basis of their understanding of how the world works – their ‘theories of action’ (Argyris and Schön, 1974). We do X because we believe, based on past experience or what we’ve read, that Y will happen. This applies to projects and programs as well. So it follows that if you can improve a project’s theories of action you can improve how people implement it (here we use project to mean both project and program). This has long been recognized by a particular branch of evaluation, called program theory evaluation, which describes projects’ theories of action in a ‘logic model’ and then evaluates the project using the model as a framework. Traditionally, logic models describes how project outputs are developed with, and used by, others to achieve chains of outcomes that contribute to eventual impact on social, environmental or economic conditions. The Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA) approach allows project staff and stakeholders to jointly describe the project’s theories of action and then develop a logic model. The term ‘impact pathways’ is synonymous with ‘theories of action’ and ‘program theory’. We use the term because it is more widely understood in agricultural research.

Development and use of PIPA

‘Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA)’ was first used in a workshop in January 2006 in Ghana, with seven projects funded by the Challenge Program on Water and Food. To date, nine PIPA workshops have been held for 46 projects. Researchers from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT - Spanish acronym), WorldFish Center and the International Potato Center (CIP - Spanish acronym) together with two evaluation specialists are developing PIPA. 
PIPA developed from work at CIAT on innovation histories (see 'ILAC Brief no. 5 – Douthwaite and Ashby', 2005) funded by ILAC. A paper  (Douthwaite et al.) describing the approach has been accepted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation (in press).
PIPA centres on a three-day workshop in which ideally project implementers, participating next users, end users and politically-important actors attend. Next users are the people and organizations who will use what the project will produce while end users are the people the next users serve. Clients and beneficiaries are synonyms for next users and end users. Politically-important actors are those people and organizations that can help create an enabling environment for the project, but with which the project does not directly work.
The workshop process is designed to help participants surface, discuss and describe their hypotheses for how project activities and outputs could eventually contribute to desired goals such as poverty reduction. The description of these hypotheses is a description of the project’s impact pathways. 
PIPA has helped workshop participants to:
  • Clarify, reach mutual understanding and communicate their project’s intervention logic and its potential for achieving impact;
  • Understand other projects working in the same program and identify areas for collaboration;
  • Generate a feeling of common purpose and better programmatic integration (when more than one project is represented in the workshop);
  • Produce a narrative describing the project's intervention logic and possible future impacts (thus a form of ex-ante impact assessment);
  • Produce a framework for subsequent monitoring and evaluation.


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