Measuring Impacts of Local Action Plans in Cities

Alison Partridge

By Alison Partridge, on December 10th, 2014

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ESIMeC  is one of the 3 so called URBACT ‘delivery pilots’ funded to test whether transnational exchange and learning continues to be useful during implementation of Local Action Plans. The pilots started early in 2014 and run until March 2015 so now seems like a good time to take stock and share some of our learning and reflections.

As the pilot baseline study suggested that there were 5 main areas where more transnational exchange would be particularly useful and these became the focus of the 5 transnational events: interestingly at least three of these are relevant to just about any city wanting to deliver integrated sustainable urban development. So in this article, we focus on the cross cutting issues as these are probably of most interest to other cities – we started with Governance and Stakeholder Engagement last week, and will adress Funding, next week.

Measuring Impact of Local Action Plans

As I write I can hear certain people saying – “not impact……results”!! Well, part of the rationale for dedicating a whole day of our 3rd transnational event to this subject was precisely that. We need cities to better understand the Commission’s new results oriented intervention logic. What does it actually mean and is it useful for cities who are delivering LAPs? What can cities do to better measure the value of LAP delivery on the ground?

Well, who knew that what initially appears to be such a dry subject could engender such enthusiasm from partners and ULSG members alike. With expert input from Tako Popma and lots of scope for using the learning using real life city experiences, we explored this subject. It was surprising to witness participants getting really stuck in to exercises and having heated debates. The day helped them to better define what results they actually wanted to achieve with their LAPs and how they could measure these using both quantitative and qualitative methods. As an example of what this meant on the ground after the event, Basingstoke subsequently established a ‘task and finish group’ to work up a local monitoring and measurement framework for its LAP.

We came up with the following main action points which are relevant to all cities delivering a Local Action Plan:

  • When developing a Local Action Plan, start from the end and work backward
  • Work closely with stakeholders to better understand the need you are trying to address and co-create actions and activities which will help you to address these needs
  • Keep asking yourself and your stakeholders ‘why are we doing this’; ‘what is the change we are seeking to make’?
  • Remember you do not have to use any particular performance framework in your local projects but it is a good idea to agree how you will measure and monitor performance and impact and to all use a fixed terminology
  • The new results oriented intervention logic from the European Commission could provide a useful reference point but there are lots of other models available
  • Using the European Commission’s framework and terminology will help actions and projects to fit the EU ‘mould’
  • If you build a performance monitoring framework into your LAP from the outset it helps you to better understand and define your priorities and can prevent a LAP becoming a ‘shopping list’ of actions which may not be realistic or achievable
  • Remember that not everything can be counted but there is usually a way to measure progress
  • Evaluation forms an important part of measuring impact – it enables you to look at the quality, the context and any associated evidence and to more accurately account for external factors so as to attribute the real impact of your own interventions
  • However you choose to measure progress, try and do it regularly and to review the findings in order to improve or change future delivery.

Have you made similar experience in your projects? Any points you would add to the list?

 photo credits: Jonas GInter on Flickr.

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