Towards a conceptual framework for improved monitoring and evaluation of SEA outcomes: a discussion note
This paper tries to answer the question how can standard Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process be modified to incorporate robust long term monitoring frameworks which facilitate outcome mapping and impact assessment.
Theoretically, any SEA intervention should lead to an outcome that improves policies, plans and programmes (PPP) relative to the counterfactual – how things would be without SEA. However, it is important to stress that every SEA should develop its own theory of change (ToC).
The paper figures that an important point to note on comparing the effect of SEAs at different times is that ultimate impact is very likely to depend on decision takers, organisations and institutions beyond the control of those commissioning the SEA. Furthermore, the “influencing environment” is very important. So when it comes to identifying the outcomes and impact of an SEA, the role of the SEA needs to be distinguished in the bigger picture.
The author suggests that:
- a conceptual framework for comparing similar SEAs should be used so that those synthesising evidence from one type of SEAs have to explain why lessons will apply to other SEAs
- SEA practitioners should be allowed to deviate from recognised good practice if it can be shown why an alternative approach makes more sense
- while SEA process evaluation is still valuable, the biggest gap is in impact assessment
The paper also underscores that it should be fairly straightforward to develop an Institutional Capacity Assessment Matrix (ICAM) and Organisational Capacity Assessment Matrix (OCAM) for SEA.