The findings of the impact assessment are a good basis for the organisation to expand its knowledge and to learn from its actions. As a result, the organisation’s processes, projects and programmes, as well as its strategic direction are improved and adjusted to new insights.
- Willingness to learn
It requires readiness from management and a corresponding strategy to institutionalise learning within an organisation. Appropriate strategies must be forged, and the necessary Tools and Resources must be made available.
- Learning culture
In an environment where people are keen to learn, information is made available, mistakes are accepted and understood as an opportunity to learn, both individually and as an organisation. There is no looking for the guilty party and calling them to account for mistakes. This only hampers the flow of information and people’s readiness to learn from mistakes.
Phases of learning should be a scheduled part of the organisation’s project management and overall management system so that they do not get squeezed out under the pressure of the day-to-day running of the organisation. There can be a tendency to take shortcuts under time pressure, especially in the planning and decision-making phases. In such cases, integration of previously made experiences and insights is easily neglected.
A constant feedback process should be instituted that also includes the stakeholders. It does, however, take time before the consequences of one’s actions become apparent. If staff and consultants have switched to a different task or a new project or another organisation in the intervening period, then there is little incentive for them to learn from the findings. Regular staff turnover and short-term involvement of advisors make the learning process more difficult. To minimise potential knowledge drain, findings and insights need to be documented.
- Spirit of innovation
Insights gained from the impact assessment can be used to grasp the unknown and to understand the known better. Organisations should not give in to the temptation and become stuck in a rut by simply sticking to what they know and to the tried and tested.
If changes are necessary, then the reasons for them must be intelligible and the process must be explained transparently. If an organisation changes its direction or priorities too often and too quickly, it has a negative effect on its readiness to learn.
Suitable forms of communication
- Discussion forums or workshops with staff and stakeholders,
- Regular discussions about project reviews,
- Formulate the lessons learnt and make them available,
- Draw up good/best practice guidelines and integrate them into training and planning.
For knowledge-building and the learning process to be successful, it is important that the findings of the impact assessment immediately feed back to all parties involved. This allows them to recognize how the outputs affected the target group. Staff, partner organisations and stakeholders need to discuss together what went right, where the problems were and what reasons for success and failure were. They can thus seek solutions and improvements together and establish what additional training or technical assistance is needed. The new insights should be written down; if they are embedded and accepted within the organisation, then they can be taken to heart in the future.