Standard 18: Learning from and leveraging results during close-out.
Engage participants, partners, donors, host or local governments and other stakeholders in project close-out evaluation and reflection activities with the intent of learning from and leveraging the project.
Share project learning with stakeholders for influence, sustainability, and scale-up of successful project approaches.
Projects generate a wealth of information and learning of value and interest to CRS, its partners, participating communities, donors and other stakeholders. Too often, however, project teams get caught up in the rush of close-out activities and give little attention to strategically sharing information about project impact, lessons learned, and recommendations for future projects. Well-planned sharing of project learning, including with community members and current and potential project donors, as part of project close-out:
- Builds stakeholder commitment to sustain, scale-up, or adopt proven and promising project approaches.
- Helps meet stakeholder information needs by communicating the results and learning most relevant to each stakeholder.
- Demonstrates accountability and deepens the relationships built during the project.
- Contributes to the wider body of knowledge in the sector.
- Primary responsible: Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)
- The PM/CoP leads the development and implementation of project plans for sharing learning during close-out.
- Others involved: CRS and partner project team members; country program MEAL staff; head of programming (HoP); country representative (CR); sectoral technical advisors (TAs); country program and regional business development (BD) staff; IDEA staff if applicable.
- The project team and country program MEAL staff, with support from the HoP as needed, contribute to planning and assist with implementing individual activities to share project learning.
- The CR assists with engaging donors and other high-level stakeholders.For example, senior-level government officials, senior leaders of peer organizations.
- TAs (especially regional and global) help promote and share learning with other technical specialists, including specialists from donor and peer organizations.
- Country program (if applicable) and regional BD staff and IDEA staff contribute to plans for disseminating learning and share learning with current and prospective donors.
- Finalize a plan for sharing final project learningThis plan will further detail and refine the initial plans included in the SMILER+ Stakeholder Communications Plan developed during project start-up. as part of overall close-out planning, building on final evaluation or after-action review planning.
- Refine and implement the plan throughout the close-out period.
This key action is implemented in accordance with CRS’ MEAL Policies and Procedures, specifically procedure 7.2.Procedure 7.2: Communicate progress and evaluation findings to key stakeholders according to their information needs.
Follow these steps during project close-out to share project learning with key stakeholders beyond the CRS and partner project team:
- As part of project close-out planning (e.g., beginning at least 3 - 12 months before the project end date), the PM/CoP works with the project team and other internal stakeholdersFor example, the CR, HoP, TAs, BD staff, and IDEA staff. to refine project plans for stakeholder learning and sharing, including sharing final evaluation findings.
- Click here for Detailed steps in the process.
- For projects that include a final evaluation, build on the preliminary plan for sharing evaluation findings with different project stakeholders developed as part of the final evaluation terms of reference (see Standard 18, key action 1 for details).
- Review the project donor engagement plan and the SMILER stakeholder communication plan developed during MEAL system set up.
- Reflect on formal project learning activities to date with external stakeholders (see Standard 11, key action 1) and develop clear objectivesObjectives will differ by project and stakeholder, but could include: influencing a stakeholder (government stakeholder, peer organization, donor) to promote a proven project approach; exploring a potential donor’s interest in supporting project scale-up or follow-on support; using project learning to advocate with a government stakeholder for continued investment to sustain and expand project achievements.
for project close-out learning activities – i.e., what learning does the project team want to share, with whom, and why?
- Engage stakeholders around project learning for all projects, including less complex and shorter duration projects.
- See the M&E Short Cuts Series: Communicating and Reporting on an Evaluation for guidance and a sample template for planning communications.
- Adapt ideas from the “Sharing lessons learned” section of the Capturing and Sharing Lessons at Learning Events in Country Programs.
- Identify already-planned opportunities for engagement with targeted stakeholders (e.g., regular coordination meetings, conferences), as well as close-out-specific opportunities for sharing this learning (e.g., formal reports required by the donor; "exit meetings"Exit meetings are consultative meetings held with stakeholders such as partners, participants, donor and government personnel during the project close-out process that help to ensure participation and accountability. In larger projects, exit meetings can also be a way to involve stakeholders in the development of the close-out plan. For smaller projects, exit meetings can be used to clarify any questions regarding the project close-out process, the handling of any project assets and any planned follow-on activities. with individual stakeholders; a formal project closure event, etc.). See also Standard 16, key action 5.
- For externally-funded projects, consider organizing the following close-out activities with the project donor:
- An end-of-project meeting with the donor to present results and learning, and obtain donor final feedback on the project.
- A more targeted meeting with donor technical staff to share the project’s technical achievements, innovations, challenges, etc.
- A community round table to share results and consider how to build on them, with the donor invited to participate.
Think creatively, engage project participants,See MEAL practice 6.B: Communicate key project information to community members during project start-up and close-out. and celebrate accomplishments: Work with country program MEAL staff and CRS and partner project team members to identify important project highlights, challenges and lessons learned to share, and creative ways to share them,For close-out events, consider working with project participants to summarize their experience with the project through creative approaches, such as a short play, or organizing booths in a market stall/fair arrangement, where participants highlight different aspects of the project from their perspective, along with project results. keeping in mind donor and other stakeholder preferences. Engage diverse stakeholders, including not only the current donor but also other donors and influential stakeholders. Strategize about how to engage stakeholders as active participants in learning and sharing events. Keep in mind how this engagement could strengthen relationships among stakeholders, amplify the voices of project participants, and celebrate all that participants have achieved through the project.
- The PM/CoP and CRS project team, guided by the plans refined in step 1, prepare appropriate documentation and communications materials tailored to the key stakeholders.Materials may include: Summarized learning documents; profiles of representative project participants; short videos; articles; one-page briefing documents focused on specific aspects of learning; slide decks. See the documents listed under “Tools” for other ideas.
- Adapt information from the project final evaluation report and/or data visualizations prepared for the final evaluation reflection or after-action review event, as well as any preliminary communications products developed by an external evaluator per the evaluation SOW (as applicable).
- Compile photos and quotes from participants and stakeholders, as well as samples of project materials such as posters or custom training manuals. Such materials are often useful to share with donors in project close-out meetings and may be relevant to incorporate in final reporting.
- Consider how best to use marketing and communications channels to disseminate or highlight learning – see the CRS Communications Manual and Marketing and Communications Overview.
- Enlist support from country program, regional, or MarComm communications specialists as needed. Be sure to reach out to such staff with sufficient lead time.
- The PM/CoP coordinates outreach to targeted stakeholders to share project learning, and works with project team members to organize formal learning and sharing events and meetings per the plan.
- The CR, HoP, TAs, and IDEA staff engage individual stakeholders as needed based on protocols and existing relationships.
- As appropriate, organize local media coverage of formal close-out events organized to share project successes and learning (see box below for an example).
- For engagement activities that include formal meetings with stakeholders, document key points from the meeting (stakeholder feedback, questions, next steps and follow-up actions, etc.) for CRS and partner follow-up and reference.
- Include and engage BD and IDEA staff and TAs (at CP, regional and HQ level) in outreach activities, to facilitate connections with donors and other organizations CRS seeks to influence.
Events for influence: For complex, higher-profile projects that have achieved results at significant scale, close-out events may include national learning workshops to share project learning and influence practices among key stakeholders interested in the project focus issues and learning, whether from a policy, research, or practitioner perspective. See the 7 Steps of Planning and Agenda for a National Sharing and Learning Workshop, under “Other Resources".
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- Whether partners have strong experience and capacity in project knowledge management and learning and donor engagement, or are new to this aspect of leveraging project experiences, be sure to include partner staff in planning and implementing final project learning and donor engagement activities.
- In cases where the project includes a long-term, strategic partner, CRS and the partner may be working to strengthen donor engagement, communications, and marketing skills as part of a wider partner capacity strengthening plan. In such cases, accompany the partner organization in thinking through how to use the project close-out process to highlight their own capacities and contributions to project achievements, and to increase their experience and comfort in donor engagement and communications.
- The prime will take the lead in planning for project-level end-of-project learning and sharing. Work with the prime to develop and implement these plans, highlighting CRS’ and partners’ roles in project successes.
- For projects where CRS previously identified other donors with a potential interest in the project components within CRS’ scope as a sub-recipient, refine and implement the activities in the project donor engagement plan to share learning and successes from the CRS-managed portions of the project.
- As a member of Caritas Internationalis, CRS is committed to the Protocol for CI Coordination in Emergency Response. The "Learning" part of this protocol commits CRS to share evaluation reports and learning documents from emergency response projects with the CI Humanitarian Response Department to ensure learning informs future emergency responses. If you are not registered on the CI Baobab site, please register hereWhen registering for the CI Baobab site, CRS staff should select "Caritas United States - CRS" as their organization and list the Humanitarian Response Department and firstname.lastname@example.org as the reference contact. in order to access the protocol. If you have any questions, please contact CRS’ Humanitarian Response Department (email@example.com).
- Tailor project learning and sharing activities to the context. For example, in highly insecure areas that donor representatives cannot visit, consider using multimedia presentations and holding virtual meetings where project participants and local partners can share their project experiences and learning with donor representatives.
Tools and templates
M&E Short Cuts series: Communicating and Reporting on an Evaluation
Policies and procedures
POL-OOD-PRG-008: MEAL Policies and Procedures, specifically procedure 7.2 and good practice 6.B Procedure 7.2: Communicate progress and evaluation findings to key stakeholders according to their information needs.
Good Practice 6.B: Communicate key project information to community members during project start-up and close-out.
Example 7 Steps of Planning and Agenda (National Sharing and Learning Workshop for the WALA/IMPACT project)
- Primary responsible: Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)