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.
Write a comprehensive final project report that summarizes project achievements and learning.
A final project reportFor a summary of the differences between final project reports, final evaluation reports, and after-action review reports, see the “How” section below. offers a space for CRS to present the project team’s overall analysis and interpretation of project achievements, along with successes and challenges related to technical programming, operations issues and project management. The final report is also a place to summarize key learning from the full project implementation experience. Too often, however, project teams approach the preparation of final reports as a “tick the box” exercise and simply repackage information presented in previous reports. Taking time to prepare a high-quality, comprehensive final report:
- Deepens internal and external understanding of project achievements and lessons learned.
- Builds the evidence base for future project design and management through clear documentation of project achievements and learning (see Standard 2).
- Demonstrates CRS’ commitment to learning and accountability to project donors and other internal and external stakeholders.
- Primary responsible : Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)
- The PM/CoP is responsible for coordinating inputs and compiling a project final report that includes comprehensive information, evidence-based analysis and key learning.
- Others involved: Project team, including programming (MEAL, sector leads, project officers) and operations staff; head of programming (HoP); head of operations (HoOps); country representative (CR) as needed; IDEA staff as applicable
- CRS and partner project team members contribute content for the final report;
- The HoP and HoOps support report development and review the final draft report;
- The CR may also review and approve the final report, particularly if submitted to a donor;
- For centrally-funded awards, IDEA staff help identify key messages for the report, confirm/provide guidance on report format and length, and support with final report review and submission.
Final reports and staffing transitions: Each project should budget for the PM/CoP position to continue through the end of the project, and senior managers should act to retain the PM/CoP until completion of project/award close-out activitiesFor external donor-funded awards, the award close-out period often extends beyond the project end-date. (see Standard 17, key action 1). However, there will be situations where the PM/CoP leaves the project team before the completion of project/award close-out. In such cases, before leaving, the PM/CoP should prioritize completing the project final report, or hand over a solid draft report to the HoP or another designated staff member along with clear guidance on what is needed to finalize the report.
- Per the timeline and deadline in the project close-out plan and any award agreement.
TIP: Hold the project final reflection eventFor projects that do not require a final evaluation per CRS’ MEAL policies and procedures, the reflection event is typically the after-action review. before preparing (or finalizing) the final project report. The reflection event is intended to deepen the project team’s analysis of project successes, challenges, and learning, all of which are key inputs for the final project report.
Follow these steps to prepare a high-quality, comprehensive final project report (see Standard 16 for guidance on financial and other operations-related final reports):
- The PM/CoP identifies the information needed for the final project report, based on the outline in the CRS Final Project Report Template. For externally-funded projects, the PM/CoP also reviews the following:
- Donor requirements and templates (consult IDEA staff or the donor as needed to obtain or clarify requirements)
- The most recent version of the project donor engagement plan (see Standard 10, key action 4), for information on the donor’s interests, key CRS messages for the project, donor hot button issues,A “hot button” is something the donor cares a lot about, for example: cost-efficiency, integration with government, gender mainstreaming. etc.
- The Checklist for High-Quality Communications and Submissions to Donors (preparer’s checklist section).
- Click here for a description of the Differences between final evaluations, after-action reviews, and final reports.
- The final evaluation is focused around key questions identified in the evaluation terms of reference and is conducted before the end of the projectThe exception to this is an ex-post evaluation, which takes place after the project has ended (usually at least a year after and often several years later). In some projects, the donor commissions the final evaluation. The final evaluation report is often written by an external evaluator who has not participated in the project implementation process. Many donors require both a final evaluation report (typically submitted before the project end date/award expiry) and a final project report (typically submitted as part of award close-out).
- An after-action review is an internal assessment of organizational performance based on the project plan (see MEAL procedure 3.6 for information on final evaluations and after-action reviews). The project team typically conducts the after-action review shortly before the project end date/award expiry. The after-action review report is usually quite informal and is written for an internal audience.
- The final project report is a formal report which provides a synthesized yet comprehensive picture of the project, including achievements, challenges, and lessons learned, from the perspective of those most closely involved in the implementation. The final project report is written or finalized at the very end of the project period or during award close-out and incorporates key findings and learning from any final evaluation/after-action review report. For externally-funded projects, the final report is primarily written for the donor; for discretionary-funded projects, the final report is primarily written for CRS internal use and contributes to the evidence base for teams designing new projects (see Standard 2).
- The PM/CoP, guided by the project MEAL calendar and the Award Management Deliverables Calendar, develops an overall timeline for drafting, compiling, reviewing and finalizing the report, following review procedures established by the country program or region.
- For externally-funded projects, build in time for additional report review by IDEA staff if required.
- Plan with the timing of staffing close-out in mind: Make sure to plan sufficient time for key staff to contribute their report inputs before departing the project.
- Think outside the paragraph box: Depending on donor requirements and interests, consider using an alternative or complementary formatAlternative or complementary formats could include blogs, short video interviews, captioned photo slideshows, etc. Reach out to MarCom colleagues for ideas. It may also be useful to explore alternative formats when planning how best to leverage final report information/the achievements of a discretionary-funded project in donor and other stakeholder engagement efforts. for the final project report. If such formats are not advisable or feasible, consider building time into the report preparation process to work with an experienced graphic designer on visually appealing ways to present final project information and communicate key messages.
- The PM/CoP checks in with report contributors to review the final report requirements and the report preparation plan and deadlines.
- Contributors will include CRS programming staff (including MEAL), finance, and other operations staff.
- For externally-funded projects, the PM/CoP also highlights the following in discussions and in formal guidance e-mailed to contributors:
- Donor requirements and preferences for the final report, and any final report templates provided by the donor
- The Checklist for High-Quality Communications and Submissions to Donors
- Key issues, risks, and changes to follow up on from past reports
- Key messages to emphasize, in line with the project donor engagement plan
- Sensitive issues requiring a more careful framing and more detailed review.
Information on project financial and supply chain resources: In some cases, CRS may submit the final project narrative report to a donor before submitting final financial and supply chain reports. While information on the final status of these resources may not be available at the time of final project report preparation, the PM/CoP must still request finance and supply chain staff to provide the most up-to-date information, along with projected end-of-project status. This facilitates consistency among reports and ensures that the final project report reflects the overall anticipated status of project financial and material resources.
- Project team members use the materials provided by the PM/CoP to prepare their inputs and submit them to the PM/CoP by the agreed deadline.
- The PM/CoP reviews the report inputs and discusses with staff if neededIf possible given report deadlines and staff availability, consider convening a meeting to review the draft report inputs, clarify points, and deepen analysis, especially with respect to lessons learned and recommendations/implications for future projects. to clarify points or deepen analysis.
- The PM/CoP prepares a draft of the final project report and circulates it to the agreed reviewers, per the timeline developed in step 2.
- For centrally-funded awards or otherwise strategic externally-funded projects, IDEA staff also review the final draft report.
- The HoP, with review input from the HoOps, provides final feedback to the PM/CoP.
- The PM/CoP revises the report based on reviewer feedback and arranges for submission to any project donor(s),The PM/CoP, CR, or IDEA staff submit as appropriate. as applicable. The PM/CoP also disseminates the report internally.The internal distribution list may include the DRD PQ, regional and headquarters technical advisors, MEAL staff, other program quality staff, other project teams, country program or regional business development staff, etc.
- As needed, the PM/CoP obtains CR approval of the final draft report before finalizing the report for IDEA review or donor submission.
- See Standard 18, key action 5 for guidance on uploading the final report to Gateway.
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- Although partners may not be directly involved in writing the final report, the CRS final project report should build on information from partner reports submitted to CRS, as well as joint CRS-partner reflection, analysis, and interpretation through the evaluation and after-action review process (see Standard 18, key action 2).
- In some cases, CRS and partners may identify additional inputs needed from partners for the final report. Be sure to give partners sufficient time to prepare these inputs, and keep in mind partner staff availability as partner staff may depart the project earlier than CRS staff as field-level activities conclude ahead of the project end date.
- Share the final version of the report with partners. As needed, revise the report before sharing to avoid inadvertent sharing of any sensitive information.For example, information related to another stakeholder.
- Encourage partners to write their own final reports that document their project accomplishments as well as any challenges they faced in managing their components of the project. Partners can also use such reports with their stakeholders and prospective donors, and for partner-level institutional learning. Support partners as needed with tailoring their reports to these different audiences.
- When CRS is a sub-recipient, the prime will typically request a final report. Prepare CRS’ final report following the prime’s guidance, including any templates from the prime or donor. If the prime does not provide guidance, use the guidance above and the CRS Final Project Report Template.
- Request the prime to share a copy of the final report submitted to the donor.
- Use the report submitted to the prime to prepare an internal final report for CRS that includes CRS and partner key learning from the project, information that may help position CRS with other donors, and observations and recommendations related to CRS’ experience working with the prime. File this report on Gateway under both the award record and the institution record for the prime.
- Follow the process outlined above, keeping in mind that for emergency responses funded by multiple donors, CRS may prepare an overall final report on the response. Use the overall emergency response final report as possible to meet donor final report requirements; modify it as needed to address the interests and requirements of specific donors.
- If you are working on a large-scale emergency where several Caritas Internationalis (CI) Members are responding and/or supporting a response of the national Caritas, please refer to the Protocol for CI Coordination in Emergency Response, Emergency Framework and Toolkit for Emergency Response documents on the CI Baobab website. Please review the guidance on Closure of an Emergency Appeal in the Toolkit Manual. If you are not registered on the CI Baobab site, pleaseregister here.When registering for the CI Baobab site, CRS staff should select "Caritas United States - CRS" as their organization and list the Humanitarian Response Department and email@example.com as the reference contact. If you have any questions, please contact CRS’ Humanitarian Response Department (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Even if the emergency project is not part of a wider CI response, keep in mind that, 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.
Tools and templates
- Primary responsible : Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)