PRISM: Practical Impact Assessment Methods for Small and Medium-sized Conservation Projects

The strategies and objectives of conservation projects are varied. As well as positive impacts on biodiversity (reflected in the population size, trends or distribution of species, extent or quality of habitat, and/or reductions in threats), they may include changing attitudes and behaviours, influencing policy and decision-making, raising awareness, building capacity or improving livelihoods and wellbeing. Much conservation is undertaken through small- and medium-scale grants and projects.

Monitoring the impacts of such efforts creates particular challenges, and as a result it is often difficult to determine their impact, even though this is critical to an organisation’s ability to:

  • Demonstrate effectiveness and so access continued funding
  • Learn from experience and develop and apply good practice and approaches that work
  • Share experiences to benefit the global community
  • Carry out evidence-based conservation interventions, policy and advocacy

There exists considerable experience of methods for impact assessment among CCI and other conservation organisations. However, many CCI organisations are struggling to effectively monitor impacts of SMCPs in a simple, yet scientifically credible manner because of insufficient guidance for less resource-intensive approaches. Yet donors are increasingly looking for more evidence-based impacts of the projects they fund.

This project will bring together academics and conservation practitioners, working across a range of disciplines (social and natural sciences, policy, education and awareness), together with relevant donors to review and evaluate experience, identify good practice and develop guidance suited to the challenges. The purpose of this project is to develop tools and guidance to improve the way in which conservation practitioners assess the impacts of small-medium budget conservation projects (SMCPs), and so contribute to an improvement in evidence-based conservation delivery, efficiency and effectiveness in the long-term.

This project is funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation

Project Aims

This project aims to identify methods and develop guidance for assessing the impacts of conservation projects, focussing in particular on methods that:

  • Are simple and proportional (cost-wise)
  • Do not require high-levels of expertise
  • Produce scientifically robust results
  • Balance the gains from learning about single interventions against the demands of evaluating the entire project
  • Are informative and explanatory for managers and decision-makers
  • Are not necessarily dependent on a prior baseline assessment

The project will examine outcomes relating to:

  • Biodiversity
  • Livelihoods and wellbeing
  • Capacity (of institutions and individuals)
  • Awareness, attitudes and behaviours
  • Policy and decision-making

Key Activities

The project will:

  • Collate existing material for assessing different types of conservation impacts relevant for small-medium-sized conservation projects;
  • Review requirements and methods used by grantees for reporting impacts;
  • Evaluate existing approaches, identifying strengths/weaknesses and key gaps in terms of simple low-cost methods;
  • Host an expert workshop and identify the range of relevant approaches for monitoring and impact assessment;
  • Develop content of a guidance manual and pilot it across up to eight projects
  • Revise guidance based on user-feedback;


Conservation Impact

Conservation organisations are able to effectively measure the impacts of small-medium projects in a simple, yet scientifically credible way. Thus being able to draw on and share experiences of what works and what doesn’t work and to contribute to an improvement in evidence-based conservation delivery, efficiency and effectiveness in the long-term.


  • A CCI-branded downloadable guidance manual of methods targeting small-medium sized conservation projects.
  • Up to eight field projects that have used the methods to assess their impact
  • Increased capacity for monitoring impacts of projects across CCI partner organisations
  • A review of impact assessment methods for small-medium sized conservation projects and of the pilot impact assessments

CCI partners Involved

The UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is the specialist biodiversity assessment arm of the United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s foremost intergovernmental...
Tropical Biology Association is dedicated to building the capacity and expertise of people and institutions to conserve and manage biodiversity in tropical regions. Its network spans 40 countries.
The Department of Zoology carries out wide-ranging work in ecology and conservation including conservation science, aquatic ecology, pathogen evolution and evolutionary ecology. Research of the...
BirdLife International is a strategic global partnership of conservation organisations in over 100 countries, working to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, and to promote...
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. It is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in...
British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is an independent scientific research trust specialising in impartial evidence-based knowledge and advice about populations, movements and ecology of birds and...
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and that take account of human needs....

Related Resources

Resource Title Description Type
PRISM evaluation toolkit PRISM is an evaluation toolkit to help conservation practitioners improve the way they evaluate the outcomes and impacts of conservation projects. PRISM has been developed by a collaboration of... Website resource

Project blog posts

6 Apr 2016
The purpose of this project is to develop tools and guidance to improve the way in which conservation practitioners assess the impacts of small-medium budget conservation projects (SMCPs), and so...