PRISM: Practical Impact Assessment Methods Small and Medium-sized Conservation Projects: April 2016 blog entry

6th April 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 contribute to an improvement in evidence-based conservation delivery, efficiency and effectiveness in the long-term. For further information, please visit the project page on the CCI website.

The following blog is written by Jenny Merriman, Ecosystem Services Officer/ Science, Policy and Information Management Team, BirdLife International (Project Lead).

Photo credits: Ade Long

Developing guidance and workshop planning

Overall our project is progressing well since it began in October 2015.

An initial meeting was held in October 2015 to plan the project and agree the direction that the project would take. This meeting was also used to identify gaps and priorities to address through the project, as well as to initiate a review of existing resources relating to impact assessment approaches for small-medium sized conservation projects. We also contacted a number of small grants donors to discuss their current requirements for impact assessment and current approaches used. Based on this, an outline of available guidance and methods for projects has been developed collaboratively by the team.

In addition to four project team meetings to date, the team has engaged in a number of meetings both with individuals within CCI and with external individuals with relevant experience. These have been extremely useful in bringing additional insights into the project.

A workshop in April 2016 will bring together between 40-50 academics, donors, NGO staff and small-medium sized project practitioners to address the key issues that have been identified so far and further develop methods and guidance.

Pilot projects have been identified for the testing phase. The project has secured additional funding from WWF International and the Jensen Foundation to support piloting and coordination.

Our experience of collaboration

So far our experience of collaboration has been extremely positive. The project is looking to address a multi-faceted, cross cutting issue and each organisation involved in the project brings a different perspective and range of experiences.

The project has been successful in engaging external audiences and bringing in experience and knowledge from beyond the core project team.

The main challenges we’ve encountered to date have been around dedicating adequate time to the project and division of tasks among the team to ensure continuity of content. Other than the project officer, very little time is funded for project team members, which greatly restricts their ability to prioritise this alongside other institutional commitments.

Measures that we’ve put in place to help overcome these challenges include giving each team member responsibility for delivering a different component of the project, having first agreed on a clear set of principles with which to develop content. Frequent team meetings, and direct support from the project officer on writing content of the manual, also help to maximise team cohesion and ensure the project outputs are consistent.

Planning the PRISM manual and project outputs

The first draft of the PRISM manual will be completed by the end of June 2016. The project will then go into a testing period where the methods and guidance materials provided in the manual will be tested at a number of project sites across a range of countries and project contexts.

Outputs from our project will include: 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, and a review of impact assessment methods for small-medium sized conservation projects and of the pilot impact assessments.

All of these outputs will be available from the project page on the CCI website. In the meantime, if you have any questions about our project, please drop the project lead, Jenny Merriman, a line on