Sophie Alvarez on Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis

Hi, my name is Sophie Alvarez and I work in the Challenge Programme on Water and Food (CPWF) as a consultant in monitoring and evaluation. During Phase I of the CPWF, we began developing an evaluation and monitoring methodology where a group of project researchers and some of their stakeholders get together and map the project’s expected ‘impact pathways’: the Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA)

We have been enriching PIPA through using it in varied settings. PIPA is methodology that draws from the fields of program theory evaluation, social network analysis and research to understand and foster innovation. PIPA begins with a workshop in which project or program leaders and stakeholders get together and ‘map out’ the pathways they think the project will follow to achieve impact, and who they will need to work with to move along successfully down their pathways. Participants of the workshop work on agreeing on a vision, discuss and draw maps of the partnerships they will work in, and make explicit their theories of how the project will function: from activities to outcomes and impact. These mapped ‘outcome pathways’ and ‘theories of change (TOC)’ become the project’s ‘blueprints’ that can then be monitored by visiting and adjusting them periodically, and which can also be used for ex-post impact evaluation.

PIPA- thinking encourages project leaders to think beyond the scope of a single project, and it requires that project interested parties make explicit and discuss what it is they want to do, and how.  PIPA engages stakeholders in a structured participatory process, promoting learning and understanding of issues such as scaling up and out networks (the way the project’s innovations get adopted and mainstreamed at local, national and international levels), adaptive management and monitoring and evaluation for learning. Project Leaders also derive outcome targets and milestones which are regularly revisited and revised as part of project monitoring and evaluation (M&E).

Hot Tips:

  • The PIPA workshop works best with a group of 4-5 projects, with 3-4 participants from each. It also works well when you invite final users, policy makers and other actors who are interested in the outcomes of your project.
  • Get projects thinking on their activities to outputs to outcomes and impact routes. Remind them that their project’s influence doesn’t finish when the project does!
  • Use all the group dynamics and facilitation powers to get people to really discuss and go beyond platitudes: we incorporate in our workshops many of the tools and methods found in this Knowledge Sharing Toolkit.

You can go here to see our PIPA publications, and for more references.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to

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