Learning note: Institutional

Lessons from our pilots

Building flexibility, accountability and scaling strategies into indigenous and local-community led initiatives

The Tenure Facility funded six pilot projects between 2014 and 2017 to test and refine approaches for supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities in their efforts to secure their rights to land and forests. Through learning and reflection sessions and knowledge exchanges, the Tenure Facility and pilot participants learned ways to maintain flexibility while ensuring accountability, work with governments, and plan strategies for horizontal and vertical scaling of catalytic innovations.

“A key success factor of the Tenure Facility initiative has been its flexibility, which has allowed country leaders to respond to political dynamics as they unfold and align project goals to emerging stakeholder needs. The funding mechanism and design plans were flexible enough to respond the real project needs. Rigid resources do not respond to changing dynamics and political opportunities.”
– Pilot leader at the Pilot Leaders’ Learning Exchange in Washington D.C. in October 2016

Author(s):
Filippo Del Gatto

 

Date:
September 2017

Lessons learned and recommendations

1.

Designing for flexibility

Lessons learned

  • Indigenous Peoples and local communities are better served by project plans that gradually “emerge,” than by detailed plans made in advance.
  • An iterative design process provides the flexibility to respond to changing contexts, unexpected outcomes, emerging opportunities and unanticipated risks.

Recommendations

  • When designing projects with Indigenous Peoples and local communities, emphasize “problem structuring” and “process mapping” approaches rather than detailed advance planning of activities.

Learn more >

2.

Balancing flexibility and accountability

Lessons learned

  • The Tenure Facility can achieve the right balance of flexibility and accountability by relying less on formal reporting and more on frequent monitoring by trusted “Country Focal Points” complemented by occasional visits by expert consultants.

Recommendations

  • Manage expectations of both our indigenous and local partners and our donors with respect to flexibility and accountability, and encourage innovation while ensuring respect for agreements.
  • Appoint respected and trusted Tenure Facility Country Focal Points in the countries where we work.

Learn more >

3.

Building trust and communication

Lessons learned

  • Trusting relationships and good communication are crucial success factors in project design and implementation. They speed decision-making, cut transaction costs, and facilitate autonomous leadership by Indigenous Peoples and local communities in their efforts to secure their rights to lands and forest.
  • For all engaged in Tenure Facility initiatives, regular face-to-face contact is important.

Recommendations

  • Build trusting relationships through regular face-to-face contact among project participants and Tenure Facility staff, Country Focal Points and consultants.

Learn more >

4.

Engaging with governments

Lessons learned

  • Governments value partnerships with “legitimate” indigenous, local and civil society organizations. They value their knowledge of citizen needs and realities on the ground, as well as expertise which they may not have.
  • Governments expect delivery of tangible outputs and results, high-quality reporting and accountability from partners.
  • Tenure Facility Country Focal Points help to build trusting relationships between government officials, civil society organizations, and Indigenous Peoples’ and local community organizations.

Recommendations

  • Continue to develop and implement country-specific strategies for engaging with governments and deploying Country Focal Points.

Learn more >

5.

Monitoring, evaluation and learning

Lessons learned

  • Pilot leaders are helping us develop a living, evolving knowledge base for supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities. They recommend that they continue to monitor and learn from Tenure Facility initiatives, after projects close, to monitor the impacts of the initiatives and continue the learning.
  • We can strengthen our initiatives by taking advantage of learning from other organizations.
  • Learning and reflection visits help build capacity of country partners to do their own MEL.

Recommendations

  • Include former project leaders in our learning “circle.”
  • Draw on materials, approaches, and best practices shared by others working on tenure security around the world.
  • Hold learning and reflection sessions early in initiatives to build capacity for MEL.

Learn more >

6.

Scaling up

Lessons learned

  • Scaling is not only a technical process, but a political one. Scaling up requires supportive constituencies within governments. To scale up their achievements, indigenous and local communities must move their agenda into the public domain and stir political discussion.

Recommendations

  • Develop explicit plans for scaling in project design, including building constituencies within governments.

Learn more >

Our challenge

The Rights and Resources Initiative began incubating the nascent institution Tenure Facility in 2014. After formal registration as an independent international foundation in Stockholm in 2017, the Tenure Facility entered a three-year establishment phase (2017-2019) to separate its operations from RRI, consolidate its governance, and improve its eligibility for direct donor funding. In this establishment phase, we are adjusting our initiatives according to the lessons we are learning from our operations and from others, and refining our structure, strategies, and approaches.

From the outset of this work, we aimed to ensure that the Tenure Facility brings value to Indigenous Peoples and local communities and continuously evolves to meet the needs of the people we serve. To achieve this, we engaged Indigenous Peoples and local communities, as well as other stakeholders, in designing the Tenure Facility, testing approaches, and leading the organization as members of our Board and Advisory Group. The most visible aspect of our approach is how we conducted pilot projects with diverse grantees in six countries with a variety of ecosystems: in Indonesia, Cameroon, Liberia, Mali, Panama, and Peru. The pilots involved different kinds of organizations and tested different approaches, tools and ways of engaging with governments, as seen in Table 1.

Table 1: Tenure Facility pilot countries, organizations, approaches tested and approaches to government engagement

Indigenous Peoples and local community organizations sometimes experience difficulties working with donors. They say some donors’ project planning toolkits and “rationale” frameworks disempower them, dismiss their concerns and perspectives, and facilitate the external determination of project objectives and activities. We know there are cultural and procedural constraints on both sides that often limit the development of trusting relationships. Donors are often constrained by regulations and internal policies, while some Indigenous Peoples and local community organizations have limited administration and reporting capacities. In addition, the history of marginalization and paternalism has bequeathed a range of social and cultural problems that often impede or complicate communication, mutual understanding, and the building of trust.

The Tenure Facility set out to overcome some of these barriers, in response to demand from Indigenous Peoples and local communities and a growing recognition that significant results can be achieved when Indigenous Peoples and local communities assume more responsibility for their own initiatives.

We ensured that the Tenure Facility’s governance structure included representatives of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, the private sector and governments who were sensitive to, rather than dismissive of, local and experiential knowledge of land and forest tenure in developing countries. Relying on locally designed projects, an agile management structure, and outsourcing of service delivery, we aimed to have the necessary flexibility and speed that indigenous and community organizations need to take advantage of strategic windows of opportunity for advancing their land rights. By focusing on relatively small grants of US$0.2 to $3 million per project over two to three years, we also aim to attract donors who want more flexible funding channels to support Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

We envisaged the pilots as the best way to test and refine these propositions of flexibility and responsiveness. Some stakeholders voiced concern that the processes of formal establishment of our organization and expansion of our grant-making could unintentionally undermine these principles of flexibility and responsiveness. In response to that concern, strengthening adherence to the principles of flexibility and responsiveness emerged as a crucial dimension for the Tenure Facility’s institutional development.

Since 2014, we have been sharing our learning and adapted our approaches. As set out in the Tenure Facility Learning Strategy, pilot leaders, Tenure Facility staff and expert consultants exchanged ideas, experiences and lessons at biannual meetings. We conducted six learning and reflection visits. We also shared our learning with an assessment team in 2017.

This learning note captures ideas and lessons shared during group discussions with each of the six pilot initiatives and provides recommendations for adjusting our approaches at the Tenure Facility that other organizations might find useful as well.

 

What we learned

1.

Designing for flexibility

Pilot leaders said they frequently or constantly responded to rapidly shifting contexts and to unanticipated outcomes of project work, such as spontaneous replication of project activities or spin-off effects on social and political processes. They highlighted the value of the Tenure Facility’s project design approach which emphasizes “problem structuring” and “process mapping” over detailed activity planning in advance. They said activities are often better planned as the project progresses, and the results of previous actions are known.

When asked about the challenges such a flexible approach poses for project monitoring, project leaders said they found “project milestones” to be more useful and effective indicators for demonstrating progress than the kind of indicators normally associated with detailed plans. In the contexts that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are working in, we cannot assume that objectives will remain relevant throughout the duration of the project. These findings suggest Indigenous Peoples and local communities are better served by a project plan that gradually “emerges” than by detailed plans that are made in advance. They called for an iterative process, and the flexibility to respond to changing contexts, unexpected outcomes, emerging opportunities and unanticipated risks.

2.

Balancing flexibility and accountability

Pilot leaders emphasized the importance of combining flexibility with rigorous reporting and accountability. The Tenure Facility intentionally avoided being too “hands off” with the pilots. We understood that flexibility is not about giving money and walking away, an approach that can undermine accountability and trust. On the other hand, we understood that demanding too much reporting and accounting can be perceived to be paternalistic control. As a nascent institution, the Tenure Facility developed alternative approaches, which are to some degree country- and project-specific. We relied less on formal reports and more on frequent monitoring by the Tenure Facility’s trusted Country Focal Points, and occasional visits by expert consultants.

During the pilots, the weakness of relying on written reporting and the value of monitoring and reflection was confirmed. The pilots also showed us that establishing a mutually acceptable method for open and dynamic communication at the beginning is an important success factor in achieving the right balance of flexibility and accountability. Receiving timely feedback on how funds are being used by project implementers is also essential.

As we go forward, we will need to manage expectations of both our indigenous and local partners and our donors with respect to flexibility and accountability, and encourage innovation while ensuring respect for agreements.

3.

Building trust and communication

Pilot leaders said trust and good communication with the Tenure Facility’s focal points and consultants were crucial to successful implementation. They said trusting relationships speeded decision making and cut transaction costs. Trust also encouraged direct communication and facilitated project autonomy. In some pilot projects trust was based on prior relationships and friendships. In others, for example Peru and Panama, parties built trusting relationships through regular and open communication during the project design and implementation processes. Pilot leaders said field visits and face-to-face meetings enhanced trust. Despite the ease of electronic communication, personal contact was especially important.

Above, traditional chiefs, participating in a meeting of the Strategic Advisory Committee of the Tenure Facility pilot project. These face-to-face meetings build trusting relationships between NGOs, traditional chiefs and government officials.

4.

Engaging with governments

Our theory of change recognizes that governments are responsible for implementing land and forest tenure security. Developing productive, collaborative relationships with government agencies is therefore a prerequisite for success. When considering pilots, we looked for interest in the initiative among key government ministries, and confirmed that they would not oppose. We also sought and funded diverse government engagement strategies. In the Liberian pilot, for example, the pilot relied on a close partnership between one government agency and four different civil society organizations. Their open discussions and willingness to challenge each other led to a rethinking of the foundational concepts underlying the initiative. The Peru pilot pioneered a unique partnership between an Indigenous People’s federation, an NGO and a regional government. This innovation enabled the Regional Government of Madre de Dios to fulfill its responsibility for titling under existing law. From Liberia, Peru, and our other pilots, we learned more about engaging with governments.

What do governments value? What motivates them to engage in partnerships?

These are important questions to ask when collaboration with government is crucial. Through the pilots we learned that governments value indigenous and civil society organizations as partners when the organizations legitimately represent the interests of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Governments value partnerships with organizations that offer in-depth knowledge of citizen needs and realities on the ground. They value organizations that offer specialized expertise that they don’t have, such as in mapping and conflict management. Lastly, governments value relationships with organizations that deliver tangible outputs and results, provide high-quality reporting and are accountable. When indigenous and local organizations cannot live up to these expectations, relationships can falter. In the Liberian pilot, for example, one instance of misreporting by an NGO about the level of community consultation significantly damaged the relationship between the Liberia Land Authority and civil society organizations, until the work was redone with more time and attention.

How do we close the gap between government commitments and their slow or weak implementation of indigenous and local tenure rights?

Lack of political will and technical capacity are two major causes of the gap, which affected all pilots to some degree. Strategies to close the gap were important factors in the pilots’ success, and varied according to national contexts. Tactics included raising awareness, building capacities, developing relationships with technical staff on technical aspects, and offering external support for carrying out specific, mutually agreed tasks. In some pilots, the Tenure Facility’s Country Focal Points played important roles, facilitating relations between governments and NGOs. These highly experienced and respected individuals engaged senior government officials and encourage their high-level commitment.

Bridging the perceived divide between service providers and advocacy organizations

Many of us divide civil society organizations into two camps: those that provide services and those that advocate for change and challenge state policies. The pilots helped to bridge this artificial divide. They showed us that policy reform can be encouraged and implemented by civil society organizations that both advocate and provide services to resolve complex political and legal issues. For examples, civil society organizations associated with the pilots helped governments by drafting local decrees, managing land conflicts and developing guidelines. Their innovative approaches supported local and national policy reform processes. Examples include the inclusion of village-level Land Commissions in Mali’s new Rural Land Law, and SPDA’s analysis of regulatory barriers presented to Peru’s government. Both achievements were made possible using evidence gathered during pilot activities.

SPDA’s analysis, above, identified the problems and solutions related to governance, institutions, and procedures for achieving collective title of indigenous lands and forests.

5.

Monitoring, evaluating and learning

Keep learning closely connected to project experiences—both current and past

For a grant-giving institution such as the Tenure Facility, “learning” means gaining insights from country and project experiences. To learn, we must listen carefully to our project leaders and other project stakeholders. Project leaders are asking us to keep on listening, after projects end, to monitor the longer-term impacts of Tenure Facility initiatives, to continue to learn from their interventions, and to provide opportunities for their learning. We are committed to doing that. We believe the participation of project leaders during and after initiatives will help us develop a living, evolving knowledge base.

Learning from others

In the incubation phase, we relied on project leaders to draw on learning from others as they implemented the pilots. Although there was value in this approach, we learned that we have not adequately taken advantage of learning from others beyond our project leaders and Advisory Group. Observers have suggested that we be more “outward looking,” and make better use of materials, approaches, and best practices shared by others working on tenure security around the world.

“Don’t reinvent the wheel. Become an expert in learning from others. That would make the Tenure Facility truly innovative!”
– Tenure Facility Advisory Group member

Linking learning to monitoring and evaluation

At our first Learning Exchange in London in 2016, pilot leaders and other stakeholders told us to avoid traditional, static approaches to monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL), such as publications or online portals. We responded by establishing a process for defining alternative pathways for linking learning to monitoring and evaluation, with a strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement in project experiences, joint learning with government agencies, and horizontal exchanges. Pilot leaders appreciated this change. Our efforts to regularly bring together project implementers, other indigenous and community organizations, government authorities and other actors have enabled pilot leaders to share their ideas, experiences and achievements, refine working and monitoring approaches, and develop relationships with other indigenous and community-based organizations. Participants in the first Africa Learning Exchange in Dakar in 2017, recommended that we expand these events to reach the sub-regional or national levels. We held the first sub-regional in June 2017, with Mali pilot leaders visiting neighbouring Burkina Faso to share lessons on village-level land commissions and land conflict prevention and management. Participants in the Burkina Faso Learning Exchange valued the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other project implementers and leaders from other organizations.

Above, participants in the Africa Learning Exchange in 2017.

Learning and reflection visits

In response to requests to explore alternative MEL approaches, a Tenure Facility learning facilitator visited pilot teams and other national actors to support their reflection on whether project activities were meeting their objectives, and to identity emerging opportunities they might exploit. Pilot leaders said the learning and reflection visits helped them ensure that project results, new directions, and adjustments were identified and documented. Some grantees said the visits helped them build capacities. For the Tenure Facility, the visits helped us respond to needs for additional technical assistance in a timely way, and supplemented information that we found lacking in reports from grantees. We learned from these exercises that planning and timing are important to derive the greatest benefits. In the pilot phase, we conducted a visit toward the end of the first year. An earlier visit would help grantees design their own MEL approach.

Supporting report writing

The Tenure Facility purposefully gave limited guidance to pilots regarding its expectations for written reports, leaving reporting at the discretion of the grantee out of respect for cultural and organizational differences among grantees. We realized that the quality of written reports did not meet the Tenure Facility’s needs for documenting activities and results, a common concern with action-oriented organizations that are often overextended by multiple agendas. We realized that more guidance and support was needed, including a set of key questions to guide reflection and reporting, such as the following.

  • What was the main focus of project activities during the reporting period?
  • What do you see as successes and key results? Do you have numerical figures that help to answer questions about ‘‘what,’’ ‘‘where,” and ‘‘how many’’?
  • What were the challenges faced and adjustments made?
  • What is the impact so far? Do you have stories or simple case studies that tell the ‘‘why’’ and ‘‘how’’ stories?
  • What have you learned? What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? Why were there differences? What did you learn from this experience?
  • What are your next steps?

6.

Scaling up to achieve our goal

Our projects are relatively small in scale, focused on new approaches and tools. Our theory of change recognizes that our overall goal of increasing the area of tropical forest under secure indigenous and community tenure by 40-90 million hectares in 10 years will not be achieved through direct grant support alone. Instead, our ability to achieve this goal depends on governments, partners and others scaling up initiatives supported by the Tenure Facility. Through the pilots, we learned lessons that will help us scale up.

Scaling up requires supportive constituencies within governments

Some development practitioners believe that news of a “successful intervention” is sufficient to secure further funding and scale up. But our three African pilots (Cameroon, Liberia, and Mali) found, as shared during their Learning Exchange, that scaling up requires building supportive constituencies within government constituencies. We learned that scaling up is not only a technical process; it is also a political one. To scale up we must move an agenda into the public domain and stir political discussion. Our pilot leaders said constituency-building involves more than providing information about a successful project, or inviting government to project meetings. They must regularly talk to and work with government in order to build a constituency within government that feels engaged in the process, and help political leaders discover that it is in their interest to support a scaling-up process for securing collective land and forest rights. In the Indonesia case, the pilot built constituencies within local governments. Then local parliamentarians from one district helped to scale up the process to another district, building a movement that ultimately garnered significant national government attention. In the Peru pilot, the pilot partners built constituencies within a regional government as well as key national ministries.

Scaling up has several dimensions

Some pilots have already experienced “horizontal scaling” of an innovation. In Indonesia, for example, the use of local legislation to secure Indigenous Peoples’ land tenure spread far beyond the initial five pilot districts to ignite a movement that is spreading across Indonesia. The development of a common methodology for participatory mapping in Cameroon is set to scale across Cameroon, as is the guideline for community self-identification developed in Liberia. These approaches can be scaled in multiple locations, by various implementers supported by different donors.

Click on the video above to learn how the Tenure Facility pilot initiative in Indonesia is scaling up.

Some pilots have experienced “vertical scaling” as well. Vertical scaling occurs through the expansion of long-term commitment among different levels of government, as well as among donors, private sector actors and civil society organizations. It builds the institutional and political framework needed for going to a larger scale, as shown for example by the work of the piloting initiatives in Cameroon, Liberia, Mali, and Peru.

We assume that sustained change is most likely to occur when vertical and horizontal scaling go hand-in-hand. Our pilots are testing that assumption as well as operational assumptions embedded in our theory of change. We expect to learn lessons about scaling up that will be valuable to countries, donors, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and civil society organizations.

Designing to scale

Scaling up is a complex and long-term challenge faced by most of the initiatives we support. The six pilots showed us that scaling requires additional monitoring and engagement by the Tenure Facility, focusing on adaptive management and planning, defining roles, and effective communication. A clear lesson and recommendation that emerged from our Learning Exchange in Washington DC in 2016 was that our initiatives need to include the broad contours of an explicit scaling-up strategy in the project proposal.

Lessons from our pilots

Building flexibility, accountability and scaling strategies into indigenous and local-community led initiatives

The Tenure Facility funded six pilot projects between 2014 and 2017 to test and refine approaches for supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities in their efforts to secure their rights to land and forests. Through learning and reflection sessions and knowledge exchanges, the Tenure Facility and pilot participants learned ways to maintain flexibility while ensuring accountability, work with governments, and plan strategies for horizontal and vertical scaling of catalytic innovations.

“A key success factor of the Tenure Facility initiative has been its flexibility, which has allowed country leaders to respond to political dynamics as they unfold and align project goals to emerging stakeholder needs. The funding mechanism and design plans were flexible enough to respond the real project needs. Rigid resources do not respond to changing dynamics and political opportunities.”
– Pilot leader at the Pilot Leaders’ Learning Exchange in Washington D.C. in October 2016

Author(s):
Filippo Del Gatto

 

Date:
September 2017

Lessons learned and recommendations

1.

Designing for flexibility

Lessons learned

  • Indigenous Peoples and local communities are better served by project plans that gradually “emerge,” than by detailed plans made in advance.
  • An iterative design process provides the flexibility to respond to changing contexts, unexpected outcomes, emerging opportunities and unanticipated risks.

Recommendations

  • When designing projects with Indigenous Peoples and local communities, emphasize “problem structuring” and “process mapping” approaches rather than detailed advance planning of activities.

Learn more >

2.

Balancing flexibility and accountability

Lessons learned

  • The Tenure Facility can achieve the right balance of flexibility and accountability by relying less on formal reporting and more on frequent monitoring by trusted “Country Focal Points” complemented by occasional visits by expert consultants.

Recommendations

  • Manage expectations of both our indigenous and local partners and our donors with respect to flexibility and accountability, and encourage innovation while ensuring respect for agreements.
  • Appoint respected and trusted Tenure Facility Country Focal Points in the countries where we work.

Learn more >

3.

Building trust and communication

Lessons learned

  • Trusting relationships and good communication are crucial success factors in project design and implementation. They speed decision-making, cut transaction costs, and facilitate autonomous leadership by Indigenous Peoples and local communities in their efforts to secure their rights to lands and forest.
  • For all engaged in Tenure Facility initiatives, regular face-to-face contact is important.

Recommendations

  • Build trusting relationships through regular face-to-face contact among project participants and Tenure Facility staff, Country Focal Points and consultants.

Learn more >

4.

Engaging with governments

Lessons learned

  • Governments value partnerships with “legitimate” indigenous, local and civil society organizations. They value their knowledge of citizen needs and realities on the ground, as well as expertise which they may not have.
  • Governments expect delivery of tangible outputs and results, high-quality reporting and accountability from partners.
  • Tenure Facility Country Focal Points help to build trusting relationships between government officials, civil society organizations, and Indigenous Peoples’ and local community organizations.

Recommendations

  • Continue to develop and implement country-specific strategies for engaging with governments and deploying Country Focal Points.

Learn more >

5.

Monitoring, evaluation and learning

Lessons learned

  • Pilot leaders are helping us develop a living, evolving knowledge base for supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities. They recommend that they continue to monitor and learn from Tenure Facility initiatives, after projects close, to monitor the impacts of the initiatives and continue the learning.
  • We can strengthen our initiatives by taking advantage of learning from other organizations.
  • Learning and reflection visits help build capacity of country partners to do their own MEL.

Recommendations

  • Include former project leaders in our learning “circle.”
  • Draw on materials, approaches, and best practices shared by others working on tenure security around the world.
  • Hold learning and reflection sessions early in initiatives to build capacity for MEL.

Learn more >

6.

Scaling up

Lessons learned

  • Scaling is not only a technical process, but a political one. Scaling up requires supportive constituencies within governments. To scale up their achievements, indigenous and local communities must move their agenda into the public domain and stir political discussion.

Recommendations

  • Develop explicit plans for scaling in project design, including building constituencies within governments.

Learn more >

Our challenge

The Rights and Resources Initiative began incubating the nascent institution Tenure Facility in 2014. After formal registration as an independent international foundation in Stockholm in 2017, the Tenure Facility entered a three-year establishment phase (2017-2019) to separate its operations from RRI, consolidate its governance, and improve its eligibility for direct donor funding. In this establishment phase, we are adjusting our initiatives according to the lessons we are learning from our operations and from others, and refining our structure, strategies, and approaches.

From the outset of this work, we aimed to ensure that the Tenure Facility brings value to Indigenous Peoples and local communities and continuously evolves to meet the needs of the people we serve. To achieve this, we engaged Indigenous Peoples and local communities, as well as other stakeholders, in designing the Tenure Facility, testing approaches, and leading the organization as members of our Board and Advisory Group. The most visible aspect of our approach is how we conducted pilot projects with diverse grantees in six countries with a variety of ecosystems: in Indonesia, Cameroon, Liberia, Mali, Panama, and Peru. The pilots involved different kinds of organizations and tested different approaches, tools and ways of engaging with governments, as seen in Table 1.

Table 1: Tenure Facility pilot countries, organizations, approaches tested and approaches to government engagement

Indigenous Peoples and local community organizations sometimes experience difficulties working with donors. They say some donors’ project planning toolkits and “rationale” frameworks disempower them, dismiss their concerns and perspectives, and facilitate the external determination of project objectives and activities. We know there are cultural and procedural constraints on both sides that often limit the development of trusting relationships. Donors are often constrained by regulations and internal policies, while some Indigenous Peoples and local community organizations have limited administration and reporting capacities. In addition, the history of marginalization and paternalism has bequeathed a range of social and cultural problems that often impede or complicate communication, mutual understanding, and the building of trust.

The Tenure Facility set out to overcome some of these barriers, in response to demand from Indigenous Peoples and local communities and a growing recognition that significant results can be achieved when Indigenous Peoples and local communities assume more responsibility for their own initiatives.

We ensured that the Tenure Facility’s governance structure included representatives of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, the private sector and governments who were sensitive to, rather than dismissive of, local and experiential knowledge of land and forest tenure in developing countries. Relying on locally designed projects, an agile management structure, and outsourcing of service delivery, we aimed to have the necessary flexibility and speed that indigenous and community organizations need to take advantage of strategic windows of opportunity for advancing their land rights. By focusing on relatively small grants of US$0.2 to $3 million per project over two to three years, we also aim to attract donors who want more flexible funding channels to support Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

We envisaged the pilots as the best way to test and refine these propositions of flexibility and responsiveness. Some stakeholders voiced concern that the processes of formal establishment of our organization and expansion of our grant-making could unintentionally undermine these principles of flexibility and responsiveness. In response to that concern, strengthening adherence to the principles of flexibility and responsiveness emerged as a crucial dimension for the Tenure Facility’s institutional development.

Since 2014, we have been sharing our learning and adapted our approaches. As set out in the Tenure Facility Learning Strategy, pilot leaders, Tenure Facility staff and expert consultants exchanged ideas, experiences and lessons at biannual meetings. We conducted six learning and reflection visits. We also shared our learning with an assessment team in 2017.

This learning note captures ideas and lessons shared during group discussions with each of the six pilot initiatives and provides recommendations for adjusting our approaches at the Tenure Facility that other organizations might find useful as well.

 

What we learned

1.

Designing for flexibility

Pilot leaders said they frequently or constantly responded to rapidly shifting contexts and to unanticipated outcomes of project work, such as spontaneous replication of project activities or spin-off effects on social and political processes. They highlighted the value of the Tenure Facility’s project design approach which emphasizes “problem structuring” and “process mapping” over detailed activity planning in advance. They said activities are often better planned as the project progresses, and the results of previous actions are known.

When asked about the challenges such a flexible approach poses for project monitoring, project leaders said they found “project milestones” to be more useful and effective indicators for demonstrating progress than the kind of indicators normally associated with detailed plans. In the contexts that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are working in, we cannot assume that objectives will remain relevant throughout the duration of the project. These findings suggest Indigenous Peoples and local communities are better served by a project plan that gradually “emerges” than by detailed plans that are made in advance. They called for an iterative process, and the flexibility to respond to changing contexts, unexpected outcomes, emerging opportunities and unanticipated risks.

2.

Balancing flexibility and accountability

Pilot leaders emphasized the importance of combining flexibility with rigorous reporting and accountability. The Tenure Facility intentionally avoided being too “hands off” with the pilots. We understood that flexibility is not about giving money and walking away, an approach that can undermine accountability and trust. On the other hand, we understood that demanding too much reporting and accounting can be perceived to be paternalistic control. As a nascent institution, the Tenure Facility developed alternative approaches, which are to some degree country- and project-specific. We relied less on formal reports and more on frequent monitoring by the Tenure Facility’s trusted Country Focal Points, and occasional visits by expert consultants.

During the pilots, the weakness of relying on written reporting and the value of monitoring and reflection was confirmed. The pilots also showed us that establishing a mutually acceptable method for open and dynamic communication at the beginning is an important success factor in achieving the right balance of flexibility and accountability. Receiving timely feedback on how funds are being used by project implementers is also essential.

As we go forward, we will need to manage expectations of both our indigenous and local partners and our donors with respect to flexibility and accountability, and encourage innovation while ensuring respect for agreements.

3.

Building trust and communication

Pilot leaders said trust and good communication with the Tenure Facility’s focal points and consultants were crucial to successful implementation. They said trusting relationships speeded decision making and cut transaction costs. Trust also encouraged direct communication and facilitated project autonomy. In some pilot projects trust was based on prior relationships and friendships. In others, for example Peru and Panama, parties built trusting relationships through regular and open communication during the project design and implementation processes. Pilot leaders said field visits and face-to-face meetings enhanced trust. Despite the ease of electronic communication, personal contact was especially important.

Above, traditional chiefs, participating in a meeting of the Strategic Advisory Committee of the Tenure Facility pilot project. These face-to-face meetings build trusting relationships between NGOs, traditional chiefs and government officials.

4.

Engaging with governments

Our theory of change recognizes that governments are responsible for implementing land and forest tenure security. Developing productive, collaborative relationships with government agencies is therefore a prerequisite for success. When considering pilots, we looked for interest in the initiative among key government ministries, and confirmed that they would not oppose. We also sought and funded diverse government engagement strategies. In the Liberian pilot, for example, the pilot relied on a close partnership between one government agency and four different civil society organizations. Their open discussions and willingness to challenge each other led to a rethinking of the foundational concepts underlying the initiative. The Peru pilot pioneered a unique partnership between an Indigenous People’s federation, an NGO and a regional government. This innovation enabled the Regional Government of Madre de Dios to fulfill its responsibility for titling under existing law. From Liberia, Peru, and our other pilots, we learned more about engaging with governments.

What do governments value? What motivates them to engage in partnerships?

These are important questions to ask when collaboration with government is crucial. Through the pilots we learned that governments value indigenous and civil society organizations as partners when the organizations legitimately represent the interests of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Governments value partnerships with organizations that offer in-depth knowledge of citizen needs and realities on the ground. They value organizations that offer specialized expertise that they don’t have, such as in mapping and conflict management. Lastly, governments value relationships with organizations that deliver tangible outputs and results, provide high-quality reporting and are accountable. When indigenous and local organizations cannot live up to these expectations, relationships can falter. In the Liberian pilot, for example, one instance of misreporting by an NGO about the level of community consultation significantly damaged the relationship between the Liberia Land Authority and civil society organizations, until the work was redone with more time and attention.

How do we close the gap between government commitments and their slow or weak implementation of indigenous and local tenure rights?

Lack of political will and technical capacity are two major causes of the gap, which affected all pilots to some degree. Strategies to close the gap were important factors in the pilots’ success, and varied according to national contexts. Tactics included raising awareness, building capacities, developing relationships with technical staff on technical aspects, and offering external support for carrying out specific, mutually agreed tasks. In some pilots, the Tenure Facility’s Country Focal Points played important roles, facilitating relations between governments and NGOs. These highly experienced and respected individuals engaged senior government officials and encourage their high-level commitment.

Bridging the perceived divide between service providers and advocacy organizations

Many of us divide civil society organizations into two camps: those that provide services and those that advocate for change and challenge state policies. The pilots helped to bridge this artificial divide. They showed us that policy reform can be encouraged and implemented by civil society organizations that both advocate and provide services to resolve complex political and legal issues. For examples, civil society organizations associated with the pilots helped governments by drafting local decrees, managing land conflicts and developing guidelines. Their innovative approaches supported local and national policy reform processes. Examples include the inclusion of village-level Land Commissions in Mali’s new Rural Land Law, and SPDA’s analysis of regulatory barriers presented to Peru’s government. Both achievements were made possible using evidence gathered during pilot activities.

SPDA’s analysis, above, identified the problems and solutions related to governance, institutions, and procedures for achieving collective title of indigenous lands and forests.

5.

Monitoring, evaluating and learning

Keep learning closely connected to project experiences—both current and past

For a grant-giving institution such as the Tenure Facility, “learning” means gaining insights from country and project experiences. To learn, we must listen carefully to our project leaders and other project stakeholders. Project leaders are asking us to keep on listening, after projects end, to monitor the longer-term impacts of Tenure Facility initiatives, to continue to learn from their interventions, and to provide opportunities for their learning. We are committed to doing that. We believe the participation of project leaders during and after initiatives will help us develop a living, evolving knowledge base.

Learning from others

In the incubation phase, we relied on project leaders to draw on learning from others as they implemented the pilots. Although there was value in this approach, we learned that we have not adequately taken advantage of learning from others beyond our project leaders and Advisory Group. Observers have suggested that we be more “outward looking,” and make better use of materials, approaches, and best practices shared by others working on tenure security around the world.

“Don’t reinvent the wheel. Become an expert in learning from others. That would make the Tenure Facility truly innovative!”
– Tenure Facility Advisory Group member

Linking learning to monitoring and evaluation

At our first Learning Exchange in London in 2016, pilot leaders and other stakeholders told us to avoid traditional, static approaches to monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL), such as publications or online portals. We responded by establishing a process for defining alternative pathways for linking learning to monitoring and evaluation, with a strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement in project experiences, joint learning with government agencies, and horizontal exchanges. Pilot leaders appreciated this change. Our efforts to regularly bring together project implementers, other indigenous and community organizations, government authorities and other actors have enabled pilot leaders to share their ideas, experiences and achievements, refine working and monitoring approaches, and develop relationships with other indigenous and community-based organizations. Participants in the first Africa Learning Exchange in Dakar in 2017, recommended that we expand these events to reach the sub-regional or national levels. We held the first sub-regional in June 2017, with Mali pilot leaders visiting neighbouring Burkina Faso to share lessons on village-level land commissions and land conflict prevention and management. Participants in the Burkina Faso Learning Exchange valued the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other project implementers and leaders from other organizations.

Above, participants in the Africa Learning Exchange in 2017.

Learning and reflection visits

In response to requests to explore alternative MEL approaches, a Tenure Facility learning facilitator visited pilot teams and other national actors to support their reflection on whether project activities were meeting their objectives, and to identity emerging opportunities they might exploit. Pilot leaders said the learning and reflection visits helped them ensure that project results, new directions, and adjustments were identified and documented. Some grantees said the visits helped them build capacities. For the Tenure Facility, the visits helped us respond to needs for additional technical assistance in a timely way, and supplemented information that we found lacking in reports from grantees. We learned from these exercises that planning and timing are important to derive the greatest benefits. In the pilot phase, we conducted a visit toward the end of the first year. An earlier visit would help grantees design their own MEL approach.

Supporting report writing

The Tenure Facility purposefully gave limited guidance to pilots regarding its expectations for written reports, leaving reporting at the discretion of the grantee out of respect for cultural and organizational differences among grantees. We realized that the quality of written reports did not meet the Tenure Facility’s needs for documenting activities and results, a common concern with action-oriented organizations that are often overextended by multiple agendas. We realized that more guidance and support was needed, including a set of key questions to guide reflection and reporting, such as the following.

  • What was the main focus of project activities during the reporting period?
  • What do you see as successes and key results? Do you have numerical figures that help to answer questions about ‘‘what,’’ ‘‘where,” and ‘‘how many’’?
  • What were the challenges faced and adjustments made?
  • What is the impact so far? Do you have stories or simple case studies that tell the ‘‘why’’ and ‘‘how’’ stories?
  • What have you learned? What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? Why were there differences? What did you learn from this experience?
  • What are your next steps?

6.

Scaling up to achieve our goal

Our projects are relatively small in scale, focused on new approaches and tools. Our theory of change recognizes that our overall goal of increasing the area of tropical forest under secure indigenous and community tenure by 40-90 million hectares in 10 years will not be achieved through direct grant support alone. Instead, our ability to achieve this goal depends on governments, partners and others scaling up initiatives supported by the Tenure Facility. Through the pilots, we learned lessons that will help us scale up.

Scaling up requires supportive constituencies within governments

Some development practitioners believe that news of a “successful intervention” is sufficient to secure further funding and scale up. But our three African pilots (Cameroon, Liberia, and Mali) found, as shared during their Learning Exchange, that scaling up requires building supportive constituencies within government constituencies. We learned that scaling up is not only a technical process; it is also a political one. To scale up we must move an agenda into the public domain and stir political discussion. Our pilot leaders said constituency-building involves more than providing information about a successful project, or inviting government to project meetings. They must regularly talk to and work with government in order to build a constituency within government that feels engaged in the process, and help political leaders discover that it is in their interest to support a scaling-up process for securing collective land and forest rights. In the Indonesia case, the pilot built constituencies within local governments. Then local parliamentarians from one district helped to scale up the process to another district, building a movement that ultimately garnered significant national government attention. In the Peru pilot, the pilot partners built constituencies within a regional government as well as key national ministries.

Scaling up has several dimensions

Some pilots have already experienced “horizontal scaling” of an innovation. In Indonesia, for example, the use of local legislation to secure Indigenous Peoples’ land tenure spread far beyond the initial five pilot districts to ignite a movement that is spreading across Indonesia. The development of a common methodology for participatory mapping in Cameroon is set to scale across Cameroon, as is the guideline for community self-identification developed in Liberia. These approaches can be scaled in multiple locations, by various implementers supported by different donors.

Click on the video above to learn how the Tenure Facility pilot initiative in Indonesia is scaling up.

Some pilots have experienced “vertical scaling” as well. Vertical scaling occurs through the expansion of long-term commitment among different levels of government, as well as among donors, private sector actors and civil society organizations. It builds the institutional and political framework needed for going to a larger scale, as shown for example by the work of the piloting initiatives in Cameroon, Liberia, Mali, and Peru.

We assume that sustained change is most likely to occur when vertical and horizontal scaling go hand-in-hand. Our pilots are testing that assumption as well as operational assumptions embedded in our theory of change. We expect to learn lessons about scaling up that will be valuable to countries, donors, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and civil society organizations.

Designing to scale

Scaling up is a complex and long-term challenge faced by most of the initiatives we support. The six pilots showed us that scaling requires additional monitoring and engagement by the Tenure Facility, focusing on adaptive management and planning, defining roles, and effective communication. A clear lesson and recommendation that emerged from our Learning Exchange in Washington DC in 2016 was that our initiatives need to include the broad contours of an explicit scaling-up strategy in the project proposal.