Common elements of good practice for sustainability

How likely are the Fleming Fund country level results to be sustained? This is one of six questions being pursued by our independent evaluator. In preparation, Itad looked to the literature on sustainability to identify any common elements of good practice.

Itad started by looking at the OECD/DAC definition of sustainability which stated that sustainability means being “concerned with measuring whether the benefits of an activity are likely to continue after donor funding has been withdrawn. Projects need to be environmentally as well as financially sustainable”(i). However, the reviewers discovered multiple definitions among the literature which contributed to a lack of available evidence on how to “do” sustainability or a consensus on what common factors may contribute to it. Itad also noted the importance of defining sustainability precisely and early on in a programme, as the definition chosen can influence the programme strategy (is the focus on sustaining project activities or its outcomes, for example?).

The process of planning for sustainability, transition or exit was well covered in the literature and Itad was able to draw out key elements of good practice, including:

The reviewers found less evidence on what conditions need to be in place to achieve sustainability. One key paper (ii) highlighted the importance of conditions that all need to be in place to achieve sustainability (iii) and these were supported by other papers in the review. These conditions were:

The key takeaways from this review for the Fleming Fund, and other grant programmes that aim to be sustainable, are:

Itad has drawn on the above findings to develop a ‘best practice’ framework. They will use this as part of the evaluation to assess the Fleming Fund’s approach to sustainability, both to identify potential adaptation and to draw conclusions on whether the Fleming Fund’s country-level results are likely to be sustained.

(i) DAC Criteria for Evaluating Development Assistance

(ii) Coates Elizabeth Kegode Tina Galante Alexander Blau Gerald, J. J. (2016). Sustaining Development: Results from a Study of Sustainability and Exit Strategies among Development Food Assistance Projects - Kenya Country Study. Retrieved from the Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance Project

(iii) Based on projects in the authors’ sample.

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