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Third Joint GEF-UNDP Evaluation of the Small Grants Programme
Commissioning Unit: Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Plan: 2018-2021
Evaluation Type: Thematic
Completion Date: 05/2021
Unit Responsible for providing Management Response: Bureau for Policy and Programme Support
Documents Related to overall Management Response:  
1. Recommendation:

(to the GEF and UNDP). As recommended in the 2015 evaluation, the SGP should conduct a consultative process towards the formulation of an updated long-term vision for the SGP. This process should begin by taking stock of the past 25+ years of programming and should serve to inform future replenishment discussions. The process should be inclusive of upgraded countries, countries participating in the SGP global programme, GEF Council and UNDP, and the final vision should be adopted by the GEF Council/Assembly. The purpose would be to ensure that the vision, mission and mandate of the SGP are clear and consensual and serve as a guiding framework for policy decisions through future GEF periods.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

UNDP accepts the recommendation and will work with the GEF and the SGP Steering Committee to conduct a consultative process towards the formulation of a long-term vision for the SGP, with a focus on growth, synergies and scaling up.

In partnership with the GEF secretariat, several actions have already been initiated to articulate the strategic directions and vision for the SGP. These include elaboration of strategic directions in recent GEF Council papers, including the GEF Small Grants Programme implementation arrangements for GEF-7, approved by the GEF Council in June 2018, followed by the GEF-7 project document on the SGP, approved in June 2020. These papers have laid out strategic directions of the SGP in alignment with the GEF-7 programming directions and the UNDP Strategic Plan, 2018–2021. To ensure that the vision, mission and mandate of the SGP are clear and consensual, a consultative process for an agreed vision has also been initiated among partners and stakeholders in the context of developing the SGP strategy for GEF-7 and GEF-8 replenishment. Moreover, UNDP has taken steps to integrate, mainstream and strengthen local action and community participation in its environment and other thematic work.

The SGP Steering Committee, reconvened as of July 2020 and revitalized as a multi-stakeholder governance body of the SGP comprising the GEF secretariat, UNDP and the GEF CSO network, could serve as the primary mechanism for consultative and regular review of the SGP long-term vision, mandate and strategy in GEF-8 and beyond. Because the SGP is a community-driven and country-led programme, a consultative process involving national coordinators, national steering committees and other stakeholders will inform the work of the SGP Steering Committee.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.1. Consultations with key stakeholders on the SGP long-term vision and strategic direction as part of the SGP strategy development for GEF-8.
[Added: 2021/05/20]
Central Programme Management Team, UNDP 2022/06 Not Initiated
1.2. Results from the consultation presented to the SGP Steering Committee to provide overall guidance and direction for their deliberations.
[Added: 2021/05/20]
Central Programme Management Team, UNDP 2022/06 Not Initiated
2. Recommendation:

(to the GEF). In developing the implementation arrangements for SGP, the GEF Secretariat, in collaboration with UNDP, should provide Council and the next replenishment with a detailed analysis of the impacts of a shrinking SGP funding envelope on the operations of the SGP, the pressures placed on STAR allocations, demands to add new countries to the global programme without concomitant growth in core funding, and the risk of losing the goodwill and social capital the SGP brings to the GEF as a whole. Going forward, the level of resources provided to the SGP must be considered in proportion with the requirements for expansion and ‘universal access‘, and the upgrading policy could be designed so as to maximize benefits rather than primarily as a means for creating ‘fiscal space’.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

While this recommendation is directed to the GEF, UNDP stands ready to provide support and collaboration to the GEF in the its implementation, as needed.

Key Actions:

3. Recommendation:

(to the GEF and UNDP). The SGP should reconsider whether it needs a continued upgrading policy. If upgrading is maintained, the SGP should rethink the means for its implementation in order to reduce the risk borne by countries and CSOs. This applies to all stakeholders involved in policymaking for the SGP. This would include a revision of the upgrading criteria, as recommended in the 2015 evaluation, as well as implementation arrangements and operational modalities. The two cycles of upgrading have brought to light significant challenges that need to be taken into consideration if and when continuing to upgrade countries. The revised policy should be focused on CSO capacity and potential for global environmental benefits and should consider the effects of upgrading on transaction costs, operational considerations, risks in all fiscal contexts; and also consider the risks in having small community projects go unfunded. To conserve the high levels of efficiency when transitioning from global programme to upgraded status, assumptions about civil society capacity and the CSO-government relationship need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

UNDP accepts this recommendation and will work with the GEF and the SGP Steering Committee to re-examine the upgrading policy and the related implementation experiences of the 16 upgraded country programmes over the past 10 years, including review of upgrading criteria, implementation arrangements and operational modalities. UNDP will take stock of the recommendations of the second and third joint evaluations and together with the GEF, will assess the benefits and challenges of upgrading, in close consultation with UNDP country offices and other relevant stakeholders. UNDP has taken steps in reviewing the feasibility of adopting different criteria and operational modalities, as successive independent evaluations have assessed the opportunities, challenges and risks associated with the current upgrading policy, in relation to the continued civil society engagement in efforts to fulfil national commitments to the multilateral environmental agreements.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
3.1 SGP Steering Committee to convene an upgrading task force to review upgrading criteria, implementation arrangements and operational modalities
[Added: 2021/05/20]
UNDP, Central Programme Management Team 2021/12 Not Initiated
3.2 Results from the upgrading task force presented to the SGP Steering Committee
[Added: 2021/05/20]
UNDP, Central Programme Management Team 2022/06 Not Initiated
4. Recommendation:

(to the Central Programme Management Team). The ways that SGP interventions are packaged, such as strategic initiatives, focal area results, innovation programmes and Grantmakers Plus initiatives, should be simplified. A small number of thematic frameworks (e.g., landscape/seascape approach) may be adopted to steer or shape programming, incentivize innovation or address urgent and emerging issues, but the pace of change should be slow enough to allow for local adoption and internalization by local communities.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

The Central Programme Management Team and UNDP accept this recommendation and will work to simplify its interventions to support faster adoption and internalization by local communities. Going forward, lessons emerging from the various programming windows will be integrated into a limited number of strategic initiatives and cross-cutting frameworks.

Over its past three operational phases, the SGP has tested and gradually introduced its landscape and seascape approach, which has focused SGP investment in priority geographical areas. This has supported the development of synergies with other programmes and between communities in the landscape; introduced multi-stakeholder governance approaches; and facilitated innovative actions by communities, knowledge-sharing and effective management of the socio-ecological landscapes/seascapes. The SGP has also adopted and aligned its integrated approaches to the GEF programming directions, the targets of the UNDP Strategic Plan and multilateral environmental agreements (such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, and emerging needs at country levels). In response to emerging global and country needs, the SGP introduced the innovation programme to pilot innovative approaches and tools on specific thematic issue among a group of participating countries and advance the implementation of the corresponding SGP strategic initiative.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
4.1 Refine the SGP strategic focus and initiatives in the context of developing the SGP strategy for GEF-8
[Added: 2021/05/20]
UNDP, Central Programme Management Team 2022/12 Not Initiated
4.2 Provide increased and improved global guidance and capacity development at local levels to promote adoption of the integrated strategies
[Added: 2021/05/20]
Central Programme Management Team 2022/12 Not Initiated
5. Recommendation:

(to the SGP Global Steering Committee and the Central Programme Management Team). As recommended in the 2015 joint evaluation, the SGP should review and re-energize its governance at the global and national levels. This will help to avoid misunderstandings and strengthen the relationship, through revised terms of reference, improved communication, agreed operational language or more frequent meetings. At the national level, the Terms of Reference of the national steering committee should be reviewed with emphasis on building synergies with the national UNDP programmes and creating spaces for new committee members that could help in increasing the broader adoption of SGP small grant projects (such as including members with expertise in building business models or inclusion of private sector representatives).

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

UNDP accepts this recommendation and will work with the SGP Steering Committee to review and re-energize SGP governance at the global and national levels.

At the global level, a process was initiated in June 2020 to revitalize the SGP Steering Committee, including the revision of the terms of reference of the committee, which would clearly define its role as a multi-stakeholder governance body for the SGP, and serve as an effective forum for participatory decision-making, engagement with the wider GEF partnership and other partners on key strategic issues on a regular basis.

At national level, work is already underway to update the terms of reference of the national steering committees in line with the updated SGP operational guidelines, including enhancing synergy with UNDP programmes and leveraging their extensive networks for broader adoption.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
5.3 Update terms of reference of national steering committees that clarify having majority CSO members, including private sector members as relevant, and support their implementation
[Added: 2021/05/20] [Last Updated: 2021/05/21]
Central Programme Management Team, UNDP 2021/07 Completed This action item is due in Q2 2021. (March 2021 was accidentally entered as the due date. That has now been adjusted.) The action item has been completed, as confirmed by the SGP team. Please find attached the updated TOR. History
5.1 Support regular organization of SGP Steering Committee meetings
[Added: 2021/05/20]
UNDP, Central Programme Management Team 2021/12 Not Initiated
5.2 Review and provide inputs in updating the terms of reference of the SGP Steering Committee, including review of members and resource person/observers, with established protocol for communication and participatory decision-making.
[Added: 2021/05/20]
UNDP, Central Programme Management Team 2021/12 Not Initiated
6. Recommendation:

(to the Central Programme Management Team). The SGP should test new ways to track and aggregate the intangible results generated by countries benefiting from SGP inputs such as the benefits received from its capacity-building activities, monitoring and evaluation, communications and knowledge management. There should be a systematic process in which the global programme countries benefit from the experiences of the upgraded countries and vice versa. At the country level, the SGP should be able to track the evolution of the grantees they support and the broader adoption of activities that have been implemented, to maximize the space for innovation and support the evolution of its grantees. The team should continue to ensure that adequate knowledge management strategies are in place with related capacity to implement these strategies, so as to allow the maximization of broader adoption opportunities stemming from SGP initiatives.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

The Central Programme Management Team and UNDP accept this recommendation. Inputs such as capacity development, monitoring and evaluation, knowledge management and communication are critical elements of SGP programme components to generate global environmental benefits. They are also essential to the success of the programme and its impact, particularly considering that SGP grants are made to CSOs and CBOs which often have relatively limited capacity. As the evaluation notes, such programme costs are critical to sustainability and broader adoption efforts such as scaling up and replication.

The SGP has already put in place mechanisms to track and aggregate these intangible results, especially with the roll-out of its new monitoring and evaluation strategy. In particular, this relates to integration of methodologies to assess change at country level, including those related to innovation and broader adoption. Global programme countries also continue to benefit from experiences of upgraded country programmes and vice versa. As an example of knowledge-sharing between global programme countries and upgraded country programmes, the current community-based landscape approach finds its roots in two SGP pilot projects (Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative, known as COMDEKS, and Engaging Local Communities in

Stewardship of World Heritage, known as COMPACT), as well as experiences from the upgraded country programme portfolio that have provided much of the methodological basis for the landscape approach and evidence for its effectiveness in a variety of different geographic and cultural settings. The exchange of learning and experiences between global and upgraded country programmes is supported by an umbrella SGP knowledge and communications strategy. Additionally, all the newly approved upgraded country programmes in GEF-7 have identified specific knowledge management activities that will promote replication and upscaling across the landscapes, across the country and to the global SGP network.

SGP will further refine and formalize the system to monitor the efficiency and results of capacity development, knowledge management and communication, including the definition and capture of appropriate indicators.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
6.1 Formalize the current systematic approach to tracking intangible benefits of SGP programmatic activities (capacity- building, monitoring and evaluation, communications and knowledge management)
[Added: 2021/05/20]
Central Programme Management Team, UNDP 2022/03 Not Initiated
6.2 Introduce a small number of indicators in the GEF-8 SGP results framework for results attributable to capacity-building activities, monitoring and evaluation, communications and knowledge management.
[Added: 2021/05/20]
Central Programme Management Team 2022/12 Not Initiated
7. Recommendation:

(to the Central Programme Management Team, UNDP, and the GEF). The approach to and measurement of sustainability in the SGP should be improved to capture the tangible and intangible benefits of the programme. A first layer of sustainability could be measured at the level of small grant projects, while another could be measured at the level of grantees. A measure of sustainability in this context may be whether the organizations continue to operate in the environmental space after the SGP grant is concluded. A scale of CSO capacity could be devised that would allow for long-term tracking of SGP grantees and their progression along the development continuum, especially for those who receive repeat funding or whose activities are replicated or upscaled through new projects.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

The Central Programme Management Team and UNDP accept this recommendation and will work with the GEF for its implementation. As noted in the evaluation, SGP often operates in a ‘first mover’ capacity that provides seed funding for pilot and demonstration projects, which are often followed by multiple investments by SGP and other funding over subsequent operational phases to ensure sustainability and scale-up of project successes. Communities targeted by the SGP are often the poorest and most vulnerable with typically low capacities to adequately address global environmental problems, which in turn can hinder community-based project sustainability. In addition, the SGP operates in many fragile environments with political and economic instability and other macro factors that impact sustainability. As part of efforts to develop an appropriate approach to capture the intangible benefits of SGP interventions (see response to recommendation 6), the SGP will also explore ways to measure sustainability at the level of grantees, as recommended.

The SGP already takes many steps towards ensuring sustainability. In many countries, under GEF-7, the SGP is expanding its innovative CSO-government-private sector dialogue platforms to enhance the capacity of CSOs and CBOs to influence relevant government policies and programmes, while working with the private sector to leverage its potential to invest and support sustainability at the local level. These platforms thus help to mainstream environmental conservation in national and subnational decision-making. The SGP has systematically invested in capacity development of local and national civil society stakeholders as another strategy for environmental sustainability. Each year, over 70 per cent of SGP country programmes invest in some form of grantee capacitation, network building and community mobilization. With its programmatic strategy, the SGP has a long-term, continuous, multi-phased approach in directly engaging local communities and often socially marginalized groups (women, indigenous peoples, youth and persons with disabilities) in all stages of the grant project cycle: design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This enables community ownership of ideas and sustains the gains from them. With an emphasis on further integration of SGP country teams with UNDP country offices in GEF-7 and beyond, sustainability of results will be maintained through linkage with relevant national policies and programmes, as well as by scaling up through larger donor- and government-led programmes and projects.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
7.1 Development of an appropriate approach to measure sustainability, inter alia, of CSO capacities
[Added: 2021/05/20]
Central Programme Management Team, UNDP 2022/06 Not Initiated
8. Recommendation:

(to the Central Programme Management Team). The team should create operational mechanisms to improve and incentivize innovation and business-oriented approaches in country programmes. These mechanisms would maximize the potential for environmental benefits and social inclusion while creating opportunities for long-term viability of supported SGP small grants. The social economy model provides a useful avenue for the SGP to expand to new beneficiaries and to optimize the sustainability of its results. Enhanced and more systematic synergies between UNDP and the SGP at the country level could facilitate this process. Examples include priority selection of innovative projects, varied scales of financing for business-oriented initiatives, and the broader adoption of SGP small grant projects into UNDP programming.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

The Central Programme Management Team and UNDP accept this recommendation. As a cross-cutting thread in SGP interventions, innovation is not just an integrated approach to project execution, but also a key SGP result. The micro and local nature of SGP projects lends feasibility to undertake risk and experiment with pilot development as a test and trial for effective and efficient community-led solutions that work in a given context, or may have broader scaling-up potential and replicability later. As well noted in conclusion 13 of the evaluation, “the innovativeness of SGP lies in the way it works with local partners, more than in technologies or approaches it promotes. By building trust, reducing the risk in testing innovations and fostering collaboration and dialogue, the SGP creates new conditions upon which the future of sustainable development and conservation movement can take root”.

The SGP has already taken steps to further strengthen innovation in country programmes. With priority selection of innovative projects and the integrated landscape approach, more systematic, purposeful innovation is being encouraged in GEF-7, whereby CSOs/CBOs identify potential innovations and the corresponding indicators of success, then evaluate the performance of the innovation in a method of learning by doing.

With respect to broader adoption of innovations tested under the SGP projects into UNDP programming, many SGP country programmes will continue to strengthen linkages with UNDP accelerator labs and regional innovation teams to scale up innovation and experimentation.

To support business-oriented approaches in country programmes and projects, SGP is developing a private sector guidance note as part of its resource mobilization and partnership strategy (2020-2024), with an aim to enhance private sector engagement and adoption of relevant business models, including supporting small and medium-scale enterprises and exploring use of different financing scales and modalities, through the SGP country programmes.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
8.1 Stocktaking of experiences with the private sector and business-oriented approaches and modalities
[Added: 2021/05/20]
Central Programme Management Team, UNDP 2022/03 Not Initiated
8.2 Enhance engagement with the private sector through development of guidance to support business-oriented approaches and modalities
[Added: 2021/05/20]
Central Programme Management Team, UNDP 2022/06 Not Initiated
9. Recommendation:

(to the GEF). The GEF Secretariat should apply the explicit, accepted accounting standards that are applied to the rest of the GEF portfolio when assessing SGP management costs. The appropriateness of the level of management expenditures should be a factor of the level of management activities that are required. Programmatic activities related to CSO capacity-building, monitoring, knowledge, technical assistance and communication should not be considered part of the management cost even if they are expenditures incurred by UNDP and UNOPS in their capacity as implementing agency and executing agency. Further discussion on this matter between the GEF and the UNDP should take place on the basis of clarification as to the future vision of the SGP. The next GEF replenishment may wish to consider setting benchmarks for programmatic costs in relation to the demands placed on and resources provided to the SGP.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/17] [Last Updated: 2021/05/20]

While this recommendation is directed to GEF, UNDP stands ready to provide support and collaboration to GEF in its implementation, as needed.

Key Actions:

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