In 2010 SEI embarked on an initiative to revise and develop its monitoring and evaluation capabilities. Since then SEI has used the bespoke Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Communication (PMEC) system which is now integral to project and organisational management. It is based on the theory of change approach of ‘Outcome Mapping’, as developed by IDRC, but has been adapted to allow integration with SEI’s communication and budget management systems. The PMEC system is web-based to allow staff to input information wherever they are located.

All new SEI projects are set up in PMEC. The system encourages staff to think beyond the project activities and outputs, about what change they want to contribute towards and who those organisations or people are that could be influenced directly by the work. This helps the project team to focus on the foreseen outcomes and be realistic about the influence they can have within the complex context of sustainable environmental development. It promotes adaptive management of activities and outputs through monitoring whether any progress is being made in supporting processes of change within targeted organisations or people in a desirable manner.

The system captures progress towards change through so called ‘journals’ that ask four questions: what change can be observed, what has contributed to this change, are there any unexpected changes, and what are lessons learnt. The journals also record what follow-on changes should be made within project activities. It is suggested that projects monitor every half year although this obviously depends on the size and time line of the project.

All projects at SEI are also required to do an internal evaluation. This part of the system asks project management to reflect on progress made towards the envisioned change as well as to reflect on how well project management has gone. This evaluation is aimed to increase internal organisational learning and improve SEIs ability to bridge science and policy.