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Navigating competing demands in monitoring and evaluation: Five key paradoxes

Authors
Marijn Faling, Greetje Schouten, Sietze Vellema
Publication year
2023

Evaluation in complex programs assembling multiple actors and combining various interventions faces contradictory requirements. In this article, we take a management perspective to show how to recognize and accommodate these contradictory elements as paradoxes.

Through reflective practice we identify five paradoxes, each consisting of two contradicting logics: the paradox of purpose—between accountability and learning; the paradox of position—between autonomy and involvement; the paradox of permeability—between openness and closedness; the paradox of method—between rigor and flexibility; and the paradox of acceptance—between credibility and feasibility. We infer the paradoxes from our work in monitoring and evaluation and action research embedded in 2SCALE, a program working on inclusive agribusiness and food security in a complex environment. The intractable nature of paradoxes means they cannot be permanently resolved. Making productive use of paradoxes most likely raises new contradictions, which merit a continuous acknowledging and accommodating for well-functioning monitoring and evaluation systems.