Doing the right thing approximately not the wrong thing precisely: Challenges of monitoring impacts of pro-poor interventions in tourism value chains
Approaches to tourism intervention are changing. Organisations that have been investing in pro-poor tourism, or community tourism, have found that their efforts remain in a niche and are too marginal in denting poverty levels. Others operating in mainstream tourism are realising that growth in arrivals is not all that counts – more has to be done to deliver impact for the poor from the growth of mainstream tourism.
The focus today is on scaling up the contribution that tourism can make to poverty reduction. Amid disappointing and piecemeal data on the impact of pro-poor tourism initiatives to date, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and other organisations are addressing the challenging question of how to scale up impacts of tourism (and their interventions) on poor people. They are increasingly adopting a ‘value chain’ (VC) approach, seeking to intervene at key points in the tourism value chain that can significantly expand income and opportunities for the poor, while working effectively within a highly commercial and sophisticated service sector.
The driver of change here is the need to deliver results. Pro-poor policy rhetoric has been plentiful of late, but managers, funders, partners and of course the poor require delivery. Delivering results requires ( inter alia) two things: accurate and informed diagnosis of problems and solutions; and an ability to measure impact by comparing baseline data, ongoing monitoring and ex-post evaluation of impact. There has been a recent flurry of pro-poor value chain analysis (VCA) in tourism. This has been mainly diagnostic work to assist in planning interventions, and has developed rapidly in the last two years, through the work of SNV, IFC and ODI. Now these organisations are turning to the complementary question – what information do we need to monitor and measure impact?
Experience with diagnostic studies has already generated lessons about data to collect and how, emerging patterns of pro-poor impact, and some implications for design of intervention. Creating a framework for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of impact creates new challenges, including how to balance the complexity of value chains with the need for affordable and manageable M&E. What information is needed for a baseline that will enable accurate impact assessment in years to come? Just how much detail is needed and is affordable? What indicators best serve on-going monitoring? To what extent should common indicators be used across countries and interventions to aid comparability, or be left to develop in situ? An IFC/SNV Asia workshop in December 2007 addressed such questions and highlighted the need for more work on developing a framework for M&E of pro-poor value chain interventions in tourism. The aim of this paper is to feed into this ongoing process.