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Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA)
Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA) is a project planning and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) approach. It is a relatively young and experimental approach that draws from program theory evaluation, social network analysis and research to understand and foster innovation. It is designed to help the people involved in a project, program or organization make explicit their theories of change, in other words how they see themselves achieving their goals and having impact.
At the core of PIPA is a workshop, during which a group of project participants (implementers, partners, users) map their Impact Pathways, and a plan to monitor and evaluate their progress along these pathways. A problem tree is developed to represent the pathways by which research outputs are expected to bring about their intended results. Secondly, network maps identify the key players and the roles they must play during and after each project to ensure its success. These two views of a project’s impact pathways (problem tree and network) are integrated in an outcomes logic model that describes what strategies the project will use to bring about necessary changes in project stakeholders to achieve the project vision.
PIPA was first used in January 2006 when seven projects funded by the Challenge Program on Water and Food (
) met for 3 days to co-construct their respective impact pathways so the CPWF could get a better idea of what impacts its projects where aiming to achieve, and how. To date, the PIPA group at
has facilitated 20 workshops for over 400 participants.
PIPA (or its tools) has been adopted for project planning and M&E by
– The European-Latin American Project on Co-Innovation in Agricultural Ecosystems; an EU-funded project in Latin America, the Knowledge Sharing (
) Project of the
, and is being adapted and used by the International Potato Center (
- Spanish acronym) for ex-post evaluation purposes in the Andean Change Project. PIPA contributes to the Institutional Learning and Change (
) Initiative’s own learning-based evaluation.
When to use
PIPA for Project Planning
PIPA complements existing project planning and management tools, such as the logical framework, by describing project strategies to bring about change. Traditional project planning instruments focus more on the activities required to produce the research outputs, while PIPA focuses on the use of the research outputs, which is what contributes to change.
PIPA for evaluation and management
PIPA has been developed to meet some of the multiple evaluation and management needs of complex research-for-development projects and programs. These requirements include:
Carrying out an evaluation of likely project impacts and how they will occur (ex-ante impact assessment)
Helping projects better understand what each other are doing, identify common interests and foster programmatic integration
Provide a framework and design for both compliance- and learning-based monitoring and evaluation
Provide the impact hypotheses required for impact assessment after the project has finished
PIPA for reflection and change
PIPA promotes learning and provides a framework for ‘action research’ on processes of change. After the workshop, participants complete their M&E plan with key staff and stakeholders, who then periodically reflect on the validity of the impact pathways. These reflections are the culmination of one set of experiential learning cycles and the beginning of others. If the reflections are well documented, they can be analyzed at the end of the project to provide insights into how interventions do, or do not, achieve developmental outcomes in different contexts.
PIPA for Priority Setting
The products of PIPA – the problem tree, vision, network maps and logic models – provide information that can help with two kinds of priority setting. The first is internal priority setting within a given project. This is the kind of priority setting that selects which activities, series of actions, and partners – from all those available – as those most likely to contribute to the outcomes and impacts that the project seeks to bring about. The second kind of priority setting – the kind most associated with the term – is where project funders make allocation decisions based on the prima facie merits of competing projects. PIPA provides information to allow priority setting on the basis of scrutiny of the plausibility and size of envisaged change.
How to use
More information on all aspects of PIPA and the PIPA workshop exercises and facilitation at
Find: Background, Theoretical Foundations, Development of PIPA, an Online manual; with videos and practical examples to draw problem trees; network maps; and others, References and useful Literature, videos of PIPA workshops, What’s new with PIPA and more.
Tips and Lessons Learnt(add yours)
Examples & Stories
(add your story)
Who can tell me more?
Boru Douthwaite (b.douthwaite [at] cgiar.org)
Sophie Alvarez (b.s.alvarez [at] cgiar.org)
Ron Mackay (mackay.ronald [at] gmail.com)
Katherine Tehelen (k.tehelen [at] cgiar.org)
Diana Cordoba (d.cordoba [at] cgiar.org)
Related Methods / Tools / Practices
PIPA is similar in its philosophy to ‘outcome mapping’ (Earl et al. 2001). A main difference is that PIPA stretches participants to predict how project outcomes can lead to social, economic and environmental impacts.
PIPA draws from program theory evaluation, social network analysis and action research. During the PIPA workshops, some exercises are developed using methods such as After Action Reviews, adaptations of Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space.
PIPA is being used with Most Significant Change in the EULACIAS Project to provide input into the regular reflections
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