Taking stock of three years PAL Network

By Nele Blommestein

The People’s Action for Learning Network (PAL Network) is a south-south partnership of countries working to assess basic reading and numeracy competencies.

Four years since its inception, PAL Network is entering a new phase and is collectively designing a new strategy that will be implemented from January 2020. In the coming years, the Network will focus on strengthening its four main base pillars, Assessments, Action, Advocacy and Research. But before moving forward, it is time to look back and take stock of what PAL Network has brought to the table the past three years.

This stocktaking is being carried out through an Outcome Harvesting review that started in December 2018 and lasted until May 2019. In December 2018, PAL Network staff gathered for two days in Nairobi to describe the outcomes that they have influenced. Subsequently, in February 2019, PAL network member organisations gathered for an interactive writeshop in Nairobi to describe the outcomes achieved collectively.

The workshop participants were eager to learn more about Outcome Harvesting and found it an innovative approach to Monitoring and Evaluation. An outcome is classified as “a change in behaviour, policies, practices or actions in a social actor, which can be an individual, group/community, institution or organization to which the PAL network has contributed”. Instead of systematically reviewing past activities, Outcome Harvesting takes stock of outcomes and then reviews PAL Network’s contribution.

During these workshops, around 20 participants yielded outcomes relevant to bringing learning to the centre of educational policy and practice, both at the international and the national level. At the end of the second workshop, participants made sense of the outcomes they collected by reviewing the online interactive report published through Sprockler. Participants concluded that the most relevant outcomes were achieved through advocacy combined with assessment data at the global level.

Strikingly, at this global level, a considerable number of successful outcomes were unintended, which indicates that the influence of the PAL Network in the international arena is bigger than expected. Several outcomes describe the development of action models and actions being implemented, which is a recently added strategy of PAL Network. After external stakeholders verified several outcomes, it became clear that those stakeholders also unexpectedly implemented a PAL Network action called Teaching at the Right Level.

“The outcome harvesting review gave a breath of view to identify who PAL Network has influenced through its main pillars of assessment and action. It provided a clear line of sight of what the network needs to do to achieve its vision where we have a world where all children acquire the foundational skills that allow them to thrive.”
Maryanne Kimani, PAL Network.

Image: Outcomes with a small or big contribution plotted on two bipoles by harvesters (x-axis) and substantiators (y-axis)

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