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Since 1996, CTA-ZM, a local Brazilian NGO, has been developing better ways to understand its work on pro-poor institutional transformation in Minas Gerais. It operates within a ‘messy partnership’ which includes farmer trade unions, associations, social movements, and academic institutions. The combined challenge of institutional transformation and messy partnerships has made it clear that mainstream monitoring is inadequate to trigger the diversity and depth of learning required within concerted action. This article describes a ten-year organisational learning journey, looking critically at the author’s own work on participatory monitoring as an alternative. A framework of eight design principles is offered as an essential starting point for ‘rethinking impact’.

This article is hosted by our co-publisher Taylor & Francis.

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