Planning and Review

Planning and Review

​​​​​​​ ​ ​
Do you want to plan, monitor, evaluate an activity?
Do you want to elaborate a strategy?

There is a broad range of tools that support you in the identification of needs, in designing the logic of interventions, in the planning of activities taking into consideration past experiences and in monitoring the on-going activites. We propose a selection of the most helpful tools in the list below. 


​​​​​​​​Value Creation Stories


Value creation stories show the success of network activities and new knowledge that has been generated by the network. They try to capture every step of the learning process with self-reflective feedback.

The picture above shows the different types of value created along the path of social learning.

to use?

By following up every step of social learning you will discover what kind of development has grown out of an activity and by documenting each of those steps (e.g. on video) you will create nice stories to present your findings. This insight can then be used as an inspiration for new learning events. This technique is especially useful to improve your network's activities or to stimulate participation.



weeks, months, years


At least two people


notebook, (camera)


Experiences, insights and feedback are collected at different times in the cycle of a network activity:

Right after the meeting.

Indicators: level of satisfaction, level of engagement, number of participants, etc.


After the activity.

Indicators: number of insights reported on feedback forms, number of resources produced, number of new relationships generated.

Some time after the activity.

Indicators: number of new collaborations that start between network members, number of projects that implement a tool produced by the network, etc.

A few months after the activity.

Indicators: new projects implemented, new agreements with governments, better relationships with stakeholders, etc.


Value creation stories show "what works best" in activities and thus provide an instrument to steer networks accordingly. For the members, seeing measurable learning results can stimulate motivation for and dedication to the network and its activities. It can also help new members catching up with recent developments. Further, presentable results on an activity's outcomes can serve as prove of its success and justify further action.

​​​​​​​​ After Action Review


An After Action Review (AAR) is a discussion of a project or an activity. It enables the individuals involved to learn for themselves what happened, why it happened, what went well, what needs improvement and what lessons can be learned from the experience. An AAR helps to discuss lessons learnt and to further improve future practice. The idea is to put findings and experiences back into your project or organization.

to use?

AARs can take place any time. Despite the name, they do not have to be performed at the end of a project. Rather, they can be conducted after each identifiable event or major activity in a project or even after an ordinary meeting.



Possible from
5 mins - 1 day


From 2 persons to larger groups


Basic writing material, flipcharts

There are few limits for an AAR: Activities suitable for AARs simply need to have a beginning and an end, an identifiable purpose and some basis on which performance can be assessed.

Steps to follow:
  1. Invite the right people and appoint a facilitator
  2. Create an environment of openness and learning
  3. Ask the following questions:
    - What was supposed to happen?
    - What actually happened?
    - What went well?
    - What could have gone better?
  4. Ensure that everyone feels fully heard before leaving the meeting.
  5. Note or record and share important lessons learnt.



AARs are excellent for making tacit knowledge explicit during the life of a project or activity and thus allowing you to capture it. Learning can be captured before a team disbands, or before people forget what happened and move on to something else.

to know

Appreciative Inquiry


Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is used for organisational development and change management.  AI assumes that there are examples of success in our past that we can learn from to create greater success in the future. Specifically, AI seeks to determine the state that the system aspires to. The inquiry itself sets out to find examples of achievement of this desired state – even if this has occurred only rarely or briefly.

to use?

Are you challenged with a problem within your organisation? You are stuck in conventional problem solving processes? You want to to create a positive change, develop new and exciting images and plans for the future? You want to move away from silos?

Try Appreciative Inquiry and facilitate high participation planning while integrating multiple change efforts.



Possible from
1h - 2-4 days




Basics for writing and taking notes

An AI process can be undertaken over a longer period of time, as well as in a large group event in 2-4 days known as an AI summit. Relevant information is gathered when staff members of the organisation interview each other.

AI follows a 5D-Cycle

  1. Define: Analyse the purpose and the reason why you want to use this AI
  2. Discovery: Discover the times when the organisation is at its best. What is good and what has worked in the past?
  3. Dream: What might be? Envisioning of processes that would work well in the future based on the best moments identified in step 1
  4. Design: Steps to the dreamed situation. Planning and prioritizing processes, what needs to happen to support the vision?
  5. Destiny: Implementation of the design. Teams are formed to follow up on the defined elements.


AI is a way of seeing and being: not focusing on fixing problems, but on what already works well and should be strengthened. See the difference to conventional problem solving processes:

Problem Solving Appreciative inquiry
Felt need, identification of problem(s)Appreciating—valuing "the best of what is"
Analysis of CausesEnvisioning what might be
Analysis of possible solutionsEngaging in dialogue about what should be
Action Planning (treatment)Innovating what will be
Basic Assumption: An Organization is a Problem to be Solved Basic Assumption: An Organization is a Mystery to be Embraced

Table by Cooperrider, D. L., Srivastva, S.

​​​​​​​​ Balanced Scorecard


The balanced scorecard is a strategic planning and management system that enables an organization to put its strategy into action. BSC helps the organization to align all its activities to its vision and strategic goals, to improve its internal and external communication and to monitor organizational performance against these same strategic goals.

to use?

Balanced Scorecard helps you to have a clear picture of what your team, division, network is doing and why.  It can be sued to establish a system for measuring your performance and therefor supports the decision making process.

The tool helps to be persistent and thorough in establishing your strategy and indicators.



Not quick and easy,
it takes some time


Whole organisation


Matrix, writing material

The core piece of the system is a matrix, the so-called balanced scorecard. This matrix depicts the strategic goals that are split into objectives for four dimensions of an organization. It also includes the concrete activities necessary to fulfill the objectives, the expected results of the same as well as the related assigned responsibilities.

  1. Formulate mission, vision and strategic goal of the organization
  2. Develop the balanced scorecard matrix:
    - Break down the strategic goal into objectives and concrete activities within the relevant dimensions (e.g. see table below).
    - Come up with and select strategic initiatives/activities (goal, action, indicator)
  3. Group initiatives to strategic projects.
  4. Implement strategic projects (clear assignment of responsibilities!).
  5. Communicate the planned activities and results by means of a reporting scorecard.
  6. Organize the learning process – reflection, adaption and new projects.


What is special about the BSC is that it looks at the organization not only from a financial perspective, but also includes other perspectives such as personnel, learning and growth, business processes and customer satisfaction. It therefore yields an integrated, balanced picture of an organization and makes it easy to observe/steer organizational performance.

Briefing and Debriefing


Briefings are used to update consultants and other staff with newest contextual information; debriefings to inform decision makers about specific situations, findings of evaluations or studies and respective recommendations. The briefing note is a key for every form of briefing, be it oral or written, face to face or distant. A briefing note should be:

  • short: one or two pages, and always as short as possible;
  • concise: a short document isn't necessarily concise; use every word efficiently;
  • clear: keep it simple and to the point; always keep your reader firmly in mind;
  • reliable: the information in a briefing note must be accurate, sound and dependable;
  • readable: use plain language and design your briefing note for maximum readability.


to use?

Briefing, according to Wikipedia, is a short meeting among stakeholders of an activity immedi­ately before (briefing / in-briefing) or after the activity (debriefing).



Depending on the content and purpose


Depending on the purpose also with larger groups possible


Briefing note, writing material


A briefing note includes the purpose, the summary of the facts, and the conclusion. Current sections of a briefing are:

  • Issue: A concise statement of the purpose, proposal or problem.
  • Background: The details the reader needs in order to understand what follows.
  • Current Status: Description of who is involved, what is happening now, etc.
  • Key Considerations: A summary of important facts and considerations.
  • Options: Including the pros and cons of each, or what will happen next.
  • Conclusion and/or Recommendations: Clear, direct and substantiated by the facts put forward.


Briefing notes are typically written for those senior-level decision-makers who:

  • have to keep track of many, often unrelated, issues;
  • may not be familiar with the issues and may not have any related background;
  • for whatever reason, cannot spend time doing their own research;
  • need a capsule version of the key points and considerations about an issue.

to know

​​​​​​​​ Critical Incident Technique


Critical incidents are short narrative descriptions of problems arising from differences between interacting parties or institutional processes. They might be incidents with particularly effective or ineffective outcomes that actually occurred, or realistic situations that could occur.

Critical incidents focus on a certain event (incident) and tell us what happened, but not why it happened. The possible causes are to be developed together with the interviewees. Following, new ideas for problem solving and for effective future practice have to be explored.


to use?

CIT is useful if you want to evaluate an activity or elaborate on your strategy. Basically, it can be used anytime when there is a moment for reflection.



Depending on the incident to be evaluated


Depending on the incident


Basic writing material


CIT consists of a flexible set of principles which must be modified and adapted to meet the specific situation at hand.

  1. Prepare & Design: Describe the systemic problem your partners are facing and determine what questions you would like to reflect on jointly. Based on this decide what key actors to involve.
  2. Choose a critical incident you want to evaluate and tell the story. e. g. a successful or unsuccessful teach­ing/learning incident, an unsuccessful project situation etc. The most important is to tell a story. It can be very useful to tell the story out of the perspective of a third person.
  3. Ask questions and explore the incident, e.g. what led to the incident? how could it have been avoided? how he/she would deal with the incident?
  4. Analyse and interpret the finding: Categorize the answers according to the key questions.  Which answers are facts/insights and which are recommendations?


The main advantage of CIT can be seen in the mutual benefit for both sides. While the inter­viewer can gather the relevant information she/he is looking for, the interviewees benefit from the Critical Incident experience, as it helps them better understand behaviours critical to situa­tions and proceedings important for their context.

Critical Incidents provide us with answers which are longer and more detailed because the CIT reflects a natural setting, the focus is on participant's perspectives. The possibility to hide behind "general" answers can be limited. Furthermore tacit knowledge is activated.

Design for Wiser Action


Design for Wiser Action is a template that helps planning and designing an event, projects or processes.  It is a visual planning tool and helps to make the first steps in the planning. The canvas brings together the organizing team, the core group or the mandate giver. A moderator could support the joint planning.

The canvas outlines several prescriptions which form the building blocks for the planning activities. On the image below you find the template.

It is important to allow free reflection. There is no given procedure which question needs to be discussed first. On the contrary, it is the possibility to switch between the different blocks that allow considering all important aspects. Design for Wiser Action does not limit the discussion to the content of an event or project but opens up a comprehensive planning. It is an interactive tool that fosters analysis, understanding, creativity. The canvas is very easy to use (see below for possible steps and questions).


to use?

Design for Wiser Action is helpful to clarify key aspects in an early stage. It can be used for the planning of a face-to-face or other events but also for strategic questions.



Possible from
1h - 2h


min. 2 people
maybe 1 moderator


empty canvas template
post-its, pens

Start with clarifying the call and the purpose of the workshop.
Why is this workshop needed? By whom? What bring people to the table in terms of questions and experiences? What do we want to achieve?

Point to the block "harvest", the results (tangible and intangible) you want to achieve.
What is it you want to make happen in people's minds and hearts? What do you need as organizer of the workshop in terms of results?

Then move on step by step through the process: What are the burning questions to tackle?
What about social reporting and harvesting? Are there any difficult or even sensible issues you need to take care of? What are the next steps in the preparation process?

The ideas and answers that emerge through intense conversation are written down on post-it notes and assigned to one of the blocks. Ask the team Learning & Networking for a template for your SDC event or draw your own on a large paper.


Design for Wiser Action opens new perspectives and ways of thinking when planning an event, project or process. Its open structure makes it adaptable to every situation. It is a creative tool and is a change to the conventional linear planning process. The multidimensional approach helps not forgetting anything and also allows integrating strategic questions into the planning.

to know

The canvas is inspired by The Harvest Hub - Designing for Wiser Action

The method is also widely used for business planning: Business Model Canvas


​​​​​​​​ Future Search Conference


A Future Search Conference (FSC) brings together all the involved stakeholders for one specific topic or problem into the same conversation. The involved stakeholders meet physically in one place. A FSC works with large groups (can be several hundreds) that physically represent the whole system concerned. In a FSC people tell during three days stories about their past, present and their vision of the future. Through this dialogue they discover their common ground and are able to develop a shared vision. In a FSC seemingly very diverse interests can be grouped so that they can serve as a stable base for the conversations.


to use?

Future Search conference is an ideal tool, when heterogeneous groups want to build a common future on a shared basis. This can be the future of a topic, of an organization, a business, or the future of a municipality or a region.



2-3 days


Large groups from 30 up to several hundreds


Extensive logistics: room, tables, chairs, flipcharts, pinboards, cards, markers, microphone, etc.


The process is structured around five core tasks which each take about three hours to complete. Participants explore – in turn – the past, the present and the future through a series of semi-structured dialogues. Techniques such as timelines and mind-mapping are used to quickly identify major trends and issues. Dialogue takes place both in stakeholder and mixed groups of 6-8 people, followed by small groups reporting their conclusions to the whole group. Everything is posted, visible, and discussed by the whole group.

The experience of participants is very different than most retreats, since after very careful preparation the FSC is in many ways self-managed. Usually, there are no formal presentations or extensive data analysis prior to the Conference; instead, the content and direction come directly out of the participants' work. The facilitators guide the process, but do not control the content. This emphasis on ownership of the plan by the participants leads to perhaps the most significant outcome of a Search Conference – high levels of energy and support for the implementation phase.


The approach assumes that the most effective plans emerge when they are co-created. The FSC-process builds a safe environment for airing different and conflicting opinions quickly, while it fosters learning and capacity to adapt to the future.

to know

The website of Future Search offers an overview of methodology and includes case studies describing how FSC have been applied.

Horizontal Evaluation


Horizontal Evaluation is a flexible evaluation method that combines self-assessment and external review by peers. In general, the focus of the evaluation is on the methodology, not the project or organization that developed it. A Horizontal Evaluation makes it possible for teams working on similar contents, but in different contexts, to learn from each other and improve their practice in an effective yet enjoyable way. Focusing on the learning process, the Horizontal Evaluation overcomes several drawbacks of more traditional external evaluations.

to use?

Horizontal evaluation is a flexible method which can be applied in a range of settings to facili¬tate the sharing of information, experiences and knowledge and the building of trust and a sense of community, which in turn fosters knowledge exchange.



3 days


20-30 people, local and visitors


Markers, cards, flipcharts, pinboards


Day 1 – Get to know the subject:
Local participants introduce the methodology used in a given project. Visitors limit themselves to asking questions of clarification and requesting missing information. The two groups choose the evaluation criteria together.

Day 2 – Visit the field:
In small groups, the visitors conduct semi-structured interviews in the field, carefully observe and triangulate sources of information. After the visits, each group synthesizes and presents its findings based on the evaluation criteria.

Day 3 – Conduct a comparative analysis:
Visitors and local participants identify strengths, weaknesses and suggestions for improvement in their respective teams and present them in plenary. They synthesize recommendations for future use.


Horizontal evaluation neutralizes the power dimension implicit in traditional evaluation, in which the "expert" judge the "inexpert" and the "powerful" assess the "powerless". Because of this neutralization, a more favourable learning environment is created.

to know

 Comprehensive Text about Horizontal Evaluation

See also brochure of the International Potato Centre about the Papa Andina-experience with Horizontal Evaluation.

​​​​​​​​ Most Significant Change


The most significant change (MSC) technique is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. It is participatory because many project stakeholders are involved both in deciding the sorts of changes to be recorded and in analyzing the data collected. It is a form of monitoring because it occurs throughout the program cycle and provides information to help people manage the program. It contributes to evaluation because it provides data on impact and outcomes that can be used to help assess the performance of the program as a whole.

to use?

MSC is most useful:

  • Where it is not possible to predict in any detail or with any certainty what the outcome will be
  • Where outcomes will vary widely across beneficiaries
  • Where there may not yet be agreements between stakeholders on what outcomes are the most important
  • Where interventions are expected to be highly participatory, including any forms of monitoring and evaluation of the results



It takes time, needs to be repeated through several cycles


 Several groups


Writing material, audio-recording

Essentially, the process involves the collection of significant change (SC) stories emanating from the field level, and the systematic selection of the most significant of these stories by panels of designated stakeholders or staff. The designated staff and stakeholders are initially involved by 'searching' for project impact. Once changes have been captured, selected groups of people sit down together, read the stories aloud and have regular and often in-depth discussions about the value of these reported changes, and which they think is most significant of all. In large programs there may be multiple levels at which SC stories are pooled and then elected. When the technique is implemented successfully, whole teams of people begin to focus their attention on program impact.

There are three basic steps in using MSC:

  1. Deciding the types of stories that should be collected (stories about what – for example, about practice change or health outcomes or empowerment)
  2. Collecting the stories and determining which stories are the most significant
  3. Sharing the stories and discussion of values with stakeholders and contributors so that learning happens about what is valued.


MSC is not just about collecting and reporting stories, but about having processes to learn from these stories – in particular, to learn about the similarities and differences in what different groups and individuals value.

MSC can be very helpful in explaining HOW change comes about (processes and causal mechanisms) and WHEN (in what situations and contexts). It can therefore be useful to support the development of program theory (theory of change, logic models).

to know

Find further resources about Most Significant Change on the KS Toolkit. Here you can find a comprehensive guide to the process of MSC.

Peer Assist / Peer Review


Peer Assist means to reuse existing knowledge and experience. A host team presents a project to a visiting team. The role of the visitors is to share knowledge and experience in order to help resolve the presented challenge. 

to use?

Peer Assist is a tool in a planning stage and means gathering knowledge before launching a project. It is also useful when facing a specific problem or challenge during a project. For the evaluation stage a Peer Review is more appropriate.



Possible from
1/2 day - 2 days

Timing is important


6-8 people




  1. Define the purpose of a PA, find the participants for a visiting team and assign a facilitator. For the visiting team look across the organisation rather than "up";
  2. Give enough space for socializing and getting to know each other;
  3. The meeting is divided into four steps:
      • host team briefly presents the project, problem or challenge
      • the visiting team members discuss what they have heard, what has surprised them, what did they expect to hear. Don't try to solve the problem but to offer some options and insights based on your own experience
      • The visiting team identifies options to solve the problem. The host team listens carefully and the facilitator records these options.
      • The visiting team presents its final feedback. The host team is prepared to hear something it did not expect.
  4. The host team commits to follow-up actions and keeps the visiting team updated
  5. Together, they identify lessons learnt and further interested persons to share with.


Peer Assist promotes sharing of learning between teams, and develops strong networks among people. Learning within PA is directly focused on a specific task or problem, and so it can be applied immediately.

Peer Assists are relatively simple and inexpensive to do: they do not require any special resources or any new, unfamiliar processes.

to know

Comprehensive Text about Peer Assist / Peer Review 

Find further information on the website of NASA. See also the contribution of KM4Dev to the Rotating Peer Assist.

Further information about Peer Review you can find here.

​​​​​​​​ Real Time Strategic Change


Real Time Strategic Change is one type of large group intervention. This approach is highly structured and organized. Events are grounded in giving participants a common database of information from which to work. They are aimed at diagnosing and planning a significant change.

Change is given the opportunity to occur when three elements are in place simultaneously:

  • dissatisfaction with the present situation,
  • a compelling vision of how the change will create a better future,
  • and first steps for reaching the vision.

If any of these elements is missing or collectively they are less powerful than the resistance to the change, then change will not take place.

to use?

RTSC is applied when a problem arises in an organization, for which the leadership does not have a solution. This can occur when for example there are acute problems in the services of an enterprise or when the context of an organization changes considerably.



1-2 days


40-600 persons


Large room, chairs and tables, writing materials, flipcharts or pinboards, cards and markers, microphones

The process does not follow a fixed program. Only the basic structure is fixed, the design of each conference is individual.

Basic structure: During the whole meeting all participants are present in one room. Circles for eight persons are formed, in each circle a flipchart is placed. Each circle consists of staff from different departments and represents a micro-cosmos of the organization. Thus the staff considers also the knowledge and the perspectives of colleagues from other departments and teams.

At the beginning of the meeting the leaders of the organization present the problem and the necessary changes. On the basis of the received information the participants work during the following days on defining objectives and solutions. The first part of an intervention focuses on creating a common database and the foundation for the dissatisfaction. Following that, the intervention moves to creating a future that is far more desirable than that which caused the dissatisfaction. It ends with participants ferreting out the steps that are necessary for moving the organization and themselves. The leaders are giving continuously feedback.

At least one outside facilitator and one or more internal consultants work with the design team prior to and during the actual event. Their role prior to the intervention is to guide the design team in creating the goal for the event and an agenda that will achieve it based on the change formula described earlier. During the intervention, they ensure that the event flows as planned and that transitions occur between the various activities. This includes restructuring the agenda real-time, if needed, based on the outcome of the activities that occur and managing the dynamics of the group.

Critical to the Real Time Strategic Change approach is logistics management. A logistics team is created during the design process. The team's role behind-the-scenes and during the event is to manage all details around the intervention including such items as event location, table arrangements and assignments, audio-visual needs, restroom and meal accommodations, handouts, and materials. All activities must be seamlessly connected and flow effortlessly from one to the other so that participants can focus on the work at hand.


RTSC is considering the hierarchical structure of the organization. The leadership defines the topic, the objective, the process and the frame of possible actions. It is clearly stated that the leaders will take the final decision. Experience proved that leaders are more disposed to involve in such a process when the hierarchy is kept. Also staff seems to feel more secure with strict rules and a clear scope of action.

to know

More about large group interventions you can find here. See also the interview with Jake Jacobs, the author of the book "Real Time Strategic Change" and his slideshares for introducing Real Time Strategic Change. 

Stakeholder Analysis and Mapping



Development cooperation projects are joint ventures of various actors (stakeholders). It is often the stakeholders who tip the balance towards success or failure. A profound understanding of the actors and their interests, goals and relationships is therefore crucial for effective planning and implementation. Stakeholder Mapping provides an overview of the stakeholder landscape and forms the backbone of a cooperation strategy. The basic output is the identification and description of actors that a program is explicitly designed to help, as well as those whose involvement is required to make the program work.

to use?

A Stakeholder Mapping starts in the designing phase of a program. It should be reviewed and repeated regularly, because the stakeholders and the dynamic between them may change in the course of the program.



Depending how deep you want to go: >1 day


Dependent on project, including the different groups of stakeholders


Cards, markers, binboards, flipcharts


  1. Define the scope of the mapping: What is the issue at stake? When to draw the stakeholder map and what periodicity to update it? Whose perspectives do we want?
  2. Identify the relevant actors and set up their basic profile (actor, agenda, arena and alliances = 4as).
  3. Identify key stakeholders according to their legitimacy, resources, and network.
  4. Cluster the stakeholders according to the basic characteristics: civil society, private sector or public sector.
  5. Be aware of the gender trap: Are specific needs and interests of women and men considered?
  6. Visualize the relationship between stakeholders, e.g. close, weak, informal, coalitions and alliances, direction of dominant relationships, conflicting interests.
  7. Share and discuss the stakeholder map with different stakeholders.

A stakeholder mapping is best integrated in the program cycle-management and periodically repeated


A profound understanding of the actors and their interests, goals and relationships is crucial for effective planning and implementation.

to know

Comprehensive Text about Stakeholder Analysis and Mapping

More information and templates on the website of Stakeholdermap.

​​​​​​​​ Storytelling


Storytelling has existed for thousands of years as a means of exchanging information and generating understanding. However, as a deliberate tool for sharing knowledge within organizations it is quite recent but growing very rapidly, to the extent that it is becoming a favored technique among an increasing number of management consultants.

to use?

Storytelling is used in organizations as a communication tool to share knowledge with inspiration. The language used is authentic (experience, not fact oriented); it is the narrative form that most people find interesting and attractive.



min. 30 min.


Individual or in groups


Basic writing materials, storytelling guide

How to go about it (as a storyteller)?

  1. Be clear about the key message you want to convey with a story.
  2. Build your story on an own experience. Note key-words, from the beginning to the dramatic evolution, the turning point and the happy (sad) end. What is the lesson learned?
  3. Tell your story starting from the beginning. Build an atmosphere of curiosity. Tell the surprising moment of your story with a dramatic voice. Observe your listeners.
  4. If indicated, relate your story to the topic discussed.

How to go about it (as a listener / interviewer)?

  1. Contribute to a good climate in the group. Show your interest. Give the storyteller an adequate reason to tell.
  2. Be a great audience. Listen closely, be receptive and fully comprehending.
  3. Don't resist the story. Hear it out and then come back with additional questions.
  4. Observe an implicit contract of trust. Only break when you feel the teller is not telling the truth.


Simple stories can illuminate complex patterns and deeper truths – one should never underes­timate the power of the particular. The process of telling your story – and seeing it touch other people – can be empowering. Being touched by the stories of others makes a difference to bonds of trust, as well as insights.

to know

 Comprehensive Text about Storytelling

Further information you can also find on the website of IDS and here.

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