Strategic Planning & Program Design

Bruce Byers Consulting strategic planning

Evaluation of the 10-year USAID Global Conservation Program involved site visits to a number of projects on several continents, including the “Kilimanjaro Heartland” of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, where the African Wildlife Foundation has been working to reduce threats to biodiversity and improve human livelihoods and governance. Findings from this evaluation were used by USAID in designing the next generation of support to conservation partners.

Bruce Byers Consulting brings a systems approach to strategic planning and program and project design. Bruce’s evaluation experience directly informs all of his planning work, because his evaluations always emphasize learning and provide formative recommendations for future activities. He has conducted training workshops on strategic planning and program design for the Latin America and Caribbean and International Seminars programs of the U.S. Forest Service, and assisted for-profit consulting firms and NGOs on numerous proposals to funding agencies.

Integration of biodiversity conservation and natural resources management across all development sectors is a cornerstone of USAID’s 2014 Biodiversity Policy and more recent Environmental and Natural Resource Management (ENRM) Framework. This kind of integration at USAID and other international development agencies has often been hindered by a “siloed” institutional structure and narrow disciplinary training among staff members. For USAID, Tropical Forests and Biodiversity (FAA 118-119) analyses are a key, initial entry point for integrating biodiversity and environmental issues in the agency’s strategy development process. 

Biosphere reserves in the international network of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme are supposed to function as laboratories and models for integrating conservation and development. Each of the almost seven hundred biosphere reserves in the network is supposed to undergo a periodic review every ten years, a process that provides an opportunity for what is essentially a formative evaluation combined with a strategic planning process. Bruce Byers Consulting is well-positioned to assist biosphere reserves with the periodic review process because of Bruce’s work experience in more than thirty biosphere reserves around the world.

Evaluations frequently reveal weaknesses in higher-level performance indicators. Projects often develop detailed indicators and monitoring systems for inputs and outputs (e.g., number of workshops held, number of people trained, number of shovels provided, number of wells dug), but frequently cannot adequately measure the higher-level outcomes and results of their inputs. A focus on administrative accounting and accountability to donors often hinders the higher-level monitoring aimed at learning what works and what doesn’t. To overcome this weakness, sound theories of change and logical results frameworks must be developed and appropriate indicators for top-level results adopted.

It has become fashionable to use software tools in program design. Although these may help ensure that key considerations are not overlooked, they sometimes result in complex “spaghetti-diagram” graphics that are difficult to understand and implement. No software programs can replace field experience, logical analysis, and systems thinking in strategic planning and program design.

For examples of work relevant to strategic planning and program design, see:

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