The CommonSensing project aims to strengthen the capacities of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in reaching important sustainable development objectives and particularly Goals 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure) and 13 (Climate action) under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Beginning in 2018, the project has been implemented by a consortium of partners specialising in satellite applications, geospatial technologies and remote sensing, and was funded by the United Kingdom Space Agency through its International Partnership Programme.
In June 2021, a provisional endline evaluation report was issued on the basis of the project’s initial end date of March 2021. The present report provides an update on the endline evaluation, with findings taking into account activities implemented during the no-cost extension period from March 2021 until March 2022. The evaluation update applied the same criteria that was used in the provisional endline evaluation: effectiveness, efficiency, likelihood of impact and sustainability of the project. The evaluation also includes an update of project performance at the output, outcome and impact levels under the log frame.
The evaluation employed a mixed-methods approach that was gender and human rights sensitive. Data collection involved a review of existing project documents, interviews with key stakeholders, and a survey deployed to beneficiaries.
A field mission for onsite observation was not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data collection was also delayed by natural disasters affecting Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga (comparison country) as well as political turmoil in Solomon Islands. Moreover, this update took place when project was still being implemented and the data cube was not fully functioning.
Key Evaluation Findings and Conclusions
The evaluation found the project’s capacity development activities to be relevant and participants experienced high levels of knowledge acquisition. Backstopping activities continued to be the most appreciated form of support among stakeholders. Nevertheless, the number of requested backstopping activities decreased, most likely due to COVID-19 restrictions and less severe natural hazards affecting the region compared to 2020.
The project seems to have been more efficient than in the previous years in delivering the technical trainings as the number of training activities is higher than those in 2019 and 2020, and awareness-raising events. The GIT4CR and GIT4DRR trainings can be considered among the most important and relevant activities delivered by the project as registration, completion and feedback were highly rated. Gender differences could be found in the climate finance writeshops, with women rating them more critically. The application of knowledge of technical trainings remained stable as well as the forms of application.
The CS platform set up continued to be the most challenging project activity to complete. The frequency of the platform’s use varied very little from the previous evaluation figures.
The evaluation found some improvements in beneficiaries’ involvement in climate finance, possibly due to the deployment of finance climate advisors. The use of the CS platform for drafting these proposals was not possible as the platform was not completed when these concept notes were prepared.
The CS project continued efforts to ensure the participation of women in the project, CSOs and communities. Gender equality continued to be promoted by requiring the participation of women in the trainings, supporting the participation of women in conferences such as the Gender and GIS conferences or including a section of women in STEM.
The main progress made at outcome level is on climate finance, where the target related to fundraising proposals was achieved, with the exception of those proposals that involved the use of the CS platform. All outcomes related to capacity development and awareness-raising were exceeded.
The evaluation found great improvements of coordination among project partners as well as engagement of project partners with national authorities.
Regarding budget allocation, no major changes in expenditure were observed compared to the trends reported in the provisional endline evaluation.
Finally, the sustainability of the project is likely to be ensured, as capacity development activities will continue to be carried out as part of a new project.
Based on the above findings, the evaluation issued seven recommendations:
R1: On partnerships. The project consortia should include local or regional stakeholders as project partners to ensure ownership and sustainability.
R2: On the design of the action. Project risk assessments for similar projects should be done carefully and updated as project implementation progresses to identify unexpected technical issues and address them on a rolling basis.
R3: On sustainability. It is strongly recommended that projects that have a strong or pillar component based on training include objective learning assessments to measure the immediate learning outcomes of the training activities.
R4: On effectiveness. It is strongly recommended that projects that have a strong or pillar component based on training include objective learning assessments to measure the immediate learning outcomes of the training activities.
R5: On gender. UNITAR and Catapult should elaborate on case studies to deepen information on gender issues and the potential of women to become drivers of change in the sector.
R6: On stakeholder engagement. Project partners should further strengthen relationships, communication and visibility not only with beneficiary institutions but also with other relevant actors, including civil society organisations and humanitarian NGOs, as they play key roles in preparedness and emergency response in the Pacific.
The evaluation also identified three lessons learned:
L1: The risk assessment of projects that include technological and digital solutions similar to those integrated in the CS project should take into account the risks involved in installing, using and accessing to these types of solutions and the costs that might involve addressing unexpected issues (e.g., security certificates, technological limitations, etc.).
L2: Coherence and alignment between the log frame and the ToC change is key to achieve expected outcome and impact as it ensures a consistent project result chain
L3: Challenges in introducing new technologies, designed in western societies, might raise when trying to introduce them in other settings. The logic in the purpose and the way of use new technologies is different within different societies. Digitalization means access to information and, information involves power which might lead to shifting traditional powers. Therefore, co-creation and participatory approaches in designing technological solutions should be prioritized.