Responsibility for the monitoring and evaluation of CALICO was given to expert academic institutions – research groups for the Belgian Ageing Studies and Cosmopolis from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). In terms of project management, monitoring and evaluation were structured as a separate work package. However, as the project was co-created by partners who had cooperated on previous initiatives, monitoring and evaluation were designed in a cooperative manner. Partners wanted to be involved from the beginning and expressed the need for usefulness of insights and experiences stemming from CALICO for their broader actions outside of the project itself.
All the partners […] see this as something new, so they can really learn a lot from this project. And they really wanted to learn and to know what will come out, what will go well and wrong […] Not only to realise the project, but really learn from the project as well.
Source: CALICO project hearing
Group interviews with project partners were organised at an early stage of implementation, providing the opportunity for each to share their motives, perceived challenges, and expectations for the results of the monitoring and evaluation. Consequently, research was structured to address stakeholders’ information needs, and expectations were consensually managed. During the interviews, for example, the need for attention to both ‘factual’, number-based indicators, as well as the gathering of personal stories through adequate, qualitative research techniques was stressed.
The interviews also led to a common understanding among project partners that social impact will take longer to occur than the funding lifetime of the project. Outcomes over the next five years should therefore be taken into account, and some may prove unexpected and difficult to grasp. In cooperation with stakeholders, the initial monitoring and evaluation plan (outlined in the application form) was refined and detailed. Importantly, a thorough list of research questions, covering a broad span of topics and assigned to monitoring and evaluation types, target groups and data collection methods, was created.
Because CALICO uses a participatory social action research methodology, feedback and learning loops are intrinsically tied into monitoring and evaluation and project management. The action researcher does not function as an external observer and assessor, rather as an active participant in various activities (such as committee meetings), providing input and advocating for various actions and groups – especially future inhabitants of the housing.