Moving on…

December 21, 2009

The consultations on the ISEAL Impacts Code have moved.

Please join us at for further updates and discussions!


Impacts Code Newsletter August 2009

August 6, 2009

During July Patrick and I have been able to undertake a major rewrite of the Draft Impacts Code based on input from the Steering Committee. I have been in contact with most ISEAL members regarding consultation on the Impacts Code and helping them articulate their theory of change. I took a week of holiday as well.

Yours sincerely,

Paddy Doherty, Credibility Tools Manager
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Impacts Code Newsletter July 2009

July 8, 2009

The Impacts Code Steering Committee met on 18-19 June and provided detailed comments and suggestions for improving the draft before it is posted for the first formal comment period in September. Patrick and I presented two workshop sessions at the ISEAL AGM conference at Royal Holloway University (22-24 June) and received good feedback from these sessions.

Yours sincerely

Paddy Doherty

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Impacts Code Newsletter June 2009

June 8, 2009

Since my last newsletter the Draft Impacts Code has undergone many changes; getting it ready for final review by the Impacts Code Steering Committee on 18-19 June. Both the Impacts Code Issues Committee and the Methodologies Committee had meetings to review and discuss various aspects of the draft Impacts Code. I had direct conversations with many members of the Impacts Code Committees, and a continuous stream of comments on various sections of the draft document. The latest draft is posted on the Impacts Code Wiki for public review and comment.


Paddy Doherty, ISEAL Credibility Tools Manager Read the rest of this entry »

Impacts Code Newsletter May 2009

May 8, 2009

There’s been steady progress on the draft ISEAL Impacts Code in the last month. Amazingly, the Impacts Code committees do not seem to tire of this work, and have been both critical and encouraging. Here is a copy of short note from Francisco Bustamante of UTZ Certified, which is typical of the committee support I receive:

It is very interesting to see the evolution in the Code. You will find my comments enclosed directly in the text. I think we need to pay more attention in the methodological issues in data analysis, because the statistical methods have their own procedures; so I suggest not to be very descriptive and let the standards define the quantitative and qualitative data handling according with the selected indicators and all the other considerations in the Evaluation design (with a good advisory sources). Congratulations for your hard work.

In this newsletter, you’ll find more good suggestions for the ISEAL Impacts Code, a theory of change for standards systems and – of course – an overview of the steps ahead.

Enjoy reading!

Paddy Doherty
Credibility Tools Manager, ISEAL Alliance

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Impacts Code Newsletter April 2009

April 8, 2009

Since the last newsletter Sasha and I attended the “Growing a 21st Century Agricultural Revolution” in Lansdowne, Virginia March 18th and 19th.

The presentations and subsequent discussions were excellent, and I took away some good feedback on the Impacts Code. One important point was that the economic theme was not as well developed as the social and environmental themes. This is true, and has prompted me to spend more time on the economic issues.

Since returning from Lansdowne, I have been working fulltime on the draft Impacts Code. This involves lots of research, thinking, and writing, deleting and writing again. I have spoken or exchanged emails with many of you during the past month and I appreciate all the help I am getting—the resulting Impacts Code will be better for it.


The Impacts Code wiki has been very useful as a way to enable everyone to see the latest thinking on the draft Code and to take part in its development. It allows me to upload current drafts and to manage them online. Use by others is growing slowly, and I realise not everyone will want to contribute to the wiki, but most people are happy to view the latest draft online. The Impacts Code Blog is growing slowly, and requires constant input on my part—to make it interesting for people to want to go there.

I have been considering ways to make the theory behind the Impacts Code more understandable and relevant for standards systems. Concepts like the ‘theory of change’ are developed and discussed by social scientists, who have interest and background in this area. However, I am trying to construct a document that can be readily understood and implemented by management and staff of standards systems, who generally do not have this background.

I am writing lots of guidance, to try to explain the theory in plain language. This is not easy—there is a reason why specialists speak in their own vernacular—but I am persevering and I believe, getting somewhere.  I have just completed a draft of section 7 (Developing the Assessment Framework), which explains to Standards Systems how to describe a theory of change for their work, and subsequently how to use that theory to determine what to monitor.

This is tough going for me, but as I said above, things are becoming clearer. I have rearranged the draft code a bit (this was expected, as the draft I put up in the wiki was quite rough) and developed the introductory section titled “The Context for Impact Assessment”. This new section explains the theoretical basis for the Impacts Code in what I hope is plain language (though any comments you want to provide in this area are very much appreciated).

Next Steps

The drafting procedure is going as planned, with a draft ready for review by the Impacts Code Steering Committee in June. Once the Steering Committee is satisfied with the draft, it will be posted for formal review. I’ll be posting new sections of the Impacts Code on the wiki today. So please review the draft, make some changes to improve the document, or leave a comment.

Who should do impact assessment?

March 24, 2009

While attending the Growing a 21st Century Agricultural Revolution conference in Lansdowne Virginia last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a researcher (on impacts) from the Netherlands.  He was admant that organisations should not do their own impact assessments.  His reasoning was that the crediblity of the assessment would be threatened by the perception of a conflict of interest (if you do it yourself, you are more likely to make your organisation look good).  He recommended that impact assessments should be done by outside organisations, unconnected to the subject of the impact assessment.

This suggestion is similar to what has been proposed by the researcher ISEAL contracted (Aimee Russillo) to write the two impact research papers that inform the theory behind the draft impacts code.  Aimee suggested that standards systems should develop monitoring and evaluation programs, then use the data from ongoing monitoring and evaluation to develop stand-alone impact studies.  The impact studies would be carried out by independent researchers (acedemics, consultants, NGOs, perhaps other standards systems) on specific aspects of the standards program.

The suggestion (that standards systems should not do their own impact assessment) is reasonable from the viewpoint of credibility, but it may make impact assessment (already a large task) even more daunting for standards organisations. We are developing a tool that will provide credible results; yet is understanable, and reasonable to implement.  Is there a middle ground? If a standard system should wish to undertake impact assessment within their monitoring and evaluation programs, there may be ways to ensure the credibility of the results.  But what about perception–will those results ever be viewed as credible? All of us involved in this project are having to consider the implications–eventually we’ll have to make a decision.  I’d appreciate your point of view.