The 4 Returns indicator menu

Welcome to the 4 Returns indicator menu: a set of indicators that you can use to develop a 4 Returns monitoring plan for your landscape. This tool aims to help you to create your own 4 Returns monitoring framework, which you can use to reflect on your impact and to share your results and impact with stakeholders. You can use the 4 Returns indicator menu as inspiration, with suggestions on what and how to monitor. The menu builds on the areas of interest of each of the 4 Returns as introduced in the Foundation section of the 4 Returns Guidebook.

Illustration: Janina Engel, engel.studio

How to read the 4 Returns indicator menu

For each theme and subtheme of the 4 Returns (figure available soon), we developed indicators in the 4 Returns indicator menu to help you develop your 4 Returns monitoring plan. Wherever possible, indicators and methods were developed from existing and well-used frameworks, such as UNEP Land Use Impact Hub, USAID, WRI, LandScale and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Here are some guidelines for using the 4 Returns indicator menu to create your own 4 Returns monitoring plan.

  • All the indicators measure progress towards the achievement of an expected result. To compare changes, a baseline and one or more follow-up measurements are useful.
  • Selecting indicators from the menu clarifies the performance and evolving context of the strategy and actions for your landscape. The indicators in the menu are suggestions; you can adapt, contextualise, or change the indicators for your monitoring plan to suit expected results within the 4 Returns areas of interest.
  • The areas of interest in the 4 Returns indicator menu may not cover all elements of your interventions. Other themes and indicators can be added.

Core indicators to start monitoring

There are 14 ‘core’ indicators which we recommend you select to start monitoring a holistic landscape restoration project. They are core because:

  • They provide basic insight into the progress towards creating 4 Returns, at output, outcome, and impact levels equally
  • They are universal in the sense that we expect many 4 Returns landscape restoration projects will work on these result areas
  • They are feasible to monitor, even by practitioners who are less experienced in monitoring

The menu also has optional indicators for the other areas of interest. Which of the optional indicators you choose will depend on whether your landscape plan focuses on these outcomes or not. For each indicator, the following information is available:

  • Level of impact
  • Suggested monitoring frequency
  • Recommended measurement methods
  • Suggested breakdowns

Using the 4 Returns indicator menu

The 4 Returns indicator menu is vast and would be time-consuming for any practitioner to use in its entirety. So, to develop your own monitoring plan, it’s important to select the best indicators to reflect your landscape plan. Here are three things to considering when making your choice.

Purpose of monitoring

Firstly, how do you plan to use the data? For more on purpose, see the resource basics of MEL (soon available). To decide the purpose of monitoring, it is good to involve your most important stakeholders. Different stakeholders may have a variety of monitoring interests, and taking their needs into account will create support for your monitoring plan. So, before you start, find out the information needs of your stakeholders, and whether these stakeholders are representative of all voices – human or other – in the landscape.

Your intended results

Secondly, you should decide what to monitor according to your intended results. You can identify your intended results:

  • If you have a theory of change or similar, the 4 Returns highlights the changes you want to achieve and how they relate to your actions; these are your intended results. Find out about the theory of change in the chapter ‘From vision to action’ (link soon available).
  • If you don’t have a theory of change or similar, you can use the interaction map of the 4 Returns (link soon available). Pick the grey boxes that match your actions to see what results can be expected in the landscape. Then, look in the menu to see which indicators belong to each of these effect

Preferred research methodologies

Thirdly, which indicator you select depends on the methods you choose to use. This can be steered by your preference and need, or by your capacity for monitoring, including your budget, skills, and time. If you have experience with social research, opting for indicators from the areas of interest in the social and inspirational returns is more feasible, for example.

Good luck!

After you’ve designed your 4 Returns monitoring plan, think about some practical steps to implement it. For more about this, see the resource basics of MEL (soon available).

We will keep testing and adapting the 4 Returns indicator menu depending on what proves valuable for practitioners. If you have suggestions for other areas of interest or indicators, let us know!

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