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Stakeholders collaborate on RSPO’s Theory of Change

ToC project employed a multi-stakeholder approach

The RSPO’s Theory of Change (ToC) was officially launched in November 2017, during the 15th Annual Roundtable Meeting (RT15) in Bali, Indonesia. It was originally intended to strengthen monitoring of outcomes and impacts, as well as improve RSPO’s accountability, credibility, and effectiveness. The ToC project quickly became a hallmark process that captured the attention of the Board of Governors (BoG), stakeholders, and the RSPO Secretariat. Throughout the multi-stakeholder approach in developing the ToC, it became evident that demonstrating, managing, and measuring impacts were integral to the success (or failure) of RSPO.

The process started in mid-2016, when a survey on sustainability priorities was shared with RSPO members, to help gain a better understanding of where stakeholders believed RSPO should focus their attention and efforts. A workshop with members and the Secretariat was later held in Kuala Lumpur, and further input was sought in November 2016, during the 14th Annual Roundtable Meeting (RT14) in Bangkok. In the first quarter of 2017, RSPO held both one-on-one and group interviews with 56 stakeholders, including participants from the RSPO Secretariat, the BoG, and working groups (WG). The interviewees were primarily RSPO Secretariat directors, as well as a number of BoG and WG members.

‘It got our collective thinking out of the certification-only box’

A key stakeholder of the process, Johan Verburg, inclusive value chains advisor at Oxfam, said, “I thought it was obvious which direction we all wanted to go, and what was needed to get there, but forcing ourselves to get it on paper helped to bring to the surface which assumptions we each have about what needs to change, and how that contributes to positive impact on people and the environment. It also got our collective thinking out of the certification-only box.”

In addition to conducting reviews of RSPO’s key documents to gain inputs for the ToC development process, other monitoring and evaluation systems of similar sustainability standards were looked at for learning and adopting good practices. Over the period of April to June 2017, several workshops were held with all key stakeholders on a larger scale, to provide additional feedback and comments on the “straw-man” version of the ToC.

‘Theory of Change helps us to identify future priorities for the RSPO’

"It was great to take time with others from different stakeholder groups to reflect, discuss, and agree on what our overall vision is for palm oil, and the critical role that the RSPO can play in achieving that vision,” said fellow collaborator to the process Stephen Watson, specialist on markets practice at WWF International. “Having the Theory of Change helps us to identify future priorities for the RSPO, and to understand what to measure to make sure that the RSPO is having the desired impact at scale."

In May 2017, a subgroup of members of the BoG was formed (with full representation of each stakeholder group) to co-create the RSPO ToC with the Secretariat. A meeting was held in June 2017 in London to further unpack the RSPO’s vision and to ensure that the underlying meaning of the vision will be understood among key stakeholders, as it serves as the compass for the ToC. Between July and August 2017, the ToC draft underwent further review, and was presented to and approved by the BoG on 18 September 2017.

The ToC and its supporting materials, including animated infographic and video, are now all available here.