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Planned Parenthood's "Steps Toolkit"

Page history last edited by Alexandra Pittman 9 years, 7 months ago


“Steps. Steps to Transforming Evaluation Practice for Social Change.” 2009. Margaret Sanger International Center. Planned Parenthood. 


The Steps Toolkit developed by Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger International Center provides an easily accessible step by step guide to designing and implementing a pathway Theory of Change model for evaluation of sexual and reproductive heath programs. The toolkit highlights the following M&E principles: ensuring a learning approach by engaging in self-evaluation, embedding M&E within program planning processes, drawing from multiple methods to best capture change, engaging diverse stakeholder groups in the evaluation process, and setting realistic timeframes to produce meaningful changes based on one’s results. Specifically, the Steps M&E toolkit underscores the following guiding principles for social justice work, including examining: 


  • the needs of people, not only demographic targets such as number of contraceptive users or “births averted”;
  • aspects of women’s and men’s ability to choose and to have access to the services they desire;
  • the extent to which programs avoid violations of human rights;
  • progress towards changing males’ and females’ ways of relating to each other, especially in areas related to sexuality and reproduction;
  • elements of programs that address how the gender system in each country (and within subgroups) affects culture, policies, practices and attitudes; 
  • the extent that programs address social, economic, geographical and other obstacles to real access and ways to overcome them; and,
  • the degree to which all focus populations have real access to the services and materials provided or intended through policies, laws, programs and services.[1] 




  • The Steps Toolkit is a straightforward summary of the different steps in an evaluation with worksheets to aid the user through the different phases—from design, data collection, to analysis.
  • The toolkit aims to capture unforeseen or unintended opposition or negative consequences that could limit the program’s effectiveness. 
  • The toolkit has an in-depth focus on different levels of outcomes and its links to program activities and implementation steps. 
  • Results feed into program learning and are adapted to each cultural/organizational context.
  • Multiple methods are used to best capture change.
  • The needs of marginalized and often stigmatized groups are addressed in the assessment process, giving diversity in programming a priority focus. 
  • The Steps toolkit aims to assess power relations, gendered norms, and its impact on programming.


Weaknesses (or not designed for):


  • The Steps toolkit can, at times, be overly focused on logical pathways towards outcomes, reducing focus on more complex areas of change.
  • There is less focus on how change happens in comparison to typical Theory of Change models. 
  • The approach relies heavily on logical frames as a component for data collection.
  • The M&E approach is not appropriate for less stable contexts with rapidly shifting conditions and constraints on the ground.
  • Steps requires significant time and energy commitment from staff and leadership.


[1] Principles reproduced from the Steps website.


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