Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Result Chains

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Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are set (see table importance of energy for achieving the MDGs). Impact monitoring makes changes apparent. Such changes are the result of a combined influence of the society's own internal mechanisms of development, and external political, economic and environmental factors, one of which may be a development programme or project. It is quite difficult to tell which factor caused which change, and it is hardly possible to isolate the project's impact from any other influence. Still, impact monitoring is important, because it is a process of learning about relationships. To be more effective and realistic, decisions and project activities should be reviewed from time to time and be adapted to the changing situation. Furthermore, by conducting impact assessments on a regular basis, the mid to long-term sustainability of results and impacts can be monitored.

Result Chains

The actual difficulties of assessing development results and impacts lie in the “attribution”, i.e. in the classification of a highly-aggregated development progress for individual projects. This means that the greater the distance from the individual intervention to the spheres where the changes take place, the more difficult it becomes to assign causal relationships to development results.

A results chain sets out a logical pattern of how successive and conditional inputs, activities, and outputs that an intervention can directly affect, could lead to more distant outcomes and impacts.

Figure 1: An exemplary results chain:

Result Chain

Development projects and programmes are resourced through German and partner inputs, such as materials, equipment, staff and funds. Using these inputs, the projects launch activities such as advisory services, trainings, funding, or accompanying measures (e.g. awareness and marketing campaigns). Due to these activities outputs are generated, which might occur as qualified institutions/organisations, availability of sufficient financial resources of partner organisations or supporting measures in place. These outputs are then utilised by target groups or intermediaries (use of outputs), e.g. leading to efficient processes and improved services of institutions/organisations or the use of funds for improving energy infrastructure. This use of output is further generating medium-term and long-term development results such as outcomes (e.g. improved access to electricity for rural households) and impacts (e.g. increased household income, reduced workload for women).

Up to the level of “use of outputs”, attribution is relatively easy in most cases. However, as we climb up to the levels of “outcomes” and “impacts” external factors that cannot be influenced by projects and programmes become increasingly important. The attribution gap widens up to an extent where the observed changes cannot be directly related to project outputs any more. Up to the level where a causal relationship between outputs and observed development changes can be shown, projects are entitled to claim the observed positive development changes as a “direct benefit” or “outcome”. The project or programme objective is set at this level of the result chain. Often, however, the actual reason for launching operations in a sector or country is to achieve results beyond that level, and these can usually be influenced only indirectly by the project/programme. In general, it is not possible to identify a causal relationship explaining how these “indirect benefits” came about, as too many actors are involved to clearly isolate the effect of a single intervention. Nonetheless, highly aggregated development results (for instance progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals) need to be kept in view. Even though comprehensive attribution is not possible, EnDev projects should provide plausible hypotheses on the project’s 'contributions' to overarching development results. The following tables show the typical impact chain for projects regarding “Energy for cooking” and “Rural Electrification”.

Impact Chain for the Project Type: Energy for Cooking

Table 2: Impact Chain for the Project type: Energy for cooking

Impact Chain Criteria
  • Appropriate & viable stove technologies are developed
  • Stove producers are trained in technical and marketing skills
  • Quality control system is developed
  • Increased access to information & knowledge about cooking energy (technologies & techniques) for public
Use of output
  • Appropriate & viable stove technologies are applied
  • Stove producers are competent and apply their technical and marketing skills
  • Quality control system is implemented
  • Increased awareness about cooking energy issues in households, social institutions and SMEs
Outcome (Direct benefits)
  • Improved sustainable access to cooking energy for households, SME and social institutions:
  • More high quality stoves are produced and sold by men & women
  • More people buy and use efficiently ICS
Impact (Indirect benefits)
  • Increased income generation for stove producers and retailers, more jobs and SMEs created
  • Increased engagement & employment of women
  • Biomass energy is saved leading to
  • Savings: less expenses for fuel wood
  • Saved time on fuel wood collection
  • Improved working and living conditions
  • Saved cooking and collecting time
  • Less workload for women and children
  • Improved indoor air quality and less respiratory and eye diseases
  • Improved safety and hygene in the kitchen
  • Less deforestation and land degradation and improved climate protection
Highly aggregated results
  • Reduction of extreme poverty
  • Improved economic conditions
  • Improved environmental conditions
  • Improved health situation
  • Improved situation of women

Impact Chain for the Project Type: Rural Electrification

Table 3: Impact Chain for the Project type: Rural Electrification

Impact Chain Criteria
  • Institutions / organisations are qualified
  • Partner organisations have sufficient financial resources to implement pro-poor electrification programmes
  • Back-up/accompanying measures are implemented
Use of output
  • Qualified institutions / organisations work more efficiently and offer innovative products and services
  • Partner organisations use financial resources to provide facilitated access to modern energy services for households, SME, social institutions
  • Long-term sustainability is ensured by the implemented back-up/accompanying measures
Outcome (Direct benefits)
  • Improved sustainable access to electricity for households, SME and social institutions
  • The provided electricity is increasingly used for productive purposes and income generation
Impact (Indirect benefits) Electricity for Households:
  • Increased income through household production facilitated by improved working conditions
  • Monetary savings through reduced energy costs
  • Improved indoor air quality in households
  • Improved conditions for reading / studying of school children
  • Reduced workload / improved working conditions for women
  • Improved information and communication facilities
  • Enhanced perception of safety
  • Enhanced social cohesion in the community
Electricity for Social Infrastructure:
  • Improved health services (medical infrastructure)
  • Improved educational services (educational infrastructure)
  • Enhanced perception of safety
  • Enhanced social cohesion in the community
Electricity for SME & Agriculture:
  • Increased number / higher productivity of SME
  • Development of new businesses / energy-based value chains
  • Increased agricultural productivity
Highly aggregated results
  • Reduction of extreme poverty
  • Improved economic conditions
  • Improved health situation
  • Improved educational situation
  • Improved situation of women

Monitoring and Impact Assessment

Monitoring of output, use of output and direct benefits (outcomes) are part of the existing project monitoring; biannual each EnDev project provides a monitoring report with the no. of people provided with access to a modern form of energy (direct benefit / outcome). Monitoring the indirect benefits (impacts) and highly aggregated results (MDG level) in the impact chains should be part of a regular impact assessment. Therefore, the EnDev projects should select a set of applicable indicators to be monitored on a regular basis through case studies or surveys. If needed, the EnDev team in Eschborn will provide additional support. The following paragraphs and tables present some options for indicators. For reasons of comparison and potential further analysis of data (e.g. cost-benefit-analysis) it is highly recommendable to include certain essential indicators (marked in the tables) for every EnDev Impact-Assessment.

Full list Indicators "What to meassure" and "How to meassure"

Further Information


  • DFID – energy for the poor, pdf , August 2002
  • GTZ - Guidelines for Impact Monitoring in Economic and Employment Promotion Projects with Special Reference to Poverty Reduction Impacts, March 2001; Kuby, Thomas; Vahlhaus, Martina.
  • GTZ – Measuring Successes and Setbacks. How to Monitor and Evaluate Household Energy Projects. 1996.
  • GTZ – Results-based Monitoring. Guidelines for Technical Cooperation Projects and Programmes, May 2004
  • OECD/DAC – Glossary, pdf of Key Terms in Evaluation and Results Based Management 2002.
  • UNDP -, pdf Energizing the Millennium Development Goals, August 2005
  • UN Energy - paper, pdf energy challenge for achieving the Millennium Development Goals”, July 2005, Energy Working Notes Energy and Poverty: Myths, Links, and Policy Issues (272k pdf). Energy Working Notes No. 4, by Jamal Saghir. May 2005.