Reflexive process monitoring (RPM)


Use for

Identifying learning processes and helping participants in system innovation projects to reflect on ways of improving the project.


The method is based on the assumption that participants in a system innovation project are more likely to undertake significant, coherent action if they reflect regularly on the activities and the results of the project, developments in the current system and the long-term ambitions. The reason for this is that the reflection prompts the participants to revise their own goals and values (second-order learning), to see barriers in the dominant system as opportunities and to start thinking of ways of removing these barriers (system learning).

What do you do?

With Reflexive process monitoring you use the learning processes of the participants to explore whether there has been any change in behaviour or institutional change. This is done by systematically monitoring and evaluating those learning processes with a flexible set of activities, indicators and instruments. The process involves a continuous cycle of more or less integrated steps.

The cycle starts with observation throughinterviews, participation at meetings, etc. The second step is that you  analyse those observations. In the third step, you get the members of the project team or the participants in the project to reflect on the findings from the first two steps.The final step is that the participants or project management revise planned activities or devise new activities. In each step, the focus is on the relationship between the project and the system.

For the monitoring you use effect indicators to assess the quality of the learning and innovation process and process indicators that provide information about the criteria for learning in the network during the process. On this point, see also the specific methods used in RPM: reflexive process description, collective system analysis and sets of indicators.

A reflexive process monitoring cycle can be completed 'on the spot', for example during the course of a meeting. But such a cycle sometimes takes far longer, for example if you want to review whether system learning is taking place in the longer term.


  • A good understanding of the background to the RPM approach and of the indicators. Experience with process facilitation and methods of communication are also required.
  • Peer review with monitors from other projects to create room for reflection.
  • Trust between the project management and the RPM monitor

More information

Mierlo, B. van., Arkesteijn, M. en Leeuwis, C. (2010). Enhancing the Reflexivity of System Innovation Projects with System Analyses. American Journal of Evaluation 31 (2), pp. 143-161.

Van Mierlo, B. et al. (2010) Reflexive monitoring in action. A guide for monitoring system innovation projects. Wageningen UR: Wageningen; Athena Institute, VU: Amsterdam. 

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