The PLACARD Legacy Framework – a universal approach to foster long-term impact

In addressing complex problems with research programmes, policy initiatives, or practical interventions, there is a need to consider the Legacy of the work: what will a project or programme leave behind?

  • The PLACARD Legacy Framework provides an adaptable approach to actively pursuing legacy in a wide variety of contexts, aimed at systematically engaging with value addition and building strategic partnerships.
  • Projects and programmes can add value in a number of ways, including through the outputs they produce or the interactions they enable; both are important elements of legacy.
  • To facilitate long-term impact legacy should be considered from the outset; by scoping possibilities with team members, stocktaking important activities or milestones, and strategising with key stakeholders, projects and programmes can actively work to assure that their impact will remain far into the future.

Large research programmes, policy initiatives, and practical development interventions often seek to tackle grand challenges. From reducing the incidence of certain diseases with public education campaigns to major infrastructure projects designed to increase access to public transport, there are countless examples of ongoing work around the world with the aim of bettering our societies. Yet, in nearly as many cases, these activities fall short of resolving the complex problems they hope to address.

Often, this is the understandable by-product of planning concrete projects with clear activities, tasks, outputs, and targets. The realities of project management and implementation run counter to the collective need to address multifaceted challenges with numerous intersecting causes, effects, and stakeholders. In this context, there is almost always a need for a subsequent project or additional follow-up activities to continue to facilitate positive impact when resources cease to flow. Ideally this takes place in such a way that the benefits from previous experiences and the lessons learned chart the course forward.

Put differently, there is a need to consider the legacy of such work – that is, to develop systematic approaches for understanding value created by projects and programmes, and to assure that critical elements are maintained.

Despite this emerging need, few published examples offer systematic approaches to pursuing legacy. Recognising this, PLACARD (the PLAtform for Climate Adaptation and Risk reDuction) is taking steps to develop and implement such a framework for use in any context. While PLACARD itself focuses on improving coordination between researchers, policymakers, and practitioners working with climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Europe, the PLACARD Legacy Framework is designed to be adaptable for application in any context.

The aim of this policy brief is to describe in detail the PLACARD Legacy Framework, equipping researchers, policymakers, and practitioners with the tools to assess the value added by their work and actively facilitate long-term positive impact well into the future.

The PLACARD Legacy Framework

The PLACARD Legacy Framework proceeds in three stages, each of which is intended to be led by a legacy team in close consultation with programme members, key stakeholders, and relevant thought leaders or knowledge partners in the field. To begin, the scoping stage aims to conceptualise “impact” and develop a spectrum of approaches to enable it, with the intention of delineating the goals of the legacy team. In the stocktaking stage, the legacy team should work to identify key areas and mechanisms of value addition within the programme, beginning to articulate activities that may support value addition into the future. Finally, in the strategising stage, the legacy team will prioritise activities and develop strategic engagement plans to help realise their goals.
The PLACARD Legacy Framework, while developed for use in the context of PLACARD, can be a useful tool for a wide variety of actors, sectors, and teams as they begin to think critically about what they hope their work will leave behind.


Identifying the impact of an intervention can be a difficult task. A useful entry point to conceptualising impact is the impact assessment framework developed by Roche et al. (1999). In this framework, projects use “inputs” to develop “activities” and produce “outputs” which, in turn have short-term “outcomes” and long-term “impacts” (Figure 1). The primary objective of many monitoring, evaluation, and learning exercises is often to assess the outputs, outcomes, and impacts (also referred to as “results”) produced by a programme. By contrast, a legacy analysis is centrally concerned with the relationship between results and the processes that link outputs, outcomes, and impacts. Or, put differently, legacy requires exploring how value is added, for whom value is added, and how value addition can be supported.

How is value added?

The outset of any legacy analysis process must begin with a discussion of the mechanisms through which a project or programme adds value. Value addition often takes place through two preliminary mechanisms: by creating products, and by facilitating processes and interactions. Moreover, the frameworks for supporting the long-term impact of the programme must be accounted for as a value-addition mechanism itself.

Figure 1. Impact assessment framework, adapted from INTRAC (2015). Items in green are the results of a project or programme and are the focus of the legacy analysis.

Figure 1. Impact assessment framework, adapted from INTRAC (2015). Items in green are the results of a project or programme and are the focus of the legacy analysis.

For whom is value added?

It is important to identify the audiences for whom value is added. As a starting point, Crisp et al. (2000) argue that there are four primary approaches for building institutional capacity around a new issue. Each approach centres on a different actor type. First, bottom-up organisational approaches seek to empower individual professionals with necessary technical expertise. Second, top-down organisational approaches work to remove structural barriers or re-prioritise within institutions to promote change. Third, partnership approaches help connect organisations or groups of people to share knowledge and resources. Fourth, community-based approaches target the downstream recipients of an intervention to engage them in the process, and to build sustainable demand. In all four cases, a different actor or constellation of actors contributes to the long-term attainment of programme goals.

Based on the specific opportunities for a given programme to engage with different actor types, any number of these four approaches may present plausible ways to pursue as an element of the overall legacy approach. The number of applicable approaches may narrow during the stages of the Legacy Framework as specific information is added. The legacy team can then prioritise options.

How can value addition be supported?

Finally, the legacy team should explore potential approaches to the long-term support of value addition. The approaches for facilitating value addition and long-term impact of a programme can be wide ranging. For example, value addition may take the form of “inspiration”, that is, stimulating stakeholders to take on board key recommendations. Or, the team they may pursue value addition through “institutionalisation”, by making the programme’s roles and missions become the core of a new organisation or body. Legacy could be achieved through “embeddedness” – that is, seeing that key actors adopt and maintain many of the critical functions of a programme over time (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Approaches for facilitating legacy.

Figure 2. Approaches for facilitating legacy.

All stages of the scoping process should be informed by broader programme objectives. Deliberation of these objectives should take place among members of the legacy team, which should include to the greatest possible extent project members, knowledge leaders in the relevant field, and key stakeholders who stand to benefit from the work. The scoping discussions should not focus on the specifics of the programme, but rather begin to gauge the appetite of the team for further engagement, and begin to direct the process forward.

Additionally, considering how to support value addition is inextricable from discussions of financial support. Beyond the initial investment needed by a project or programme to undertake a legacy analysis, there may be a need to gather additional resources to facilitate further activities. This should be deliberated in the legacy process. Some forms of legacy may require additional financial inputs, others may require none. Thus, it is important to align the expectations of all key stakeholders on this topic at the outset of the process.


The second stage of the PLACARD Legacy Framework turns attention from value added and impact generally to the specifics of the work. In this phase, the principal activity is a stocktaking exercise that seeks to identify the concrete outputs of the programme, including the physical products and key interactions facilitated.

For this purpose, the legacy team should engage programme leaders and other central staff to understand what key outputs were produced in the various work streams and systematic identification of value addition and potential next steps. In this way, the stocktaking exercise is not limited to the outputs themselves, but aims to generate information about value-addition processes and actors, and action items for supporting long-term impact.

Table 1 presents sample interview questions that interviewers can use to generate information about a project’s project’s most significant products and interactions facilitated. Table 2 puts forward a way to organise the data and information collected in this process.

Table 1. Sample interview questions

  • What are the key outputs of work in this programme, including products and important interactions facilitated?
  • For each output, what was the value added of this work? To whom was this valuable?
  • What concrete actions could be taken to assure the long-term impact of this output?
  • Which key partners should be part of this conversation?

Table 2. Sample legacy stocktaking table

Programme’s Work Package Output What is the value added by this output? To whom specifically is this output valuable? What concrete actions could be taken to assure long-term impact?

After the stocktaking exercise has been completed, the legacy team can then begin to assemble packages of legacy options by combining action items, and by taking into account discussions from the scoping stage. Action items can feasibly be grouped by target actor, legacy approach (e.g. bottom-up organisational, top-down organisational), priority, or other relevant factors. It is important to note that legacy option packages are not mutually exclusive. An action item need not be viewed as a potential part of one package only. As shown in Figure 3, the action items can be treated in a “mix and match” sort of way. Some items may be so important that they are part of almost any viable legacy option.

Figure 3. Sample packages of legacy options

Figure 3. Sample packages of legacy options.


The last stage of the PLACARD Legacy Framework focuses on refining strategy and earlier planning to chart a course forward. In this phase, a series of discussions or workshops, called legacy dialogues, should be convened amongst the legacy team and other relevant actors, assuring that all key players and stakeholders are at the table.

Rules of engagement in the legacy dialogues must be determined considering the legacy actors and approaches. For example, if there are interests in a bottom-up organisational approach, then the stakeholders should be asked to participate in the dialogue as individuals and in their own capacity, while in a top-down organisational approach, the participants must be representatives of their organisation or interest group.

The PLACARD Legacy Framework suggests convening at least two legacy dialogue sessions. The core purpose of the first legacy dialogue should be focused on the validation of scoping and stocktaking activities. It should be designed to present relevant stakeholders with the legacy framework and the outcomes of the scoping and stocktaking exercises. The legacy team should take the opportunity of this dialogue to begin identifying legacy action points. An additional aim is to explore the opportunities to build a community of practice to take forward the programme’s approach and vision as the legacy is implemented.

After the first dialogue, the legacy team can start identifying strategic priorities and begin to develop legacy action plans. By combining different legacy action points, the team can construct the initial version of legacy packages and strategic engagement plans for working alongside key actors.

The second legacy dialogue should aim at finalising the packages of legacy options, agreed upon by the entire programme consortium and relevant stakeholders. Participants of the second dialogue ideally would be the same as those in the first dialogue, though other relevant stakeholders and key actors identified in the first dialogue should also be included. In the second dialogue, the team begins by providing a brief overview of the programme, the legacy process, and the legacy packages. The group then starts the open discussion for refining the packages by recombining or reorganising actions and priorities. With this completed, the dialogue’s attention turns toward finalising strategic engagement plans to liaise with key actors in the field.

Once the packages of legacy options and associated strategic engagement plans have been finalised, the legacy team should prepare an implementation proposal. The accepted proposal by the programme leaders can begin to be implemented, either by the legacy team or another team with the appropriate mandate for action.


Concerted thinking about legacy is a key element of assuring the long-term positive impact of a programme. The PLACARD Legacy Framework is a process for working collaboratively within the context of a programme to systematically identify value addition and capitalise on opportunities for positive long-term impact.

By engaging in scoping activities as programme activities get underway, stocktaking to understand the value added, and strategising collaboratively with key stakeholders to develop plans for engagement and implementation, any initiative or intervention can set itself up for success. By focusing on legacy and employing the PLACARD Legacy Framework, important programmes can be more effective at achieving their objectives and supporting long-term positive change.


This brief is a deliverable of the PLAtform for Climate Adaptation and Risk reDuction (PLACARD) D5.3-1, Strategic Planning to Facilitate Long-Term Impact, which is part of Work Package 5, Evaluation, Learning and Legacy.

The authors would like to thank their partners in the PLACARD programme – including stakeholder partners and individuals who participated in the legacy dialogues – for their support and helpful comments throughout the development of the PLACARD Legacy Framework. Additionally, we would like to thank Mário Pulquério, Ana de Jesus and Andrea Norgren for support in orchestrating the practical details of the legacy dialogues. Finally, we would like to thank the European Union Directorate General on Research and Innovation (DG RTD) for generous support of PLACARD, via the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and innovation Framework Programme, Grant Agreement No. 653255.

Selected PLACARD outputs