Release of MSI Evaluation Tool and Essential Elements of MSI Design

Today, MSI Integrity is proud to release the MSI Evaluation Tool in partnership with the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at Harvard Law School. Alongside the Tool, MSI Integrity is also releasing a summary companion document, The Essential Elements of MSI Design.

The MSI Evaluation Tool was developed collaboratively by MSI Integrity and the IHRC through a five-year iterative process of extensive research, practical pilot-testing, and global consultation with the public and experts on MSIs. It provides a framework to evaluate multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) and the effectiveness of their institutional design, structure, and operational procedures.

The Essential Elements of MSI Design is a collated summary of the most essential attributes for global standard-setting MSIs identified in the MSI Evaluation Tool, and is intended to enable a quick, desk-based analysis of an initiative’s broad strengths and weaknesses.

The MSI Evaluation Tool

MSIs have become one of the most popular global instruments for addressing business and human rights issues, yet there is little research or understanding into whether these initiatives have been successful or effective as rights protection tools. MSI Integrity and the IHRC sought to fill this knowledge gap by developing a tool that can be used by both external stakeholders and MSIs themselves to evaluate the effectiveness of MSIs. The MSI Evaluation Tool sets out the critical considerations and establishes a methodology for those seeking to thoroughly evaluate an MSI. The Tool and its evaluation methodology draw together current research and practical understandings about MSI structures and processes, recognizing that MSI design features — such as good governance and robust accountability mechanisms — influence an initiative’s effectiveness and potential to achieve positive impacts. By systematically and comprehensively examining an MSI’s institutional framework, the Tool enables individuals, organizations, and MSIs themselves to better understand and evaluate the capacity of an MSI to effectively address the issues that prompted its creation.

The Tool is divided into seven sections, which reflect the seven core areas of MSI design that have been linked to effectiveness:

  1. Scope and Mandate
  2. Standards
  3. Internal Governance
  4. Implementation
  5. Development and Review of the MSI
  6. Affected Community Involvement
  7. Transparency and Accessibility

Each core area is made up of a comprehensive set of indicators related to the structures and processes that influence an MSI’s effectiveness. Users of the Tool can assess if the initiative includes these indicators by following a five-step evaluation methodology to consider whether the structures and frameworks of an initiative have been designed in a way that is capable of leading to positive outcomes and impacts.

In 2013, MSI Integrity conducted a global consultation on a draft of the Tool. More than 100 individuals and organizations provided written comments or participated in one of ten regional meetings in Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, North America, and South America. The final version released today builds off the Draft MSI Evaluation Tool (2013) by incorporating feedback related to indicator criteria and clarifying assessment procedures. A summary of each comment received during the 2013 Global Consultation process and the resulting modifications is available here.

The Essential Elements of MSI Design

The MSI Evaluation Tool is a comprehensive framework for evaluating MSIs and the effectiveness of their institutional design, structure, and operational procedures. However, conducting a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of an initiative is resource-intensive. For individuals or organizations with limited resources, or an interest in developing a basic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a given MSI, The Essential Elements of MSI Design is intended as a starting point for analysis and discussion.

The Essential Elements of MSI Design contains the most critical indicators of MSI effectiveness identified in the MSI Evaluation Tool, referred to as the “Essential Elements.” Although it does not include other indicators categorized as “Good” or “Innovative” practice for MSIs (which are included in the MSI Evaluation Tool), it provides a summary that could help guide a future evaluation of an MSI’s design and could inform the development of new MSIs or revisions to existing ones.

Broader Applications and Future Updates

The MSI Evaluation Tool was developed primarily to evaluate MSIs that were formed in response to human rights concerns and which have reacted to these problems by setting or enforcing standards for member companies and/or governments. However, with some common sense adaptation and modification, the Tool and the Essential Elements of MSI Design can be used for a variety of different purposes and applied beyond standard-setting MSIs with a focus on human rights. For example, they could be used to evaluate MSIs that address environmental or governance issues, or initiatives that serve as collective action networks or learning forums rather than as standard-setting institutions. These documents can also be applied to other accountability or private governance approaches, such as industry codes of conduct or private certification schemes. We encourage such actors to contact MSI Integrity to discuss whether these tools are suitable for a given initiative and, if so, what modifications should be made.

As knowledge and research into MSI effectiveness deepens over time, we anticipate that the Tool will be updated and modified to reflect new understandings. We welcome all interested users of these documents to contact MSI Integrity to share their findings or to seek our input on how to best evaluate an initiative. We also welcome any suggestions, questions, or future applications of the Tool to improve it over time.

Download the MSI Evaluation Tool (2017) here.

Download the Essential Elements of MSI Design here.

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