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The role of a reflexive monitor, in the New Zealand context, is still evolving but is influenced by the thinking of van Mierlo et al. (2010). Van Mierlo et al. (2010 p.11) define reflexive monitoring as a role that:

encourages participants to keep reflecting on the relationships between the key items: the ambitions of the project, usual practices and the way they are embedded in the institutions, plus the developments in the system that offer opportunities for realising the ambitions of systems innovation

 Arkesteijn et al. (2015) notes that a reflexive monitor is an observer, facilitator and sparring partner to encourage participants to reflect on the relationships between project activities, the system context and the ambition for change. Van Mierlo et al. (2010) also makes clear that a reflexive monitor should not have to fulfil too many other tasks within the project in order to ensure they can maintain good distance and provide encouragement for continuing to focus on the system change required.

The New Zealand experience

Based on the experiences of those operating as reflexive monitors in the MBIE-funded Primary Innovation programme it is clear that there is no one size fits all definition or approach to reflexive monitoring, as there are examples across the entire spectrum identified by van Mierlo et al (2010). All (those interviewed) agreed that the role is about supporting the project manager and team to achieve the project goals; “a supporting role but a critical supporting role” and is “a role that doesn’t get much recognition”. Other aspects of the role are identified in the table below.
As one reflexive monitor noted: “you adapt your skills to the role, and Reflexive Monitors require certain personality traits and mind-set rather than particular skills…always open to other viewpoints; strong team mentality and wanting to see collaboration and co-learning outcomes; highly objective outlook”.

Definition of the Reflexive Monitor by current Reflexive Monitors


Tasks Description
Supporting role
(supporting project manager and wider project team)
- “support work done by project team”
- “find ways to get the group to agree, not everyone will agree but everyone has to be able to live with it”
- “there to help take temperature gauge, let the project leader know how the process is going”
- “picking up different things from what a project manager would pick up”
Get the project team where it needs to go
-“it doesn’t have to be a straight line, it can be a bit wobbly, because it will be, constantly assessing against what you’ve said you want to achieve, and how are we going towards it”
- “always asking why”
- “asking the question ‘is the project on track?’”
- “if the direction is changing, do they realise?”
- “keeping them on track towards the goal”
Identifying conflict
- “don’t get involved in the conflict between members…highlight conflict to project manager”
- “mediate conflict…if that’s what project manager wants from you”
Data collector / Evaluator
-“making sure the project is tracking along”
- “figuring out what is causing blockages”
- “facilitate project meetings”
Providing feedback          
- “Two different parts, devil’s advocate and pushing hard and looking for positives and building support”
- “offer opinions throw things back at them to think about”
Identifying the right stakeholders to be involved - making sure everyone’s knowledge is continually included”
- “making sure the right people are involved at the right time”
- “having everyone’s knowledge heard”
- “if someone is missing ask why”



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