Trust is both a belief and a bond: Why is Trust for outsiders declining in communities? (Reblog from APEA and Rituu Nanda)

Following on from the localization blog by PLAN, APEA has shared why trust is declining in local communities. Note the learn not give lesson 🙂

Reblog of Asia Pacific Evaluation Association / Rituu Nanda: https://asiapacificeval.org/trust-is-both-a-belief-and-a-bond/

Trust is both a belief and a bond: Why is Trust for outsiders declining in communities? (Insights from 13 countries across four continents)

A group of 16 Participants of the Community Ownership in MEL and Research Group of APEA from Benin, Bangladesh, France, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tunis, UK came together on 15th March’24 to discuss issues around Trust. (Ahmed, Amol Shaila Suresh, Anita Cheria, Bhuban Bajracharya, Chinenye Mercy Morka, Fiona Cram, Jhank, Lipika Das Gupta, Luc Barrière-Constantin, Maroof, Pakeeza Arif, Randika De Mel, Rituu B Nanda, Sarah Gharbi, Sushila Pandit, Visvalingam Muralithas.)

(This post is compiled by Rituu B Nanda based on the inputs of the discussion)

Trust is a basic need It helps anyone survive, and maintain relationships including with self, immediate family members, society. Trust helps in connecting one with others and just being yourself.

What do we mean by trust?

  • The absence of doubt about other’s intention…
  • Being transparent and acknowledging that we know less about them, and seek to build understanding.
  • Recognizing that our actions may only play a small role in people’s lives and approaching with a sense of modesty and humility.
  •  Standing with the communities, being one of them.
  • Convince the communities about our sincere intentions
  • Trust is about visiting with people

Decline in trust-internal and external

We observe a loss of trust both towards outsiders and within the communities themselves. Communities are losing trust in the system, implementation agencies, evaluation professionals and researchers. Due to longstanding practices followed by outsiders, the younger generation exhibits less trust in them compared to older generations, as their expectations remain unfulfilled. Moreover, trust within communities has eroded not only within groups in communities and neighbourhoods but also amongst family members.

Why is community’s Trust eroding in outsiders?

  • Evaluators’ approach is often perceived as overly theoretical by communities. Community members feel that stakeholders treat them merely as means to achieve their own agenda. Outsiders, driven by predefined targets, tend to impose objectives on communities, exacerbating mistrust.
  • Tribal or indigenous communities prefer  isolation and often resist mainstreaming efforts , feeling unheard and excluded from decision-making processes that affect them.
  • Repeated service delivery projects in communities foster dependency rather than empowerment. Additionally, implementation agencies lack transparency and come with pre-planned projects without involving community in design.
  • The decline in trust is compounded by a sense of fatigue, as projects often address surface-level issues without tackling systemic problems. Consequently, expectations remain unmet, fuelling disillusionment among community members.
  • Communities express frustration with organizations that promise resources but vanish after a few years, leaving behind unfulfilled promises. This perpetuates the erosion of trust in development professionals.
Example from north Sri Lanka: Post-war Reconciliation A range of complex challenges can affect the well-being and social cohesion of residents. The northern part of Sri Lanka has been deeply affected by the decades-long civil conflict, and issues of reconciliation between different ethnic and religious groups remain. Rebuilding trust and fostering dialogue among communities is essential for long-term peace and stability.

How can we restore Trust?

Government authorities, civil society organizations, local communities, and other stakeholders have to prioritize inclusive development, social cohesion, and respect for diversity to build trust:

  • Trust is fragile and rather than imposing external definition, we need to understand how communities define trustthemselves.
  • Mistrust within a community often stems from past episodes, usually rooted in bitter experiences. It is the responsibility of outsiders to delve into these causes and initiate the rebuilding process.
  • Without trust from the community, a project is likely to fail. So, engagement with communities must commence with trust-building.
  • Cultivate competent communities which can address certain issues independently. For example, in rural Nepal, where a small percentage of households face extreme poverty, local government and communities can collaborate to address their needs.
  • Transparency regarding project objectives is paramount. Instead of devising plans and then presenting them to the community, they should be involved in shaping the work plan from the start.
  • “Outsiders need to come to learn, not to give” – We need to be learners ourselves.  If we position ourselves solely as experts, communities may be less inclined to engage with us. Knowledge exchange should flow both ways.  Building trust necessitates authenticity and genuine connections.  To restore trust – we have to be non-judgemental, by being ourselves
  • Consistency is fundamental in trust-building. Move away from short term funding. Long-term engagement demonstrates commitment, gradually fostering trust over time.
Rebuilding Trust-from deficit based to strength-based approach After the Ebola epidemic, Constellation was invited to Guinea and Liberia to rebuild trust  in communities toward government health services. Employing the SALT approach, communities took ownership and initiated dialogue with health officials, thereby strengthening trust and partnership between both stakeholders. https://the-constellation.org/opening-safe-conversations-to-restore-trust-after-ebola/  

Conclusion Participants agreed that trust is fundamental for survival, and therefore, growing mistrust is worrying as the world becomes increasingly fragmented. Trustworthy relationships are crucial for sustaining long-term partnerships and ensuring the effectiveness of evaluations. Through trust, we can foster a safe environment for ourselves and others.

 

Local Accountability and Transparency… During and Post Project?

 

Local Accountability and Transparency… During and Post Project?

 

Local development partners? Check. Long-term transparent and accountable investments through them as “local solutions” partners? Not so much. While President Obama and former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Raj Shah promised up to 30% of all contracts would go to ‘local solutions’ that “promote sustainable development through high-impact partnerships and local solutions”, nowhere near that percentage became true then, much less now. While there seem to be good examples such as Haiti [1], Afghanistan is a poorer example. While most international non-profits implement projects through local sub-contractors, certainly building their capacity to manage and account for foreign taxpayer dollars spent, like this MSI in Lebanon example [2], if we extend the measure of ‘success’ beyond our project implementation, policies and programming needs to change to sustain capacity and implementation post-exit (see INTRAC report [3]).

How local partners are presented can appear as somewhat of a shell game. For while Haiti and Afghanistan have been featured by USAID, I have never seen a full inventory of partners for even a handful of the 60+ countries and regional missions that USAID works in. We hear about ‘local solutions’ and undoubtedly USAID’s ‘implementing partners’ do much good using local subcontractors. Yet are the locals winning the contracts these days? USAID posts contracts lists, for instance those who ‘won’ contracts amounting to $4.68 billion in 2016 [4]. The for-profits of Chemonics ‘won’ over $1 billion, then Tetra Tech and DAI got $800 million of contracts each [4]. These three contractors comprised 39% of all USAID obligated contract funding that year, whereas (U.S.) non-profits garnered 13% of the contracts and small and woman-owned businesses 12% and 7% [4]. Only Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, a state corporation, was listed in the top 20, winning a five-year $122 million contract for Kenya [4].  There are no equivalent sub-contractor lists, much less amounts allocated to national NGOs which would prove we are building ‘development’ ground-up.

While I am focusing on USAID, I believe this is true of most bilateral and multilateral donors. For USAID, caveats abound regarding their ability to accomplish local and sustained ‘development’. A 2015 Congressional Research Paper about their Background, Operations and Issues, cites “multiple challenges in the course of fulfilling its mission” [5], including:

  • Local Solutions. Providing assistance to local entities incurs the risk of loss of taxpayer dollars. Efforts to mitigate risk generally require more personnel and consequent funding to monitor local entities and build their capacities [5]
  • Sustainability. ‘Country ownership’ and domestic resource mobilization efforts are two ways the agency has sought to address sustainability, but a clear path to sustainability remains a work in progress [5] …

[Yet] the agency argues that investments are best sustained in the long-term if development is locally owned, locally led, and locally resourced.”

 

For more accurate accountability and transparency for bilateral, multilateral, pro-profit and non-profit implementers, we must look within data underlying the ‘development’ allocations abroad. For instance, the US government’s country-level foreign appropriations overall budget for 2017 (see Table3a) shows that $36 billion funded a variety of branches of the US government’s ‘development’, it would be instructive to see what the amounts of the funders’ award contacts which would be broken down into: what % went to implementers, what % went to national governments or local contractors, and what % was directly used for our participants [6]. Maybe this is a new aspect the industry-standard Charity Navigator can add to its existing Accountability and Transparency criteria. On my repeated wish list for them is to show evidence the nonprofit is systematically doing and learning from post project sustained impacts evaluations. I first asked this 5 years ago 🙂

While I am scratching the surface, at least one private sector Corporate Social Responsibility company seem to have more transparent systems. This balance sheet from Abengoa, a sustainable energy technology company, could be updated with such a breakdown.

[7]

Their website also talks about its 25-year CSR investments (which is an enviable timespan, for most donors have 1-5 year projects) [7]. “Abengoa believes that the good relationship it has with local communities, as well as respect and development in the areas where it operates, reaps benefits, referring to this method as “social licence to operate” [7]. Abengoa’s social engagement aims to further the social and cultural development of the communities where they operate. From 2014 to 2016, the company reported its social performance in line with the criteria proposed by the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) methodology. This model defines a method to measure, manage, assess and disclose contributions, achievements and impacts of the company’s social engagement with the community” [7].

Their website also describes current events. “A flagship initiative of the company is the PE&C (People, Education and Communities. Committed to Development) programme.… is now present in nine countries (Argentina, Peru, Brazil, India, Mexico, Chile, Spain, Sri Lanka and Morocco), [but] currently, the complex situation that the company is undergoing and the severe limitation of financial resources in recent months has meant the gradual and temporary reduction of the contributions made to social projects in the different regions. As part of the restructuring plan agreed with creditors and in order to limit the social engagement items based on the resources available in the different business units, each company has assessed its capacity to fund social development projects, maintaining, in some cases, their commitment to certain local social projects. In an effort to avoid the negative impact on these communities and disadvantaged groups, the company has worked hard to find partners and collaborators who could provide continuity to these projects until Abengoa can recover a solid economic position that allows it to continue working and giving support to them” [7] (which their Press Room tells us they have in 2018).

Sharing “achievements and impacts of the company’s social engagement with the community”, “find[ing] partners and collaborators who could provide continuity to these projects” is not often done in bureaucratically time-fixed global development [7]. For too rarely do the fixed timelines and budgets, inflexible metrics and demanding deliverables enable true partnerships. Save the Children’s 2008 brief on aid modalities for country ownership includes a vital point, which is willingness. “The United States lags behind other donors in its willingness to use all the aid mechanisms that would build capacity, such as channeling aid through host countries’ systems”, including where only “1 percent [of aid] was passed through projects directly implemented by the host government” [8]. At least US funds were aligned with national government priorities in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Malawi and in Liberia the US partnered with UK’s DFID for community infrastructure. Nonetheless, even aid to governments must be as locally transparent as possible for true accountability. “Local NGOs are a key actor in holding host governments accountable for the delivering meaningful results, and should increasingly be an important link between government and community through communications and provision of services” [8] … So why aren’t we funding more? We don’t know, don’t much data how well we are, but unless we start with accountability to the country nationals we are ostensibly ‘developing’, sustained success will not ensue.

 

The scant number of post project sustainability evaluations have shown how rarely our international donor funded partners return to partners and participant communities to see what they could self-sustain after our projects ended.  So much for accountability to our true clients! Public and private sector needs to turn away from being data extractors aiming at shortterm results, and rather turn to being led by sustained partners’ priorities and myriad voices. Private sector companies may have lessons to teach, for would they stay afloat if its investors did not learn how well their product worked by not returning to ask after the sale assess client satisfaction?

We don’t have a moment to waste.

Thoughts? Questions? Look forward to your comments.

PS – There are surely 500 sources I didn’t find in time to include, including this blog regarding Cambodia and aid, huge numbers of organizations focused on capacity building and also thanks to Abu Ala Mahmudul Hasan for a Pelican online discussion that spurred this. We hope to create a podcast this spring, so stay tuned…

 

 

Sources:

[1] USAID Haiti. (2017, March). Local Solutions: Building Up Haitian Organizations (Fact Sheet). Retrieved from https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1862/FINAL_Local_Solutions_Fact_Sheet_March_2017.pdf

[2] MSI, A Tetra Tech Company. (2013, December 17). USAID/Lebanon BALADI CAP Overview w/ Dr. Fares El Zein. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzHvbDuekLI

[3] Hayman, R., & Lewis, S. (2017). INTRAC’s Experience of Working with International NGOs on Aid Withdrawal and Exit Strategies from 2011 to 2016. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 29, 361-372. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11266-017-9901-x

[4] Devex. (n.d.). Top USAID Contractors for 2016. Retrieved from https://pages.devex.com/rs/685-KBL-765/images/Devex_reports_USAID_Top_Contractors_in_2016.pdf?aliId=2107099003#:~:text=Chemonics%20reclaimed%20its%20position%20as,the%20contract%20funding%20from%202015.

[5] Congressional Research Service. (2015, July 21). U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID): Background, Operations, and Issues. Retrieved from https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R44117

[6] US Department of State. Congressional Budget Justification, Foreign Assistance: Summary Tables FY17. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/252735.pdf

[7] Abengoa. (2016). Annual Report 2016. Retrieved from http://www.abengoa.com/web/en/accionistas_y_gobierno_corporativo/informes_anuales/2016/

[8] Save the Children. (2010, May 27). Aid Modalities for Country Ownership. Retrieved from https://www.savethechildren.org/content/dam/usa/reports/advocacy/aid-modalities-for-ownership-2010.pdf

 

Can development projects be sustainable? Reblog from www.evaluace.com…

Mongolia

Can development projects be sustainable?

(Reblog http://www.evaluace.com by Inka Pibilova and Marie Korner)

 

What remained of Mongolian kindergartens

In 2012, we have ventured with my colleague Marie Koerner through steppes of Mongolia to learn what remained of the Czech-funded mobile kindergartens. People remembered a great project, nomadic women teaching in mobile kindergartens, children learning playfully in a safe environment and integrating better to primary schools… and their parents having more time for work or smaller siblings. Well, not much remained of it 4 months after extended project end. Despite an official agreement, the Mongolian Ministry of Education did not provide a budget. It rather accepted a bigger donation from the Asian Development  Bank for a similar project. Well, the new one did not benefit that many children in so many remote areas, but kindergartens had better qualified teachers, free meals and heating. And the donor was happy. Still, something remained of the Czech project – the positive attitude of the community towards pre-primary education and dedication to involve children at least in summer prep-schools organized by the government. Read the full evaluation report here in the Czech language.

The sustainability stories are diverse, yet factors are often similar. The devil is in the detail – for example, a dedicated village chief can make a big difference.

Sustainability or commercial continuity?

Based on different evaluations of Czech development projects conducted in 2010 to 2013, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs started debating sustainability in 2013. Often, it was linked to commercial continuity – companies, ideally Czech, would continue to have business based on their previous successful engagement. Or at least income generation within the projects was highlighted. Questions arose if at least certain sectors, CSO or companies or types of projects are more sustainable than others, based on income generation or other factors.

What makes development projects sustainable?

Following the policy debate, the Czech platform of Civil Society Organisations – FoRS engaged Marie Koerner and me to analyse all evaluation reports, define what sustainability actually is and how it can be achieved. The key findings are below.

  1. Project sustainability is linked to continued benefits for intended beneficiariesafter donor funding has been withdrawn. Not all project activities need to continue. Not all benefits need to be seen as meaningful by the beneficiaries. Income generation is not always possible and does not necessarily contribute to poverty reduction. Especially if the income is generated by the Czech companies, not by the local actors, who are responsible for sustaining project benefits.
  2.  Sustainability of the Czech Development Cooperation projects varies. Review of 37 publicly available evaluation reports of Czech development projects shows no correlation between sustainability and specific sectors, contracting authorities, implementers or countries of implementation has not been detected. It is rather external and internal factors shown below which influence project sustainability.
  3. Sustainability factors are project specific and interdependent. They are external and internal. Often, even external factors can be influenced to achieve higher sustainability.
  4. Sustainability can be influenced throughout the project cycle. Each stakeholder plays a certain role at each phase of the project cycle.
  5. Good practice is available across sectors, including environment, agriculture, social development including education, economic development including energy as well as global development education and awareness raising. These sustainable Czech projects considered the key factors influencing sustainability in their plans and activities and thus contributed to lasting positive benefits for the recipients.

Overview of factors is displayed below:

Sustainability Factors

 

 

 

Sustainability Factors

 

 

 

 

Read the publication below, including different good practices. You can download ithere.

What next? What is your experience?

Based on the study, the Czech Development Agency together with FoRS organised an internal expert workshop on 13 March 2014 to debate possible steps for increasing the sustainability of Czech bilateral projects.

The results are yet to be seen. Feel free to share your resources and experience!

 

 

 

 

IEG Blog Series Part I: Pick a term, any term…but stick to it!

Pick a term, any term…but stick to it!


IEG logo


            Valuing Voices is interested in identifying learning leaders in international development that are using participatory post-project evaluation methods to learn about the sustainability of their development projects. These organizations not only believe they need to see the sustained impact of their projects by learning from what has worked and what hasn’t in the past, but also that participants are the most knowledgeable about such impacts. So how do they define sustainability? This is determined by asking questions such as the following: were project goals self-sustained by the ‘beneficiary’ communities that implemented these projects? By our VV definition, self-sustainability can only be determined by going back to the project site, 2-5 years after project closeout, to speak directly with the community about the long-term intended/unintended impacts. 

            Naturally, we turned to the World Bank (WB) – the world’s prominent development institution – to see if this powerhouse of development, both in terms of annual monetary investment and global breadth of influence, has effectively involved local communities in the evaluation of sustainable (or unsustainable) outcomes.  Specifically, my research was focused on identifying the degree to which participatory post-project evaluation was happening at the WB.

A fantastic blog* regarding participatory evaluation methods at the WB emphasizes the WB’s stated desire to improve development effectiveness by “ensuring all views are considered in participatory evaluation,” particularly through its community driven development projects. As Heider points out,

The World Bank Group wants to improve its development effectiveness by, among others things, engaging citizens throughout the operational project cycle. It has set itself an ambitious target: 100% citizen engagement in projects that have clearly identifiable beneficiaries.”

Wow! Though these methods are clearly well intentioned, there seems to be a flaw in the terminology. The IEG says, “[Community driven development projects] are based on beneficiary participation from design through implementation, which make them a good example of citizen-centered assessment techniques in evaluation,” …however, this fails to recognize the importance of planning for community-driven post-project sustainability evaluations, to be conducted by the organization in order to collect valuable data concerning the long-term intended/unintended impacts of development work.

With the intention of identifying evidence of the above-mentioned mode of evaluation at the WB, my research process involved analyzing the resources provided by the WB’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) database of evaluations. As the accountability branch of the World Bank Group, the IEG works to gather institution-wide knowledge about the outcomes of the WBs finished projects. Its mission statement is as follows:

“The goals of evaluation are to learn from experience, to provide an objective basis for assessing the results of the Bank Group’s work, and to provide accountability in the achievement of its objectives. It also improves Bank Group work by identifying and disseminating the lessons learned from experience and by framing recommendations drawn from evaluation findings.”

Another important function of the IEG database is to provide information for the public and external development organizations to access and learn from; this wealth of data and information about the World Bank’s findings is freely accessible online.

            When searching for evidence of post-project learning, I was surprised to find that the taxonomy varied greatly; e.g. projects I was looking for could be found under ‘post-project’, post project’, ‘ex-post’ or ‘ex post’. What was also unclear was any specific category under which these could be found, including a definition of what exactly is required in an IEG ex post impact evaluation. According to the IEG, there are 13 major evaluation categories, which are described in more detail here. I was expecting to find an explicit category dedicated to post-project sustainability, but instead this type of evaluation was included under Project Level Evaluations (which include PPARs and ICRs [Implementation Completion Reports]), and Impact evaluations.

This made it difficult to determine a clear procedural standard for documents reporting sustainability outcomes and other important data for the entire WB.

            I began my research process by simply querying a few key terms into the database. In the first step of my research, which will be elaborated upon in Part I in this blog series, I attempted to identify evidence of ex post sustainability evaluation at the IEG by searching for the term “post-project” in the database, which yielded 73 results when using a hyphen and 953 results without using a hyphen. I found it interesting the inconsistency in the number of results depending on the use of a hyphen, but in order to narrow the search parameters to conduct a manageable content analysis of the documents, I chose to breakdown these 73 results by document type to determine if there are any examples of primary fieldwork research. In these documents, the term “post-project” was not used in the title of the documents or referenced in the executive summary as the specific aim of the evaluation, but rather used to loosely define the ex post time frame. Figure 1 illustrates the breakdown of document types found in the sample of 73 documents that came up when I searched for the key term “post-project”:

            As the chart suggests, many of the documents (56% – which accounts for all of the pie chart slices except Project Level Evaluations) were purely desk studies – evaluating WB programs and the overall effectiveness of organization policies. These desk studies draw data from existing reports, such as those published at project closeout, without supplementing past data with new fieldwork research.

            Out of the 9 categories, the only document type that showed evidence of any follow up evaluations were the Project Performance Assessment Reports (PPARs), defined by the IEG as documents that are…

“…based on a review of the Implementation Completion Report (a self-evaluation by the responsible Bank department) and fieldwork conducted by OED [Operations Evaluation Department]. To prepare PPARs, OED staff examines project files and other documents, interview operational staff, and in most cases visit the borrowing country for onsite discussions with project staff and beneficiaries. The PPAR thereby seeks to validate and augment the information provided in the ICR, as well as examine issues of special interest to broader OED studies.”

            Bingo. This is what we’re looking for. The PPARs accounted for 32 out of the 73 results, or a total of 44%. As I examined the methodology used to conduct PPARs, I found that in the 32 cases that came up when I searched for “post-project”, after Bank funds were “fully dispersed to a project” and resources were withdrawn, the IEG sent a post-project mission back into the field to collaborate on new M&E with local stakeholders and beneficiaries. The IEG gathered new data through the use of field surveys or interviews to determine project effectiveness.

            Based on these findings, I conducted a supplementary search of the term “ex post”, which yielded 672 results. From this search, 11 documents were categorized by the IEG as “Impact Evaluations”, of which 3 showed evidence of talking with participants to evaluate for sustainability outcomes. In follow-up blogs in this series I will elaborate upon the significance of these additional findings and go into greater detail regarding the quality of the data in these 32 PPARs, but here are a few key takeaways from this preliminary research:

  • Taxonomy and definition of ex-post is missing. After committing approximately 15-20 hours of research time to this content analysis, it is clear that navigating the IEG database to search for methodology standards to evaluate for sustainability is a more complicated process than it should be for such a prominent learning institution. The vague taxonomy used to categorize post-project/ex-post evaluation by the WB limits the functionality of this resource as a public archive dedicated to informing the sustainability of development projects the World Bank has funded.
     
  • Despite affirmative evidence of participatory community involvement in the post-project evaluation of WB projects, not all PPARs in the IEG database demonstrated a uniform level of ‘beneficiary’ participation. In most cases, it was unclear how many community members impacted by the project were really involved in the ex-post process, which made it difficult to determine even a general range of the number of participants involved in post-project activity at the WB.
     
  • Although PPARs report findings based, in part, on post-project missions (as indicated in the preface of the reports), the specific methods/structure of the processes were not described, and oftentimes the participants were not explicitly referenced in the reports. (More detailed analysis on this topic to come in Blog Series Part 2!)
     
  • These surprisingly inconsistent approaches make it difficult to compare results across this evaluation type, as there is no precise status quo.

Finally, the World Bank, which has funded 12,000 projects since its inception, should have far more than 73 post-project/ ex-post evaluations…but maybe I’m just quibbling with terms.


Stay tuned for PART II of this series, coming soon! 

Transparency and Accountability via open [Cambodian] data that ValuesVoices

Transparency and Accountability via open [Cambodian] data that ValuesVoices

My colleague pointed out this fascinating article about a new transparency program for garment factories, using data collected meticulously by the International Labor Organization (ILO) on working conditions in Cambodia in a publically accessible searchable database: http://betterfactories.org/transparency/. and this story about it:

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3027381/a-new-transparency-program-for-garment-factories-could-give-you-nutrition-info-for-your-clot?partner=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+fastcoexist%2Ffeed+%28Co.Exist%29

The key elements I want to point out about this great example are the following:

  • The data was already being collected by the ILO-thorough interviews and investigations of different factories, at a presumably high cost. But this information was not being widely shared, because the format the data was in (PDF), was not easily accessible by those who could use it, resulting in these reports not having the “shame” impact that is important for voluntary compliance.
  • The BFC was able to partner with the ILO to open their data, making it easier for anyone to search and use the outcomes of the ILO reports. This increased access has already made an impact in making Cambodian factory owners more focused on compliance.
  • This pattern is very similar to what we see occurring throughout international development, where evaluation data is being captured and collected, but not shared in formats that would make transparency and accountability easy to access.
  • The article hinted at the two main challenges to making this data open:

     

     

    • The need for a robust back end to support and maintain it – something that requires investment and thoughtfulness; and
    • “very public debates between the garment producer’s association and Better Factories Cambodia that ensued for months” – i.e. political concerns about transparency and what the data means.

When we unlock the data that is currently being collected (and paid for) in international development, especially during project evaluations, we find opportunities for increased transparency and accountability, as well as making the data captured more likely to provide insight for those not directly involved in the project.

This effort will take time, effort, and money, and there will be political obstacles to overcome. But the result is information to help us make better decisions on where we spend our money, invest our time, or highlight those who need to improve.  The combination of ValuingVoices' debates and data work!

 

Siobhan Green is a partner company to ValuingVoices and can be found at Sonjara.

Stepping up community self-sustainability, one [Ethiopian] step at a time

 

Stepping up community self-sustainability, one [Ethiopian] step at a time

 

Having just come back from evaluation and design fieldwork for an Ethiopian Red Cross (ERCS)/ Swedish Red Cross/ Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent project, the power of communities is still palpable in my mind. They know what great impact looks like. They know what activities they can best sustain themselves. It’s up to us to ask, listen and learn from them and support their own monitoring/ evaluating/ reporting. It’s up to us to share such learning with others and to act on it everywhere.

There are a myriad of possible sustainability indicators, and the outcome indicators below, suggested by 116 rural participants from Tigray, Ethiopia seem to fall into two categories of expected changes: Assets and Life Quality (Table 1). As the food security/ livelihood project extended credit for animal purchases, it is logical that tracking increased income, savings, assets, and home investments plus expenditures on food and electricity appeared.

We gleaned this from discussions with participants, asking them “what can we track together that would show that we had impact”? Our question led to a spirited discussion of not only what was traceable, but also what could be publicly posted and ‘ground-truthed’ by the community. Discussing indicators led to even deeper conversations about the causes of food insecurity which were illuminating to staff.  What was surprising, for instance, was the extent to which families saw changing seasonal child-field labor practices in favor of 100% child-school attendance as great indicators.  School attendance (or lack thereof) was dependent on families’ need for children’s seasonal labor in the fields. Community members said they knew who sent their children or not, which no only ‘cleaned’ the publicly posted data but triangulated implementer surveys and opened room for discussions of vulnerability.

 

self-sustain-indicators

 

 

Not only is this exciting for the project’s outcome tracking but even more importantly, our team proposed to create a community self-monitoring system, suggested in by Causemann/Gohl in an IIED PLA Notes article– “Tools for measuring change: self-assessment by communities” used in Africa and Asia. This learning, management and reporting process will fill a gaping need as current “monitoring systems serve only for donor accountability, but neither add value for poor people nor for the implementing NGOs because they do not improve effectiveness on the ground.” The authors found that not only “participatory data collection produces higher quality data in some fields than standard extractive methodologies [as] understanding the context leads to a higher accuracy of data and learning processes [which] increase the level of accountability… “ but also that such shared collaboration builds mutual learning and bridge-building.” While our community members may have offered to track this publicly to make this partner happy, men and women discussed this excitedly and embraced the idea of self-monitoring happily. ERCS will be discussing with communities to either track data monthly in notebooks or on a large chart hung in the woreda office for transparency.  Data (Chart 1) would include these asset and quality of life indicators as well as loan repayments (tracked vertically) while households (tracked horizontally) could see who was meeting the goal (checked boxes), not meeting it fully (dashed boxes) or not meeting it at all yet (blank boxes).  Community members corrected each other as they devised the indicators during our participatory research and this openness reassures us that the public monitoring will be quite transparent as well.

 

ParticipTracjking

[1]

Further, what was especially satisfying was getting feedback from across the three tibias (sub-regions) on what activities they felt they could sustain themselves irrespective of the project’s continuation. Table 2 shows us which activities communities felt were most self-sustainable by households; these could form the core of the follow on project. Sheet/goats, poultry and oxen for fattening were highly prioritized by both women and men, in addition to a few choosing improved dairy cows. The convergence of similar responses was gratifying and somewhat unexpected, as there were several other project activities.  The communities’ own priorities need to be seriously considered as currently they get only one loan per family and thus self-sustainable activities are key.

 

self-sustain-activities

 

There is more to incorporate in future project planning by NGOs like Ethiopia’s ERCS. The NGO-IDEAs concept mentioned above also includes involving project participants in setting goals and targets themselves, differentiating between who achieved them and why, and brainstorming who/what contributes to it and what they should do next. Peer groups, development agencies and any actors could collect and learn from the data. Imagine the empowerment were communities to design, monitor and evaluate and tell us as their audience!

And they must, according to ODI UK’s Watkins, who has a clear vision on how to achieve a global equity agenda for the post-2015 MDG goals. He suggests converting the principle of ‘leave no one behind’ into measurable targets. He argues that, by introducing a series of ‘stepping stone’ benchmarks, the world can set ambitious goals on equity by 2030. He writes, wisely, that “narrowing these equity deficits is not just an ethical imperative but a condition for accelerated progress towards the ambitious 2030 targets. There are no policy blueprints. However, the toolkit for governments actively seeking to narrow disparities …has to include some key elements [such as] identifying who is being left behind and why is an obvious starting point. That’s why improvements to the quality of data available to policy-makers is an equity issue in its own right”. Valuing Voices believes who creates that data is an equally compelling equity issue.

 

So how will we reach these ambitious targets by 2030? By putting in stepping stone targets, returning project design functions to the ultimate clients – the communities themselves- and matching their wants with what we long to transfer to them. In this way we will be Valuing their Voices so much that they evaluate our projects jointly and we can respond. That’s how it should always have been.

What are your thoughts on this? We long to know.

 

 

Sources:

[1] Ashley, H., Kenton, N., & Milligan, A. (Eds.). (2013). Tools for supporting sustainable natural resource management and livelihoods. Participatory Learning and Action, (66). Retrieved from https://pubs.iied.org/14620IIED/

[2] Watkins, K. (2013, October 17). Leaving no-one behind: An equity agenda for the post- 2015 goals. Retrieved from https://www.odi.org/blogs/7924-leaving-no-one-behind-equity-agenda-post-2015-goals