Monday, January 07, 2008

Assessing achievements in Katine, Uganda

This weekend I will head off to Uganda for two weeks, to meet the AMREF staff working on the Katine project (See the links on the left side of this blog for more info on this project), and to see Katine sub-country itself, the place and the people. This will be the first of a series of twice-yearly visits that I will be making over the next few years. As part of the preparation for this visit on Monday this week I attended a meeting in London, to go over my Terms of Reference (ToRs) for my visit with staff from AMREF and from the Guardian.

One of the things we discussed was my request last year that AMREF develop a disclosure policy, which will spell what sorts of information they will made publicly available, and under what circumstances. Much to my surprise, that policy has already been developed and approved by the Board in November, but nobody had told me, nor had it’s existence been made public via the AMREF website. This does seem to almost defeat the purpose of the policy, which is unfortunate, since the intentions expressed in the policy do seem positive.

PS: Since that discussion a copy has now been made available on the AMREF website. My questions to you, the reader, are: What do you think of it? How could it be improved? For comparison, here is a similar sort of policy developed by ActionAid.

In the same meeting we also discussed my visit schedule in Uganda. My draft ToRs are here. As you can probably see, the list of things to do is quite long, probably too long to complete in this visit. So my first meeting with AMREF in Uganda will have to focus on prioritising these tasks. Top of my own to-do list is to meet all the AMREF staff in Katine, find out about their various roles, and to talk about their expectations about my role as the external evaluator - what they would and would not like to me doing. I will be bring along all the comments made so far by participants in an online survey of people’s views on this subject, which you can find here online. So far this online survey has focused on a limited number of stakeholders: the staff of AMREF, Guardian and Barclays. But I hope to open it up to wider public participation on return from Uganda. Please feel free to add you views on this subject right now, by commenting on this blog below.

As well as the tasks listed in my Terms of Reference there are many other questions I would like to explore during my visit. Most of these have been prompted by my reading of AMREF’s project documents over the last month, and by reading the Guardian Katine blogs. Here are some of them:

People’s participation: What did the community needs assessments find out about the existence of different community views on development needs in Katine? It is highly unlikely that in a population of 25,000 that they all had the same set of priorities. People’s views are likely to vary by gender, age, and location, at least. How have these views affected the project design?

And in AMREF’s Monitoring and Evaluation Plan for the project, what role will community groups have in monitoring and evaluation of the project? How often will their views be sought? How will those views then feed into decision making about how the project develops? [These questions relate to the equity and relevance dimension of my evaluation work]

Project strategy: Will the project be aiming to assist the whole population evenly, or will it be targeting some groups more than others? Do AMREF have enough staff and financial resources to reach the whole population? Will the various developments in water supply, health and livelihoods be focused at different target groups, or it is essential that a given group of people experience the combined impact of all these developments? How much information is available at this stage about the distribution of the population through the sub-county, and various government services? Could a map of these be made available on the Guardian Katine website, which could be continually updated and unfilled with information, as the project progresses?

Project impact: Where will the impact of the project be most visible in three years time? Will it be in changes in school attendance and completion, changes in people’s health, or changes in their livelihoods? Will the proposed baseline survey enable AMREF to track the changes that are taking place, and separate out the effects of AMREFs inputs, from the effects of other changes taking place in the society and economy? What about unexpected changes that may not have been planned for? How will they be given adequate attention? Is the monitoring and evaluation plan realistic? Is it too ambitious in terms of the information that will be collected?

Sustainability: How will the impact of the assistance provided by AMREF be sustained in the future? Will government be better able, or more willing, to take responsibility for delivering good quality health and education services?

Transparency: What mechanisms does AMREF have for transparency at the local (Katine) level, as distinct from via its website and that of the Guardian? Which of the various project documents produced so far has AMREF made publicly available? What else could be made available right now? What problems, if any, are arising because of this transparency?

If there are other issues you think I should be looking at, please add your comments below.