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.


  1. Allot more openness on Amref's side. Why are none of the project documents public?

    Most of the respondents to your survey where from the UK? How can you open up the process to include more Africans?

    I also believe that you should visit some of the Milienum Villages, as well as carry out some desk research into what has happened to simmler projects. So that you can compare and contrast what is happening in Katine, with the other ventures. Richard Dowden the Journalist, and head of the Royal African Society has some tales of these sorts of projects having no impact a couple of years after the project has ended.

    I would also like to know about the knowledge the people of Katine have of the Guardian and its readers. I think it is important that the project should be about both sides knowing about each other. For example does the school get copies of the Guardian Weekly?

    What are the people, elders, and local MP's plan for Katine? (ignoring AMREF) Aid has never alone got anyone out of poverty...

    What can the increase of publicity to Katine do to help Katine (again ignoring the Aid dimension).

    Also does anybody in Katine, have any relatives living in Europe? What can they do to help with the project?

    What do the people of Katine think about outside visitors? There seams much demand for Guardian readers to visit, AMREF seams to be against this, but it could have a beneficial lasting impact. How do you manage this?

    Again one of the Guardian journalists said that they where told not to bring presents. In my experience of Africa, this would be viewed as rude. What are the impact of policies like these?

  2. Hi James and all

    Some responses to your questions:

    1. AMREF have developed an Open information policy, but have not yet operationalised it. I have been pushing for this to happen as soon as possible.

    2. I am still trying to get AMREF Uganda/Kenya staff to participate in the online survey, and have been assured they are allowed to. Once this happens I will open up the survey to visitors to this blog and visitors to the Guardian blog, and to a global M&E email list I manage, that has many African members

    3. I agree it would be useful to find out more about the Millenium Villages as a possible comparator.

    4. Re criticims of this sort of project, ODI have started to engage with the Guardian and AMREF, as a critic of the project strategy, and it now is proposed that they engage in an online debate, via the Guardian website

    5. I suspect Katine people don't have much knowledge about the Guardian, but they do have knowledge about oter aspects of the UK, especially football. You may have seen a story on the Guardian blog about the video room in the Katine market, where people pay to watch TV coverage of UK football. The new AMREF offices in Katine will have a "resources centre" room where the information you are talking about could be made publicly visible. Pages from the Katine website, including blog postings and comments on these, might be made available there.

    6. I did get a chance to talk to the District Health Service about the annual planning processes and how AMREF does and should fit into those. This will be an issue that I will be following up each visit. There is an official Soroti District website at

    7. There is an association of Tesso people based in UK that sends money back to Soroti district, and who have already funded a number of community level developments. I met an executive member in December, and will be keeping in contact with him.

    8. The question of how external visitors are handled is an important one. AMREF have limited vehicles at their disposal, and visitors (like myself) stretch these transport resources even further. AMREF is not against visitors, but is concerned about making sure community expectations are not raised unrealistically by a continuing flow of visitors

    9. I talked about gift giving with AMREF staff in Soroti, and they confirmed my prior view that this is appropriate when visiting family, but not when visiting people you are not related to. Practice may well vary in other parts of Uganda and beyond