Saturday, October 20, 2007

Managing expectations about monitoring and evaluation in Katine

Yesterday I went to an event in London, hosted by Barclays, which functioned as the official opening of the Katine project. The Guardian's Katine website went online immediately afterwards, and today's Guardian newspaper features a front page article about the Guardian's involvement in Katine, and a magazine insert giving a detailed description of Katine: the place, the people and the project.

Already some differences in expectations are evident and will need to be managed. Visits to Katine by Guardian and Barclay's staff have clearly had a psychological impact on those staff that visited, and on those they have talked to since. Others are interested to go there as well. But at the same time, AMREF staff have an understandable concern about the manageability of a stream of such visitors. How much of their staff time will be taken up with the planning and hosting of these visits, and what effect will that diversion of resources have on the implementation of the project?

My Terms of Reference (ToRs) already include a responsibility to "Assess whether the Guardian is impacting project delivery or negatively impacting the lives of the community" Already I am thinking that this responsibility needs to be amended to refer to the involvement of the Guardian and Barclays in more general terms, not just media activities.

There are some practical (M&E) steps that could be taken right now. AMREF could start to log the time spent by their staff in planning and hosting each visit by outsiders. On the Guardian and Barclays side, as I suggested to one staff member yesterday, it would be useful if those thinking about a visit could try to be as clear as possible about the objectives of their proposed visit. The nature of what would be a reasonable level of visits is also under negotiation, as part of ongoing contract discussions between AMREF, Barclays and the Guardian.

Another issue that may need to be attended to is the possible impact of the Guardian choosing to focus its media attention on Katine village, which has a population of 1500 people, although AMREF will be working with a much larger group, the 25,000 people living in the wider Katine sub-country (which Katine village is part of). It is possible, though accident and/or intention that a disproportionate amount of project resources may end up being invested in Katine village. For this and other reasons I will need to examine AMREF's plans to see how they intended to address issues of equity: who is being assisted by what project activities, and why so. This leads us into wider issues of what are the most appropriate criteria for assessing AMREF's performance, in addition to equity and effectiveness. This will be the subject of another blog posting, yet to come.

Postscript (31/10/07): I have now set up a Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs) webpage on the topic of Monitoring and Evaluating Success in Katine