A group of women who have participated in a Reality Check. This method has been used in countries such as Mozambique and Bangladesh.
Photo: Inge Tvedten/CMI
First round evaluations of the Swedish CSO-support
It was the first year of a two-year evaluation done by a group of three organisations, including SIPU International, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS, UK) and International Organisation Development (IOD PARC, UK) that was discussed at the seminar recently held at Sida. The evaluation looks into Sida’s Civil Society strategy as implemented by Swedish CSOs and their national partners in three countries – Nicaragua, Pakistan and Uganda with the purpose:
“To find out if, how and why/why not the support to civil society actors in developing countries via Swedish CSOs has contributed to the overall objectives of the support by creating conditions to enable poor and discriminated people to improve their living conditions and quality of life. The focus of the evaluation should be on learning aspects” (Terms of Reference).
The evaluation is based on Reality Check methodology to understand the realities and perspectives of people living in poverty and marginalisation. This methodology involves living with targeted families and households in their everyday life for several days and nights to learn about their reality. The method is combined with Meso-level (community level) inquiries to address these issues from local to the national level, and uses these findings to analyse the relevance, alignment and feasibility of the civil society strategy.
Multidimensionality of poverty and marginalisation
The nine Reality Checks report on how multiple layers of discrimination and exclusion act together.
Seven priority dimensions of poverty and marginalisation are identified:
- Monetisation of livelihoods
- Decline and commercialisation of public services
- Youth unemployment and migration
- Gender discrimination
- Lack of access to education
- Psychological stress and vulnerability
People in poverty are coping with a multitude of forces all at once, in the form of external constraints on the options available to them to improve their lives, and internal constraints on their sense of their own ability to affect change.
The findings in the evaluation raise questions on what conditions are necessary for long-range Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) to be effective. The often short term results-based funding does not seem to lend itself well to long-term HRBA. Therefore, there is a need for contextualized theories of change and action. To reach the very poorest is a challenge and will need joint efforts.
Vivid discussions on future efforts
Charlotta Norrby and Elisabeth Berg Khan at Sida CIVSAM were content with the seminar.
- Many good ideas were brought up and we look forward to our future cooperation with civil society, they said.
The level of consensus between the parties was quite high. Among other tasks the seminar discussed the implications of the findings for the civil society strategy and for the framework organizations. Furthermore, the question if Sida, Swedish CSOs and their local partners should look for different or better ways to engage people living in poverty was debated. The workshop participants had questions and suggestions:
- Enable more flexibility for attention to process and context.
- Focus areas in the CSO-strategy remain relevant. What can we do more and better?
- What is the intention with the CSO-support? Shall we reach the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized – or work with democratic processes where civil society can pursue their roles as raisers of voices etc. Are the CSOs channels of aid or acting in their own right?
- More alignment between Sida and CSOs in countries and better dialogue.
Other suggestions were longer terms of implementation, better use of context analysis and support of partners in analysis and planning. Further comments and advice concerned the local ownership, core funding and called for a relational approach, separated from technocratic systems and short term financing.
Sweden is in the forefront of CSO-support but there is still more to learn from evaluations and seminars like this. The next and last round of the study will start this spring and will be concluded at a Global learning event in February 2015.