For the past three months, our Grants Officer Sarah Ndlovu has been in Uganda, working with the Children on the Edge Africa Team. They have been focussing on the development of an effective framework to monitor and evaluate the change that is happening in the slum communities where we work. Sarah got married in October, and her husband Ash went with her a month later for the trip, to volunteer his time supporting the project.
The team in Uganda work through voluntary Child Protection Teams (CPTs), to support communities in creating a protective environment for their children. Slum communities around Jinja face a multitude of challenges in keeping their children safe. Poverty, appalling living conditions, abuse and neglect are rife, but trained volunteers are bringing about transformation. They do this through offering support and advice, linking parents and children with local services, facilitating a huge variety of workshops and providing small business loans.
Piloted initially in Masese II and seeing great success, the CPTs were replicated into Masese I, Masese III and Loco communities a few years ago. As work expanded, the need to thoroughly evaluate its effectiveness became increasingly vital. After working together on creating a ‘Theory of Change’ last year, the team have been working over the last three months on how to monitor and evaluate this change.
Sarah says “The most positive element of the experience for me, was developing the whole Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E ) framework in a participatory way. We didn’t put this framework together in the UK office and then train people about it. We spent a lot of time observing and learning about how the whole Uganda team functioned, looking at the systems and processes they already had in place. We then worked together to create something more streamlined and productive, making the work of both the Children on the Edge Africa team and the CPT’s much easier.”
This is not only being put in place for the existing communities where we work, but in the new areas where Children on the Edge Africa are identifying as needing support. Since November, the team have conducted both community and child-led needs assessments in Wandago and Katooke slums. As a result they are now looking to develop existing child protection structures in these areas, addressing issues like rape, neglect, poor sanitation and a lack of services.
To begin the evaluation process in each existing areas where we work (Loco, Masese I,II and III), four groups were gathered in each community (children, those receiving business loans, community members and members of the CPTs) and they each discussed stories of change that have happened in their lives. They would do this through role play, discussion, or for the children, creative exercises like ‘Paper People’.
Each group would then vote for the story they felt was most significant and it would be videoed, either with speech or through role-play. Then the four groups would come together, watch the videos (see header photo) and pick the story which they felt represented the most change.
These discussions in all communities highlighted the positive impact of the loans and savings groups. Many people reported that alongside the practical elements (like being able to afford school fees, rent and food for the family) they now feel a great sense of hope for the future, and the future of their children. Many individuals described feeling happy, gaining confidence, having pride in what they have achieved and being admired within their community.
Going forward, using this ‘Most Significant Change’ technique will not only help us to see where change is happening and which issues need more input, but it will serve to involve communities in identifying this process, and participating in the change itself. This will happen every year for the course of the programme, as part of the overall M&E framework, helping us to build up a picture of how the communities are being impacted by our work or by other external factors in their lives.
Sarah describes how “I learnt that Monitoring and Evaluation doesn’t have to be an additional difficult task on top of everything the team already do, but something which can bring together everyone involved, to analyse the work in a more organised and effective way”.
Watch this space to learn more about some exciting new ways we are using technology to monitor all programme activities and to evaluate our impact.