Locus Nairobi Workshop – Integration and Local Ownership: Pathways to Sustainable Development

By Ellie Price, Locus Coordinator

Locus’s Nairobi Workshop, “Integration and Local Ownership: Pathways to Sustainable Development,” took place on April 27, 2018. Organized and hosted by Africa Capacity Alliance in partnership with AKDN East Africa and the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications, participants enjoyed several presentations, work group sessions, and large group discussions that led us to establish a Task Force of 8 Nairobi-based organizations dedicated to advancing integration and local ownership in partnership with The Movement for Community-Led Development.

The opening remarks were delivered by Stephen Otieno, Executive Director of the Africa Capacity Alliance. He emphasized that integrated development and its evidence base should begin with locally contextual conversations between academia and civil society.

Each person then shared their expectations for the day. Many wanted to exchange best practices on integrated and/or locally owned development practices, and many wanted to understand the difference between Locus and the Movement for Community Led Development. It was even suggested by one person that the outcome be to start a Locus East Africa chapter. By the end of the day, we found an even better idea.

Dorothy Muroki, Chief of Party for the Cross-Border Health Integrated Partnership Project at FHI 360 shared the history of integrated approaches in development, from integrated rural appraisal until today, where we find a focus on evidence for integrated approaches. She finished with suggestions for seven small, do-able actions practitioners can take to maximize programmatic impact by strategically incorporating multiple disciplines/sectors into proposal design, budgets, management plans, and communications.

Dorothy Muroki, FHI 360

Jacqueline Ndirangu, Capacity Development Manager at Pact, followed with many case studies from Pact’s PEACE program, emphasizing that local ownership means “people have a voice and are able to make informed choices.”

Lilian Esemere, Technical Officer, spoke of cross-training technical specialists from different sectors, as done in FHI 360’s Afya Uzazi program.

Lilian Esemere, FHI 360

Alice Oyaro, Head of Civil Society for AKDN East Africa, and our event moderator, reminded us that local ownership is fundamentally about power shifting. Trust, mutual respect, and open communication are bedrock. Integrated programs can be delivered, but no one can deliver power and accountability. “We must be the change we wish to see” and promote the leadership of people within the institutions they represent.

Alice Oyaro, Aga Khan East Africa

Melvin Chibole, Communications Manager, told us the awe-inspiring of the Kenya Community Development Foundation’s incubation and independence, furthering and echoing Alice’s convictions. “For local ownership to begin, risks have to be taken.” Commitment to independent mobilization of local resources has been critical for KCDF to grow its development influence, raise match funds for multiple endowments, and start an investment holding company. These things take time. In development, “we are so keen on impact, but sometimes outcomes are good enough.” Moreover, “passion to drive the [local development] agenda has to be with the CSO, not the funder.”

Small group work, facilitated Q&A, and group discussions ensued. As the day unfolded, it became very clear that all stakeholders in the room agreed upon one thing: The Movement for Community-Led Development is modeling how each of us aspire to support civil society-governance strengthening in the communities we represent.

As a result, Carol Maringa, our chief workshop coordinator, facilitated a “Way Forward” session at the end of the day, during which members decided to continue meeting together as a newly formed learning community to support locally-led, integrated community development in Kenya. Paul Maundu of Heifer International Kenya will be the National Coordinator for the new Kenyan chapter of the global Movement for Community-Led Development, which will launch within the next month.

Like many of us in the U.S. have appreciated about Locus, there is value in meeting to exchange knowledge on integration. But in Kenya, the group identified an even more powerful, tangible way to organize for action. This learning community will take the form of a Task Force of organizations who will support the launch of the Movement for Community Led Development in Kenya, mobilizing citizens in their communities and organizations for integrated, locally-led SDG attainment. The Task Force of 8 includes Aga Khan Development Network, Africa Capacity Alliance, FHI 360, Heifer, Pact, Nairobi University, Youth Anti-FGM Network, and VICOCAP (Visionary Community Care Program). Most attendees were Nairobi-based, though we did have colleagues from Glimmer International travel from Addis and Austin and two from DC.

The workshop was organized brilliantly by Carol Maringa, Alice Oyaro, George Obanyi, Jacquie Ndirangu, Caroline Bii, Jefferson Ochilo, Stephen Otieno, and many others.

Africa Capacity Alliance compiled the results of evaluation surveys, and produced a full-length summary report  of the day. Of the 40 participants, 70% participated in the session evaluation survey. 79% of the respondents reported that the session was Very Relevant to the objectives of the workshop and to their organizational mandate. The summary conclusions were:

o   The workshop sessions provided useful information that will go a long way in impacting the programming of the organizations represented in the workshop.

o   The workshop was well planned, wonderfully facilitated, but with limited time. It could have gone for one more day.

o   The participants were well informed, and participated actively in the sessions making the workshop very lively.

Since the workshop, Paul has led a meeting with some members of the Task Force and other local organizations in anticipation of the Movement for Community Led Development Kenya Chapter launch. We look forward to the launch later in 2018!

 

Reflections from Rwanda: Resetting approaches to social change

By George Nyairo Obanyi, Senior Technical Officer for Communications, FHI 360, Kenya

DPMI course participants, January 2018

For the past 15 years, I have worked in the context of international development. Beyond my specialization in development communication, I have participated in the design and implementation of development projects created to drive social change by addressing pressing global challenges such as rural poverty, access to health care and management of natural resources.

Like many development workers, I often feel more could be done. I, however, struggle with the how.

Most projects are well designed from the onset. Most, almost invariably, seem to follow the classic pattern of the project cycle – from problem diagnosis through a process of continuous learning cycle – with increasing emphasis on innovations, more strategic partnerships and greater beneficiary involvement.

To be fair, many large and small development agencies have progressed to cost-effectively implement projects that to deliver impressive results and impact in the long run. But this is often an at-scale perspective.

However, many projects do not afford the opportunity to adequately address local issues by systematically involving local partners and using local resources to co-create scalable solutions that are flexible enough to respond to local needs and to be replicated in different circumstances.

It is the search to understand new ways to address problems within larger projects that triggered my interest in the Design, Partnering, Management and Innovation (DPMI) certificate course offered by the Monterey Institute of International Studies in collaboration with Partners in Health, Rwanda.

I got more than I expected. The DPMI course is hands-on and client-focused learning that goes beyond the classroom to delve into the real world.

Over two weeks of intense learning, participants — a mix of graduate students and experienced development practitioners — explore new ways of deploying proven tools to collaboratively craft cost-effective solutions to development challenges that an actual organization faces in the field.

Through a mix of individual learning, practical group exercises and field work, participants get to understand and use proven tools for problem analysis, planning, collaboration and measurement (including the widely used problem tree and logframe) to create targeted solutions that are responsive to local needs for a real-life client.

I found the realistic approach to be an effective way to transfer usable knowledge and skills that one can apply post-training.

My biggest take-homes

The DMPI course is immensely useful to any development practitioner and there are many lessons I can share from my participation in the training.

One of my two substantial take-home “big ideas” from the course is how to integrate human-centered approaches in project design. The other key learning is on how to combine conventional project design approaches and social marketing to address common development challenges across sectors.

Human-centered design

I have often encountered the increasingly popular human-centered approach presented as an abstract concept. The DMPI course showed us how to practically apply human-centered design in projects.

Often development workers approach problems with solutions in mind. We end up prescribing what should happen from a basket of pre-existing solutions. In human-centered design, the solution is largely informed by perspective of the users or intended beneficiaries, considering the local context, including social norms, stakeholders and resources.

The DMPI course provided tools that I can use to meaningfully involve individuals and communities in the design, implementation and evaluation of projects at community level. By demonstrating new ways of applying tools such as focus group discussions and observation in formative research, the course reaffirmed that we do not always need expensive, time-demanding and resource-intensive research to inform project design and implementation.

Social marketing

Many of us associate social marketing with tangible products with social benefits. Through my practical project and those of other participants in the course, I realized the true potential of social marketing in community projects.

The DMPI course places key concepts and techniques of social marketing in the context of project design. For instance, the consumer orientation reinforces the emphasis on human-centered design. Through pre-readings and class discussions, we explored how social marketing can be used in projects.

In my group, one of five in the course, we designed a social marketing campaign to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases, a strategic thrust of Partners in Health, our client. We applied basic tools to conduct formative research, developed a problem and solution tree, created a log frame and designed a realistic social marketing campaign.

My own experience and those of other groups-in applying the various project design tools to create social marketing campaigns for a real client was a major turning point for me. I realized that social marketing could be used to design projects that go beyond traditional education and behavior change interventions to address diverse problems in a cost-effective and scalable way.

New insights

The DMPI course opened to me a window of opportunity to how I can use proven easy-to-apply tools to co-create and craft with beneficiaries cost-effective solutions that can be replicated in multiple contexts. I would recommend the course because it enables new and experienced practitioners to use readily available tools in new ways to reset traditional approaches so that they respond more effectively to development problems.

Finally, I found the blended nature of the course useful. I gained new insights by interacting with graduate students and experienced development practitioners from diverse backgrounds and collaboratively working with them to address common challenges and provide realistic solutions for an actual client. Despite the limited time for the training, the realistic, practical approach makes it easier to apply learning in my work. If you would like to learn more about my experience with the course, please email me at gobanyi@fhi360.org @obanyi

Reflections from Rwanda: Accountability for high quality health services in the right places

By Nosipho Gwebu Storer, Technical Director/Deputy Chief of Party, Pact Swaziland

I landed in Kigali just after midnight. I was taken by the colourful lights that welcomed us to the cleanest city in Africa. The DPMI experience to me was one of many levels of learnings. I met graduate students and professionals who were all drawn to the course because of its offerings of contextual insight into development work. In this blog, I will share two insights that have left an imprint with me.

One key reflection that has stayed with me was the model of implementation used by Partners in Health (PIH) in Rwinkwavu, an extremely rural area east of Kigali where the DPMI course was held. Their approach was premised upon bringing all health services offered to the communities in most need, and removing the need for community members to travel to them wherever they were located. The PIH training center, its staff, its students and its central hospital were located in the heart of Rwinkwavu, easily accessible to members of the community. They complemented their services with an outreach arm for hard to reach areas and also linked with other clinical facilities. PIH offered admission services with 400 beds, and over 20 doctors. This is a model I believe can be replicated when approaching interventions for working in local communities. In many African countries in this region, approaches to “bringing services to people most at need,” still entails services providers primarily being located in the main towns and cities, and vehicles then being deployed to reach the patients.  Looking at this modality, many resources are often spent on keeping cars fuelled, and on long distances reaching project recipients.

Another learning was how the leadership of Rwanda instilled a very high level of accountability amongst health professionals. The many anecdotes we hear in this region are often of patients avoiding health services because of negative health worker attitude, and poor levels of accountability. These have been a major deterrent that has seen patients delaying in seeking health services, low levels of retention and high levels of care lost to follow-up. In Rwanda, on the other hand, patients in health facilities had free access to communications to the Minster of Health and to senior health officials to report poor health service delivery or ill treatment when seeking services. The results of these patient reports to the Ministerial officials would include public investigation, reprimand or even redistribution of staffing. The few patient responses that we received during the course reported to be closely engaged with health facility services, proactively requesting comprehensive services; they were very aware of their patient rights and they upheld the medical professionals with high reverence.

As much as this may be a long shot to duplicate, the principle remains- bringing services to the people in a holistic manner demonstrates deeper commitment to services, and easier access to help and support for those in most need. It enhances reach of services and prolongs long term engagement and follow-up. Ultimately, this approach brings great promise of reaching those who most need it.

 

Locus recommends 7 questions to guide decisions on integration

By Ellie Price, Locus Coalition Coordinator & Sia Nowrojee, Program Director at 3D Program for Girls & Women at The UN Foundation

On February 21st, 2018, the Locus Learning Work Group set out to answer a priority question on the Research Agenda for Integrated Development: What key criteria should determine when integration is the most appropriate approach in different contexts and scenarios?

Members convened for a workshop led by Learning Work Group Co-Chairs  Matt Lineal of Nuru International and Sia Nowrojee of the 3D Program for Girls & Women at the UN Foundation.[1] Through a process of personal reflection – and creative depictions of past experiences designing and implementing integrated programs in both development and emergency settings – we surfaced more questions than answers, but did arrive at a consensus: Different contexts and scenarios demand that we establish different sets of key criteria for assessing if integration is appropriate, who should decide, what should be integrated, and when that determination is made.

By definition, an integrated approach requires bringing people together to address an issue or respond to a need. The specific combination of people involved are the ones who determine the suite of resources at the table available to address it. But not all those resources – human capacity, technical expertise in different sectors, social capital, political will – may be necessary or helpful. So what criteria can people use to decide what sectors and resources to leverage to address a community issue?

Ultimately, the key criteria for determining what and when to integrate depend on the relative value stakeholders place on both assumed and emergent needs, risks, costs, and benefits of an intervention. These can be assessed throughout program planning, design and implementation.

Questions to Ask during Program Planning and Design

  1. Do we have a shared vision? Working across sectors is difficult and complex. Technical experts speak different languages. Without a shared vision and agreement on the outcome people are trying to achieve, things fall apart. As stakeholders come together around common and overlapping issues, it is important to ask not only if they hold a shared vision, but if they hold competing visions. Is a shared vision possible? If so, what is that North Star which keeps us on track?
  2. What are we willing to let go of? Different individuals and organizations will bring their own set of deeply-held values and favored approaches to the table, as well as their own incentives for being there. As the work required to achieve the shared vision is identified, some of those approaches will work, and others will not. Who is willing to step back and when?
  3. Are there resources to do this? While program design and implementation should not be driven by donor mandates, the reality is that without resources – either financial or technical – integration cannot be done. Some Locus members have donors that value an integrated approach. Others have creatively leveraged targeted resources, and still others have walked away when the right resources required to do the job weren’t available.
  4. What platforms exist or should be created to ensure accountability by stakeholders? Locus members shared stories of times the initial risks, costs and benefits of an intervention changed over the course of time. Ongoing evaluation of these, against the shared vision is key – and demands a platform for people to come together and re-assess.

Questions to Ask During Program Design and Implementation

  1. What technical skills exist in our platform-and what is needed vs. what is not? A clear inventory should be done of the technical skills within our platform. However, just because we CAN design an integrated intervention doesn’t mean we SHOULD. There is value in a focused, vertical program that works well. Adding other components without an understanding of how this contributes to a shared vision, and without adding additional resources if they are needed, could derail a well-functioning program.
  2. What are the political economy considerations in the context? Ongoing political economy analysis is a useful tool for re-assessing the risks, costs, benefits and anticipated return on the investment of an intervention. Interventions must consider how local power dynamics and political will shift as an intervention starts to change incentives within systems. In tandem, we should be thinking about our cost/benefit/risk analysis not only of the whole but of each component of the intervention.
  3. Do people have the incentives and the capacity to stay engaged in this process? A shared vision of success is key to reaching it. Collaborators across sectors need to recognize they have to let go of certain assumptions and approaches as needs emerge and fluid contexts change. Integrated, cross-sector work can stretch people in uncomfortable new directions and capacity building may be needed both to build necessary skills and demonstrate the utility of integration. At every stage of implementation, we need to revisit those incentives that keep different stakeholders engaged to see the process through until the vision is achieved. 

[1] The Activity Guide and notes from the workshop are available here. Locus encourages organizations to use the guide and to send feedback to continue to build our understanding and help answer the question: What key criteria should determine when integration is the most appropriate approach in different contexts and scenarios?

Holding a Space for the Hard Conversations: Reflections on UN CSocD56 Panel

By Ellie Price, Locus Coalition Coordinator

Last month, The Hunger Project, The Movement for Community-Led Development and Locus co-hosted a panel titled “Ending Extreme Poverty is Local: community-led, integrated approaches to sustainable development” at the 56th UN Commission on Social Development in New York. Our panelists, Maurice Bloem, Executive Vice President of Church World Service, Ann Hendrix-Jenkins, Global Director of Capacity Development at Pact, and Mary Kate Costello, Senior Policy Analyst and UN Representative at The Hunger Project, gave insightful remarks and made space for a participatory discussion. 

 I was struck by two observations while moderating the discussion:

1) The vastly diverse professional backgrounds of the people in the room: an ACLU community organizer in Brooklyn, NY. A Minister of Labor from the Government of Zimbabwe. A female pastor from Pittsburgh. Several NGO senior leaders from Malawi, Zambia, and Nigeria. A community organizer from Nepal.

Panel Participants

2) Acknowledgment of the multiple layers of power and privilege that existed inside and outside the room regarding community-led development. Importantly, I appreciated that Mary Kate Costello from The Hunger Project began her remarks by stating her deep regrets over the fact that all three panelists and the moderator were Westerners: three white American women and a Dutch man. With these regrets I concurred, recognizing that the nature of these ad-hoc organized side events favor recruitment of the easily accessible and already well-connected U.S.-based professional at the podium. That’s why we tried to limit our remarks and seek answers from the assets all over the room. Still, we recognized, what was said by each panelist and each participant was equally valuable, as we all have something to learn from one another. The discussion eventually revealed another layer of power: which representatives from the Global South were at the table having this discussion, and which ones were not? Who got visas to come to the UN in New York, and who didn’t? 

It was Macbain, an NGO leader from Malawi, who pushed back on my question, “what recommendations for change should we make to donors and policymakers for supporting the community-led development we’ve discussed today?”

“It is not just the donors who need changing. First, it is ourselves. Before we go to donors, we should be asking ourselves what do we need to change?” He cited an example of nonprofit leaders in Malawi assuming the youth needed money to take forward their initiatives. So they gave them money, and the results did not come. They were wrong. The leaders had to cut their assumptions and double-down on their listening skills, in order to provide the right support the youth mobilizers actually needed. 

In reality, many of the people seated at the table in that room, regardless of nationality, come from elite classes in their own countries. Well-educated, English-speaking, holding positions of power as leaders, NGO directors, and public officials in their communities. 

It is exceedingly difficult to faithfully represent views other than your own. Our discussion reminded me of this truth. 

But the beauty of that diverse room, far different than the typical D.C. development crowd we engage, reminded me that there is a role for everyone to play in international development. Even white westerners like me. I struggle with this a lot. In my mind, it is often easier to say I should just remove myself from the equation altogether. It is a different struggle altogether to figure out how to “hold the space,” as a colleague of mine at Pact puts it, for such dialogue while recognizing their inherent limits. For me, this is how I can live authentically within my own community, as an American, a resident of D.C., and a member of the professional international development community. These identities give me unique platforms to “hold a space” that hopefully invites more of the right voices into the right conversations. Our conversation was a reminder of that.

These “spaces” which Ann, Mary Kate, Maurice and others “hold” for us are the spaces that Locus Partners is dedicated to creating. Given the realities of our world today, while still working towards more just and equitable relationships between all people, we also identified some practical steps we can take to realize the SDGs. Generating evidence for donors on the efficacy of participatory approaches, is one example. Showing investors, companies, donors and public officials the economic cost savings that can result from participatory, community-led work, is another step forward. Collaborating across actors and organizations within systems for collective impact is yet another. In all this we must remember that true transformation, more often than not, takes significant time.

It is easy to get bogged down in the technicalities of our work, or the limitations imposed by global power structures. Yet these moments of dialogue are incredibly important for revealing our assumptions and giving us space to reflect. Only with reflection can we learn and adapt. Locus will continue to facilitate such learning spaces with our partners. 

Integrated approaches are key to ensuring the poorest in least developed countries aren’t left behind

By Karina Weinstein, Program Director, FXB International

Photo Credits: FXB International

A recent analysis presented by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to its member States on February 5, 2018 revealed that the world’s poorest countries (Least Developed Countries, LDCs) are not on track to achieve goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN News Centre). The imperative behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is equity, ensuring that no one is left behind. Yet the gap between the 47 countries labeled as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and other developing countries is widening. What can be done?

Pictured in the UNCTAD article is Olivia Nankindu, a mother of two in Kampala District, Uganda. She was living in abject poverty on her husband’s income from hawking plastic bags. Unable to afford meals or pay rent, Olivia’s family participated in FXB’s integrated Community Development FXBVillage program. Provided with integrated support in nutrition, housing, health, education, and livelihoods, Olivia gained confidence, skills and financial capacity. Olivia not only improved her family’s nutrition, children’s educational attainment, and sanitation and hygiene, but also gained hope and confidence that her poverty is not immutable. In 2013, she enrolled in an apprenticeship program in hairdressing and salon management, and landed a job in a hair salon, earning UGX 200,000 per month (approximately $56 USD), which is about four times the amount of her husband’s income before the start of the program. Now, Olivia and her husband are planning to start their own hair salon business. “I now work harder, follow my desires, goals and my principle is to never give up easily,” Olivia says. She is one of over 84,000 people who were able to escape extreme poverty through FXB’s integrated programs.

Integration is key to achieving the SDGs and bridging the gap between the LDCs and other developing countries. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind. As an international non-governmental organization currently working in four of the LDCs (Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Myanmar), FXB is committed to inclusion and integration. We do that by focusing on the ultra-poor, not only through the FXBVillage program, but also through our health, education, and women’s and children’s protection programs. FXB advocates for integrated approaches to community development through our participation in Locus, a coalition of organizations dedicated to advancing evidence-based solutions to global development challenges that are integrated, driven by local communities, and based on shared measures. Together, we are amplifying the evidence that integration works and that women like Olivia cannot be left behind.

    Photo Credits: FXB International

ICCE TIG WEEK: Using M&E data to evaluate the impacts of an integrated and holistic international development model

By: Ashweeta Patnaik, Ray Marshall Center 

http://aea365.org/blog/icce-tig-week-using-me-data-to-evaluate-the-impacts-of-an-integrated-and-holistic-international-development-model-by-ashweeta-patnaik/

Hello, I’m Ashweeta Patnaik and I work at the Ray Marshall Center (RMC) at The University of Texas in Austin. RMC has partnered with Nuru International (Nuru) to use Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) data to evaluate the impacts of Nuru’s integrated development model. Here, I share some lessons learned.

Nuru is a social venture committed to ending extreme poverty in remote, rural areas in Africa. Nuru equips local leaders with tools and knowledge to lead their communities out of extreme poverty by integrating impact programs that address four areas of need: hunger; inability to cope with financial shocks; preventable disease and death; and, lack of access to quality education for children. Nuru’s M&E team collects data routinely to measure progress and drive data based decision making.

Lessons Learned:

1. Establish a study design to measure program impact early – ideally, prior to program implementation.

Nuru has a culture where M&E is considered necessary for decision making. Nuru’s M&E team had carefully designed a robust panel study prior to program implementation. Carefully selected treatment and comparison households were surveyed using common instruments at multiple points across time. As a result, when RMC became involved at a much later stage of program implementation, we had access to high quality data and a research design that allowed us to effectively measure program impacts.

2. When modifying survey instruments, be mindful that new or revised indicators should capture the overall program outcomes and impacts you are trying to measure.

Nuru surveyed treatment and comparison households with the same instruments at multiple time points. However, in some program areas, changes made to the components of the instrument from one time-point to the next led to challenges in constructing comparable indicators, affecting our ability to estimate program impact in these areas.

3. Monitor and ensure quality control in data entry, either by using a customized database or by imposing rigid controls in Excel.

Nuru’s M&E data was collected in the field and later entered into Excel spreadsheets. In some cases, the use of Excel led to inconsistences in data entry that posed challenges when using the data to analyze program impact.

4. When utilizing an integrated development model, be mindful that your evaluation design also captures poverty in a holistic way.

In addition to capturing data to measure the impact of each program, Nuru was also mindful about capturing composite programmatic impact on poverty. At the start of program implementation, Nuru elected to use the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). MPI was measured at multiple time points for both treatment and comparison households using custom built MPI assessments. This allowed RMC to measure the impact of Nuru’s integrated development model on poverty.

 

Are we learning enough about integrated programs through impact evaluations?

By: Tessa Ahner- McHaffie, FHI360

https://blog.f1000.com/2017/11/28/learning-enough-integrated-programs-impact-evaluations/

Integrated development raises a lot of questions. Tessa Ahner-McHaffie and colleagues from FHI 360 tried to answer some of these in a Systematic Review published on Gates Open Research and currently being peer reviewed. In this guest blog, she describes the work that her and colleagues have done in exploring the evidence around this area of development work. 

As someone working on ‘integration’ at FHI 360, a large non-profit dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions, I often get asked ‘does integration work?’ To answer questions like ‘where does working in multiple sectors add value?’ or ‘what does the evidence say about multi-sector integration in this context?’ we first have to determine what evidence is available, and what research questions are being asked and answered. So, my team and I set out to do that by conducting a systematic review to find impact evaluations on integrated strategies, and see how those evaluations were being designed.

Gathering the evidence

[pullquote]Integration is an umbrella phrase that can describe thousands of different cross-sector approaches — from health and microfinance, to nutrition and education, to conservation and livelihoods.[/pullquote]

Conducting a systematic review on something as broad (and often fluid) as integrated development was, from the beginning, difficult. Conducting keyword searches for “integration” – which we defined as any program working across one of the core development sectors agriculture and food security, economic development, education, environment, governance, health, nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) – was nearly impossible, since people do not consistently use this phrase in titles or abstracts.

So, we needed to come at it from a different direction. We decided to start from the entire realm of impact evaluations, and manually screened all of the 4,000+ entries in 3ie’s Impact Evaluation Repository, looking for which studies involved an integrated program.

The result? We found a lot more evaluations than we originally expected: 601 peer-reviewed impact evaluations on integrated, multi-sector projects. These studies crossed every sector and region. Due to the variability, we were unable to conduct a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of the projects studied. We were, however, able to find some interesting trends on what is getting studied (and what is not).

What the evidence told us

We found that integrated, multi-sector programs are being evaluated, both rigorously and often. Most report positive findings, although we need to consider publication bias, so we can say little beyond that these programs work sometimes. Yet, the majority of these studies did not consider integration as a component of the program to be evaluated, or an objective to monitor or measure in and of itself.

Only 38 had a partial or full factorial Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) design, which would be the most straightforward way to look at the possible amplification of outcomes of multi-sector integration, although it exponentially adds to the time, resources, and complexity of the evaluation.

Importantly, there are other possible ways that integration can add value to a program beyond the final quantitative results: by improving the reach of the project to more vulnerable people, improving the satisfaction of the staff or community utilizing the project, creating cost efficiencies, in addition to others. Yet, although 60 assessments used a qualitative component, and 43 used a costing component, most of those were measuring some other angle of the program, and not deliberately unpacking the effect of integration.

[pullquote]Very few of these evaluations consider if this integration is adding to (or detracting from) the aims of the project.[/pullquote]

Moving forward, we know that a large proportion of those programs being studied combine multiple sectors in one package. We need to be more deliberate in our attempt to learn about the added value of combining the interventions as a component of outcome evaluations. Doing so does not necessarily require a complicated or expensive design each time – it can mean creatively using mixed methods and other strategies to explore the targeted effects of integration.

Why publish on Gates Open Research?

One reason we were excited to publish on Gates Open Research was the speed at which we would be able to start a dialogue about what we found. Having an open, thoughtful conversation through peer review that can be viewed by readers is appealing, and we are excited to be a part of it. We hope that funders, researchers, and program designers will use the vast set of evaluations we have gathered to dig into the sectors or models of their interest, use those to further analyze effectiveness, and inform new ideas, decisions, and learning in the future.

Gates Open Research provides all Gates Foundation-funded researchers with a place to rapidly publish any results they think are worth sharing. All articles benefit from immediate publication, transparent refereeing and the inclusion of all source data. If you are a grantee of the Gates Foundation you can find more information about how to publish on Gates Open Research here.

Creating New Tools for the Job

By: Lydia Cardona, Conservation International

Calapa seedling © Benjamin Drummond

Headlines about scarce natural resources driving or causing conflicts are not hard to find. Threats of war over the control and use of natural resources – such as oil, timber and water- become more imminent as rapid, unsustainable development and climate change increase the pressure on renewable and non-renewable resources. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, more than 40% of internal conflicts over the last 60 years are linked to the exploitation of natural resources.  However, conflict is not the only side of the intersection between peace and the environment. 

Collaboration around natural resource management can become a catalyst for peace, meaning that the arrow that links these issues points in both directions. Yes, conservation can contribute to conflict, but it can also support peacebuilding. In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council unanimously passed joint resolutions on “Sustaining Peace”, an agenda focused on promoting conditions for peace across societies in a way that is preventative of conflict rather than a response to it. 

Throughout the history of our organization, Conservation International (CI) has worked to build cooperative institutions and improve policies and practices around natural resource governance. As a conservation organization that puts human well-being at the center of its work, CI is committed to proactively—rather than reactively—addressing potential conflict within its work from an integrated, locally-led perspective. 

In response to this, CI’s Policy Center for Environment and Peace is pleased to announce the publication of its Environmental Peacebuilding Training Manual, which focuses on increasing awareness, knowledge and skills on identifying drivers or root causes of conflict, analyzing conflict dimensions, fostering conflict sensitive program design and promoting consensus building among conservation practitioners and organizations working in areas affected by conflict or where conservation efforts could potentially impact conflict.  

This manual seeks to broaden practitioners’ awareness of these relationships and to provide specific tools for integrating environmental peacebuilding. Specific modules on stakeholder engagement, conflict analysis, conflict-sensitive programming, and collaborative consensus-building encompass a series of approaches, tools, and skills that are relevant to promoting peace and sustainability across CI’s global efforts. 

CI works in many fragile contexts, and our experience underscores the importance of this integrated approach to conservation and peace and the need for these tools. By creating a dialogue among stakeholders, encouraging local engagement, and helping communities with natural resource management, CI promotes peace in communities in Peru, Timor Leste, the Philippines, Bolivia and numerous other countries. Our facilitation of international dialogues and agreements has enabled the establishment of the Coral Triangle Initiative and the Cordillera del Condor peace park between Ecuador and Peru, which have minimized conflict and led to more coordinated dispute resolution. The manual showcases case studies which ground the relevance and adaptability of these approaches in CI’s local experiences around the world.  

Putting tools that make these links in the hands of staff and partners who are implementing at the local level is critical to supporting local decision-making and amplifying the voices of those impacted by and benefiting from conservation actions.  This is ultimately where the bridge between high-level agendas—both Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) and Sustaining Peace—to local level dynamics is apparent and critical through CI’s work.

Environmental peacebuilding is an approach that can be transformational in addressing some of the human security challenges that climate change, population growth and resource degradation threaten to exacerbate.  CI is eager to share these tools and resources with our partners under the belief that, ultimately, collaboration and the broadening of perspectives around complex problems will provide the greatest benefit for both people and nature.

Our new Environmental Peacebuilding Training Manual can be accessed on CI’s Environmental Peacebuilding website. For questions or comments, please contact Janet Edmond, Senior Director of Peace and Development Partnerships at CI, at jedmond@conservation.org 

Creating an Integrated Nutrition Game-Plan: Technical Brief and Recommendations from Lao PDR

By: Deirdre McMahon, Global Nutrition Advisor, SNV 

Malnutrition isn’t the result of a simple cause-and-effect algorithm. It can’t be boiled down into an if-then statement. It’s the result of a complex web of underlying factors and interrelated causes. And in response to that complexity, reducing malnutrition requires convergent action from many different sectors and stakeholders. 

Based on the need for integrated action to improve nutrition, SNV applies a convergent approach to nutrition programming. For example in Lao PDR’s remote and ethnically diverse upland farming communities, SNV, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and in partnership with Agrisud International, works with local Government partners to improve family nutrition through the Enhancing Nutrition of Upland Farming Families (ENUFF) project. ENUFF brings together nutrition-sensitive agriculture, gender equity, positive social and behavior change (SBC), and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) into one multisectoral nutrition program. 

ENUFF has gained valuable insights on realizing effective convergence of sectors and implementation across district, community, and household levels to improve nutrition. Drawing on this experience, the project has published ‘Converging for improved nutrition in Lao PDR’, a technical brief that provides key insights into the district level coordination and implementation of a multisectoral nutrition program and  defines strategies for improving nutrition through integrated programming. ‘Converging for improved nutrition in Lao PDR’ is available to download as a Full Brief or as a Summary. 

The brief details four strategic avenues to improve family nutrition in the Laotian uplands through integrated programming that ENUFF has identified based on the project’s implementation and findings from its baseline study: 

 1. Engage in nutrition and WASH social and behavior change communication (SBCC), which involves both women and men, especially in relation to children’s feeding and diets, dietary quality and diversity, improved hygienic practices, and use of improved sanitation facilities.  

2. Provide technical and organizational support to farms and small businesses to enhance local capacities to diversify food crop and small livestock production, and to process, store, market and generate income from food crop value chains. 

3. Promote, support, and engage in context-sensitive yet integrated initiatives, such as nutrition-sensitive home gardens and value chains, which cut across the health, agricultural, environmental, and business sectors and account for the multidimensionality of livelihoods and nutritional issues.

4. Support nutrition coordination committees, including recruiting the right coordinators, establishing mechanisms for accountability, decentralizing national level actions to the village level, and strengthening capacity at all levels including a process for learning and not just reporting. 

The need for improved nutrition in Lao PDR, particularly among women and children, is critical. Although the country has achieved impressive economic growth in recent years, its further progress is impeded by high malnutrition rates. The 2015 Lao Child Anthropometry Assessment Survey (LCAAS) reported that 36.5%, of children under five as  were stunted, with child malnutrition showing strong inequalities across regions and groups, particularly among communities living in remote upland areas where ENUFF is implemented. 

The underlying causes of this malnutrition are heavily influenced both by external factors, including food systems, the sanitation context, livelihood opportunities, and income generation, and by household dynamics and behaviors related to food production and purchase, care practices, and hygiene. Therefore, improving nutrition requires integrated action both among sectors (nutrition, health, education, agriculture, livelihoods, and women’s empowerment), and among governance and social strata (activities at the district, community, and household levels).  

By enacting these four strategies, ENUFF aims to improve households’ physical and economic access to nutritious foods through diversification of production and augmented livelihoods, while fostering inclusive, sustainable food systems and hygienic environments. The increased availability of nutritious foods and hygienic infrastructure will be accompanied with enhanced counselling at the household level of proper dietary needs, especially for children, men’s role in nutrition, proper hygiene practices, and the use of income increases for improved health and nutrition. These activities are coordinated and aligned across different sectors, and from the district to the household level. 

The desired key outcomes of this convergence of sectors and governance strata is to empower households with a set of options, decisions, and actions that together will lead to improved nutrition, in particular for women and children. When designing and implementing nutrition programming, the actions across sectors may or may not be joint, but at a minimum should be strategic and coordinated. By bringing sectors together in an integrated approach, we can address the complex and interrelated factors that comprise the root causes of malnutrition, and not just treat its symptoms.  

You can find more information about SNV and our work in nutrition on our website: www.snv.org