A participatory evaluation of community transformation in rural Cambodia
Background:After the pilot phase in 2007/2008, working in ten villages with one partner, MA together with CRWRC-C entered into a broader program: Community Transformation in Rural Cambodia. Starting in 2009, the program works in four provinces (Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kampong Speu, and Kampot) in partnership with four local NGOs: Khmer Association for Development of Raising Animal (KADRA), Love Cambodia (LC), Community for Transformation (CFT), and Occupation and Rural Economic Development Association (OREDA). The local partners now work in 41 villages. The overarching goal is empowerment, understood as promoting social and attitudial transformation through increased social responsibility, behavioural change and community cohesiveness. And poverty reduction, understood as increased income, and reduced poverty level.Purpose/objective:Midterm evaluation. The main purpose of the evaluation is to get a solid foundation of whether the organisations are on track to achieve the program plans, and if the objectives are likely to be met. The objectives spelled out in the ToR focuses on the partnership relations and three key aspects of the work: sustainability, effectiveness and ownership.Methodology: Most of the evaluation questions were qualitative in nature, and in line with the idea to carry out a participatory evaluation, mostly qualitative, participatory methods were used in the field. However, also some quantitative methods were used. The following methods/tools were used:• Group discussions/presentations• Chapatti Diagramming (Stakeholder Analysis)• Spider Web• Visual Drawings• AI (modified version)• Ranking exercises• Most Significant Changes (MSC) stories (modified version)• Role-play with discussion• Semi structured interviews • Observation• Transect (modified version)• Feedback sessions• Secondary data analysisKey findings:The evaluation confirmed that the program generally is on track. The strength of the program partly lies with CRWRC and its partners themselves, and partly in the program’s community approach. CRWRC has a strong commitment to its work. There is a strong team spirit, and a clear leadership philosophy. The values adopted by the organisation are also reflected in their work.Also the partners show strong commitment to objectives of the program. It is recognised that the partners have had a very steep learning curve, and now have gained knowledge and experience relevant for both implementation and management of the program. It is further noted that all four partners recognise the need for continued support, both in terms of organisational development and funding.The local partners generally have good relationship with both local authorities and communities. There were evidence of outcomes and impact on the community level. It was found that the perception of sustainable development varied in the communities (and among the partners). Most results were seen as a result of several factors, and both infrastructure and training were seen as important, although the latter was seen as most critical to the long term development of the community. The four project areas had slightly different profile, reflecting the work of their partner.The Community Organising (CO) process generally serve the purpose of facilitating for development activities and results in the communities.Recommendations:For the organisation to further inprove, the evaluation team has the following recommendations: • Roles are more clearly defined. This applies to both roles between various positions within CRWRC and between CRWRC and partners.• The planning process is clearly described, and adhered to. Changes to the plans apart from the process described to all should be kept at a minimum. Due to the strong position of the expats and their responsibility to ensure compliance with the plan, it is particularly important that the local partners understand and comply with the agreed to plans and to the planning process – so that both CRWRC/MA management team, the POs and the local partners are collaborating well together in true partnership. • All core documents are shared between CRWRC and partners. This could include final version of application (to see possible changes and to get the big picture), reports and budgets with narratives. Translation should be available either orally or in a brief written version in Khmer. Both CRWRC and the partners recognised that some partner issues need further dialogue and discussion. It is recommended that: • CRWRC continues to support the organisational capacity needs of partners. • While most of the organisations find the monitoring to be complex and difficult to understand, the monitoring should not necessarily be further simplified, but rather explained to the partners (again and again). • The organisations are encouraged to develop their own M&E system, as long as they can meet the information needs from CRWRC. • Training and workshops are announced well in advance, respecting the local partners work plans. At a minimum, dates should be announced early, even when the details are not all set.It is also recommended that: • CRWRC spend time with the partner to discuss sustainable development, allowing for mutual listening and learning. Contextualized examples could be discussed.• Assess the CO process, to make sure the stages are timed so that the benefit can be maximised. For instance repeat the participatory community research, so that it can benefit community planning. • Develop clear criteria for phase over strategy for communities. Preferably make the strategy known to new villages.• Recognise that the work with “old” villages needs a lot of investment in terms of time and training when CBO leadership (and other leadership) has been elected. This should lead to caution in terms of expanding to new villages (in particular if continued funding is not guaranteedComments from the organisation, if any:The findings have made us see more clear, both negative and positive changes that have taken place in the communities we work with. We have started to include the findings and belonging recommendations in our diaconal program work. The staff were generally happy with the methods the team used for collecting the data and engaging with the research participants; Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and role plays respectively.