Evaluation of SCN support to Save the Children Guatemala
Executive Summary Save the Children Norway (SCN) has been working in Guatemala since the 1976 earthquake, with an in-country office throughout practically the whole period. Among other partners, SCN has been cooperating with Save the Children Guatemala (SCG) since it was founded in 1983. In 2003, SCN decided to support the SCG ambition of becoming the Save the Children organization representing the SC Alliance in Guatemala. For SCN, this decision implied on the one hand phasing out direct support to other Guatemalan partner organizations and closing down its country office by 2009. On the other hand, it also meant strong support for the SCG process of institutional strengthening, in order to enable the organization to realize its added responsibilities in the best possible manner. Methodology As agreed in the 2006-2008 cooperation agreement between SCN and SCG, an external evaluation of SCG should be held by the end of the cooperation period, in order to serve as the basis for discussions on future cooperation. The Terms of Reference stated three main objectives: - Assess the current organizational capacity of SCG - Evaluate the impacts of SCN support for building organizational capacity in SCG - Identify needs for further support and make recommendations for focus, design and scope of future support from SCN to SCG The emphasis of the evaluation is on learning. It is a participatory evaluation in the sense that one representative of SCG has been part of the team. Fieldwork in Guatemala took place between September 2nd and 12th 2008. Findings Organization - SCG governance structure developing in the right direction, yet some way to go before in line with the SC Alliance guidelines of best practices. The Board of Directors is increasingly involved in the strategic management, and mechanisms to ensure proper selection and rotation of board members are gradually being improved. - The elaboration of the 2006 strategy document implied a significant step forward in strategic planning. The strategy is focused, rights-oriented and is being used in practice. SCG also has a plan to overcome its organizational weaknesses, and to assume the responsibilities associated with being the representative of the SC Alliance in Guatemala. However, there are still gaps in strategic thinking; lack of immediate attention to the issues of long-term financial sustainability; the danger of building a too large administrative structure; limited advances in terms of fundraising, and the growing dependence on one donor. It is also a strategic weakness that there have been no attempts at developing an overall communication strategy. SCG has greatly strengthened its administrative capacity in terms of internal management of staff, funds and other resources, and also with respect to fulfilling donor requirements for producing plans, accounts and reports on time. Today the organization appears solid and dependable – even if not exactly ‘lean and mean’. With the help of the SC organizations of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, SCG has been able to assume many of the responsibilities of being the SC representative in Guatemala. The relation to SC USA is more complicated. Positive coordination mechanisms give key responsibility to SCG in some areas (education, emergency response), but the continuing operative role of SC USA creates difficulties for the image building of SCG and potentially in fundraising and lobbying inside Guatemala. Programs This evaluation concurs with previous assessments that this is an area of strength of SCG. Programs are based on a clear and rights-based strategy, where components complement and mutually strengthen each other, and there is considerable focus on making state institutions assume their obligations with respect to key child rights, partly through working in broad alliances with other civil society organizations. The strategy moreover emphasizes child participation and contains an exit strategy from the time of entry into an area. Furthermore, programs are implemented by staff that seem well qualified, motivated and committed, and at the local level, excellent relations have been established with local authorities. However, SCG can improve by; - strengthening how to work with the local development councils (COCODES). - assess the costs and benefits of the innovative and interesting, yet challenging model of working through the municipality, which is being tried out in Chiquimula, and decide whether this model should be scrapped, modified, and/or extended to other areas. - strengthening the monitoring and evaluation system. Communication - The communication area is lagging behind. There is a need for an overall strategy that covers and integrates the objectives, activities and targets for the four separate, but highly interrelated areas of image building, advocacy, awareness-raising and fund-raising. - In terms of image building, SCG is well-known and has a good reputation among NGOs and state institutions working with child rights and related issues. In spite of some increase in media coverage over the last years, the organization remains relatively little known among the general public. A serious complication for building the desired image of the organization is the continued presence and activity of SC USA. The name of the organization is in English making it more challenging to communicate what SCG is in Gutemala. - In advocacy and lobbying, SCG is doing a lot at the local level. At national level, efforts are weaker. Here, SCG follows the strategy of working together with other organizations, and belongs to a number of networks that are highly relevant for its objectives, but the activity levels of SCG within these networks appear to have been fairly low over the past few years. SCG has not developed any strategic focus on key issues for concentrating lobbying and advocacy efforts. - In awareness-raising, the SCG programs have considerable effects at the local level. There is little attention to doing such work at the national level. Given the many challenges faced by SCG, this is probably a wise way of prioritizing resources. - Fundraising is an area where little has been achieved. Indeed, from one perspective developments have been negative, as the number of international donors has been reduced, while fundraising from national sources remain negligible. This is a priority area where SCG needs to dedicate efforts immediately. SCG possesses the basic skills for developing proposals, but need to do this with much greater intensity and upgrade skills at donor mapping and communication. In terms of national fundraising, there have only been limited advances in spite of the efforts made, probably largely due to factors external to SCG. Channelling funds to other Guatemalan organizations Even if this activity will be considerably expanded when also funds from SCN are transferred in this way, we do not foresee any difficulties for SCG in handling the technical side of this. The challenge will be how to develop the role as a funding partner over and above the channelling of funds and following up reports and accounts. Furthermore, SCG needs to make a strategic decision on whether this is a role that it wants to take on permanently, and follow up the implications of this decision. Impacts of the SCN support Over the period of SCN support for organizational strengthening, SCG has advanced significantly. Still, many of the targets for the institutional support program have not been met. We see this as primarily reflecting over-ambitious goals. While the specific contribution of SCN support cannot be singled out, it is clear that SCN funding has been fundamental for many of the improvements that have taken place. Likewise, the ‘political’ support that SCN has given SCG within the SC Alliance has been of crucial importance for SCG to assume the role as the national representative. However, the SCN support has also contributed to an institutional strengthening process of a form that has given too little attention to issues of long-term financial sustainability of the organization. MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS For SCG 1. The most important challenge facing SCG relates to the financial issues of very high dependence on one donor and the problem of long-term economic sustainability of a large administrative structure. Efforts must be made in the following areas: a. International fundraising. b. National fundraising. c. Cost-cutting. 2. SCG should develop an overall communication strategy. This should include fundraising – both national and international – as well as image building, advocacy and awareness-raising. 3. The dialogue with SC USA should be continued and seek to establish ways of minimizing confusion and negative impacts on SCG image building and fundraising from the existence of two SC organizations in the country. 4. SCG needs to make a strategic decision on whether it wants to be a funding organization. For SCN 1. SCN should consider carefully the implications of its co-responsibility for developing an administrative structure within SCG that may be difficult to sustain without continued Norwegian core funding. A future strategy for supporting SCG must combine acceptance of responsibility for what has been developed with efforts focused at creating sustainability. 2. SCN should support SCG in implementing the recommendations above. This means supporting the costs of developing international and national fundraising capacity, as well as costs of developing an overall communication strategy. 3. In addition to funding for these processes, SCN should seek to contribute to developing the skills needed in the areas of fundraising and general communication. 4. SCN should seek to use its position and influence within the SC Alliance to obtain agreements with SC USA that will minimize the problem of having a foreign SC organization working in a country where there is a functioning national organization.