Lessons from partnership with a parent advocacy group from Jamaica.
Background Evaluation done by Norwegian Association of Disabled. Subtitle of evalution: "Evaluation of the Development Cooperation betweenthe National Parent Advocacy Group (NPAG) of Jamaica and Norsk Forbund for Utviklingshemmede (NFU) the Norwegian Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities". The evaluation was commission as the final evaluation report, as the partnership between NFU and NPAG ended in 2005. Methodology 1. Review of NPAG's development as a democratic member based advocacy organization for persons with developmentally disabilities since 19982. Assess NFU's approach and contribution to the development of the organizational structure and content on all levels of NPAG (national and local)3. Assess NPAG's long-term capacity for sustainability as an advocacy organization and make appropriate recommendations for future institutional and economical sustainabilityThe team employed qualitative methodology in the data collection for this evaluation but also used 1 survey (Appendix A) to assist in gaining a public perspective of the NPAG. The data collection strategies included parish visits, conducting individual interviews as well as focus groups, and the review of documents. Each parish representative was given 20 - 30 surveys to be distributed within the individual parishes in order to obtain a public view of the NPAG. The list of interviewees is attached as Appendix B. Key findings Due to the efforts of the NPAG, children were integrated into regular schools in several parishes. Parent groups were strengthened and parents' perception of disability changed from the belief that they had been punished or cursed to improvement of their self esteem and most importantly the relationship with their disabled children. Parent groups created the environment in which they could support and encourage each other. More parents began to bring their children out into the community as they became more informed and confident to speak out for the rights of their children and persons with developmental disabilities. Local authorities also became more aware of the needs of the disabled population and have started to pay closer attention to the existing legislation that caters to those needs.NFU conducted workshops, based in the main around the development of NPAG. These were organized to empower members of the NPAG to properly represent its membership at all levels of society and assist NPAG with the clarification of roles and responsibilities, development of by-laws for NPAG and the development of a set of principles and plans based on those principles. The evaluation team recommends that NFU spend more time in the early stages of a partnership to understand the operating context, culture, and capacity of its partners. It is important to move beyond a single point contact approach and get a feel for the capability of members within partner organizations and their level of involvement. This would allow NFU's programme officers and members to determine the level of follow-up required when they make recommendations for organizational development. It is also important to develop a process to triangulate or cross reference the reports received from partners. This is supported by the findings of Lister (2000) (5) who suggested that the intra organizational relationships need to be monitored in order to support the structural relationship between the two partners. While there were administrative and communicative challenges within the NFU-NPAG partnership, this evaluation team found that NPAG's advocacy efforts were effective at the parish level. Because of the social climate in Jamaica, advocacy needed to start at the ground or grassroots level, encouraging the parents and families to desist from hiding their children with developmental disabilities and to assist them to exercise their rights as citizens of Jamaica. Through funding, training, workshops, and development activities, NFU has facilitated NPAG with improving the lives of persons with disabilities in Jamaica. Through their training programmes and the provision of information, available at their office, NPAG has engendered the confidence and empowered its parish group members to advocate at the parish level. This has achieved many results; from children with developmental disabilities being accepted into regular schools to people with developmental disabilities coming into and interacting with the communities in which they live. The success stories, the changes in perception about themselves and their families and increase in the self esteem of parents and persons with developmental disabilities are results of the NPAG-NFU partnership. The knowledge and skills provided by the training, together with the confidence and reinforcement provided by the success stories have provided the desire to continue the work of NPAG at the parish level. Recommendations One benefactor of one of the local groups has suggested that NPAG should begin their sponsorship drive at the local level to develop the skills necessary to seek sponsorship externally.Suggestions from the evaluation team for NPAG:o apply for support from local organizations project by project. Seek technical support and guidance, from local organizations that have the capacity, to plan and manage the projectso seek support and guidance in organizational development from local businesses and local professionals and look for partnership opportunitieso deliver some form of returns for the persons or organizations that assist by public acknowledgement of their assistance or some form of advertising for the organizationso bring the children with disabilities into the community so that when applications are made on their behalf persons know who will benefit, the challenges they encountero seek assistance and guidance from local organizations with the capacity to help with financial management and record keepingo continue networking informally with the other parish groups until this network can develop into a stronger national network for advocacyFor NFUo spend more time in the early stages of a partnership understanding the operating context, culture, and capacity of its partnerso move beyond a single point contact approach to understand the roles of members within partner organizations and their level of involvement and commitment to partnership objectiveso determine the level of follow-up required when making recommendations for organizational developmento develop a process to triangulate or cross reference the reports received from partners Comments from the organisation Short and concise evaluation with good recommendations.