Use Your Talents Evaluation Report
Background This is an evaluation of the Use Your Talents (UYT)approach to asset-based development initiatives with the local congregation as a primary agent for change. The process of conceptualising and developing UYT started in the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) in 2002 and has since then grown to include churches in mainly Africa, but also in Asia. The process has been guided and strengthened by specific UYT projects financially supported by Norad through Digni and organised by NMS in Norway. Purpose/objective The evaluation was initiated by NMS to generate knowledge and information to inform further development of UYT. The results of the evaluation process will be used by NMS and by churches and organisations who are part of the international UYT network, as well as by Digni. The evaluation is part of the ongoing learning regarding UYT. The evaluation focuses on institutional impact of UYT. The evaluation also assesses the Use Your Talents Innovation Project (UYT-IP), organised by NMS, with an operating period of 2017 – 2019/20. This project has included further spreading of UYT to other churches and academic institutions, promoting research on UYT and the creation of training programs as well as supporting learning and implementation of UYT. Methodology The evaluation process has been carried out by a team of three evaluators; of which one resided in Sweden (Team Leader), one in Norway (External Evaluator) and one in Madagascar (Internal Evaluator from FLM). The two main strategies of the evaluation have been interviews and desk study of existing UYT-related documentation. The evaluation process started with a meeting in Oslo, with NMS and the Scandinavian team members, to focus the evaluation questions, and give background information on UYT and NMS. The process then continued with elaboration of interview guidelines, framework for analysis, documentation of interviews, analysis of findings and report writing. The core methodology of the evaluation process has been structured and semi-structured interviews. Each interview lasted approximately 30 – 60 minutes. The interviews were carried out in French, Malagasy, English, Norwegian and Swedish; mostly through Skype or telephone call. The interviews in Madagascar were carried out by the internal evaluator from Madagascar and in Cameroon by a consultant residing in Cameroon. The other interviews were carried out by the Scandinavian team members. The interview respondents were sampled on the criteria of being active in UYT. They include church leaders at different levels, pastors, members, development committee leaders, the UYT-IP project coordinators, representatives of theological institutions and of Norwegian mission partners. The evaluation process also included desk study of project documentation for the UYT-IP, and other documentation linked to the UYT development process. Key findings Overall the evaluation shows that the Use Your Talents approach has had a remarkable impact over a relatively short period of time; congregations are active in development initiatives in their local communities, churches and institutions are engaging in concept development, there is sharing and learning between individuals and groups. Adopting a UYT approach contributes to strengthening the civil society and has increased people’s trust in their own ability to influence their living conditions. Thus, a movement to foster self-reliance The UYT network of both churches and educational institutions has increased through the activities of the Use Your Talents Innovation Project (UYT-IP), from a handful churches and institutions to more than 40 Through continued participation in the annual conferences, the churches share their experiences and learn from their peers. The academic workshops gather institutions who are involved in or interested in involving themselves in developing UYT modules for training of pastors and others speeding up the process of creating training modules. Introductory workshops are carried out by persons who have their own experience of working with UYT in their own church settings, which increases the credibility of UYT Follow-up trainings are important to give support to those who are unsure of how to continue with UYT, but also to encourage those who have started applying the approach. Through trainings, resource mapping has had an impact on mindset leading to a change process where people recognise, validate themselves and their locally available resources to promote development Church leaderships have taken formal decisions to implement UYT and policies are being influenced by aspects of UYT leading to a desire to engage in theological reflection on UYT. The importance of linking UYT both to leadership and practical grassroot initiatives providing tangible and visible results are essential keys to achieve ownership and sustainability. Changing attitudes, mindsets and way of doing things take time, because this very often challenge sensitive issues rooted in people’s cultures and also church doctrines. Using experienced competent UYT-trainers and facilitators is an essential key to success Recommendations A continued UYT-IP from 2021 recommended with main methods used in UYT-IP; and set desired goals for each strategic method to guide and focus the work. Continue and follow-up: Academic workshops; finalise the process and work with UYT-modules and online courses Annual conferences; continue and develop UYT networks Follow-up and enable study-visits. Strengthen communication and sharing by developing and launching UYT website Develop UYT resource material and capture experiential knowledge linked to introduction and implementation of UYT. New proposals; Consider organising regional training workshops for local UYT coordinators. Develop a group of UYT mentors Comments from NMS The evaluation process was planned to include field visits to Madagascar, Cameroon and Kenya by the team members. Preliminary analysis was planned to take place during these field visits. This plan had to be drastically changed due to the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic, which prevented all international travel, and also restricted national travel. The Scandinavian team members were not able to visit any of the countries where UYT has been implemented. Despite this disadvantage the way these challenges were rapidly in adequately dealt with. The report is remarkably well documented through detailed minutes and recordings, accountable and with an accurate precise language. The evaluation report will be essential for NMS in future planning. Comments from Digni: Digni find the evaluation report important for the following up of the development of the described methodology for UYT. The issue is at the core of many of our member organizations and partners and has therefore aroused great interest and desire for exchange of experience.Most of the goals of the project is estimated to be achieved by the end of the project period in 2020. The guidelines on gender and UYT and the guidelines for mission partners have yet to be completed, and the UYT training modules are not yet completed. Gender equality is potentially, but not automatically, achieved through the UYT approach. There is a need for intentionality to achieve this. These are among some of the issues that will be followed up also through Digni.