Good Governance and Effective Community Participation, Final Project Evaluation
Background The Governance and Social Mobilization project was implemented in Malawi by Plan Malawi with funding made available by NORAD and with Support of Plan Norway. The project has been implemented since 2004 in Plan program areas of Lilongwe, Kasungu and Mzuzu in Malawi even though some interventions like the Universal Birth Registration had a National coverage. The purpose of the project was to strengthen the capacity of local governance structures to manage development through participatory means in line with the Malawi Government Decentralization Policy. Participation of women and children and respect for their rights was pivotal to this intervention. Purpose/objective The Evaluation was commissioned to assess the extent to which the project fulfilled the set objectives and produced intended results. It was also meant to establish how the project has led to participation and empowerment of grassroots women and children and how gender and age influenced this participation. In advancing awareness and respect for Child Rights, the project evaluation also assessed the adequacy of linkages and mechanisms established for Child Protection. Overall the Evaluation also pointed at strengths and weaknesses of the project and how performance could be improved in future programs of this type. Overall project relevance with respect to national policies and priorities was also assessed. Methodology The Evaluation team conducted meetings with relevant Plan Malawi staff to agree on representative target for interviews and Focused Group Discussions. Special checklists and progress check forms were also used to collect related information and quantitative data. Briefing meetings were conducted with staff at all project implementation and evaluation sites. Participatory data collection methods were used i.e. Focussed Group Interviews, Key Informant Interviews and Semi structured checklists, all of which complemented the literature review which was done prior to field work. Key findings 1. The evaluation concluded that the project is relevant to National Development Policies and Priorities and needs of communities particularly women and children for instance it opened participation space for children through children's parliament as well as promoted inclusion of women in grassroots decision making organs.2. The rights based framework in use by Plan allows it to recognize international instruments for promotion of rights of women and children e.g. CEDAW, CRC in its programming.3. The project necessitated and led to the revamping and capacity building of Local Governance structures at area and district levels.4. There has been more awareness and inclusion of a child rights perspective to development programs5. There has been consequent increased institutional collaboration and capacity for dealing with Child Rights issues particularly in area of child protection where strategic partnerships were established at policy and local (implementation) level and relevant institutions like the Police are a typical example of this success.6. The project lacked key full time anchor at Program Area and local community level, in order to improve its effectiveness.7. There were no obvious integration /linkages of this project and the other country programs that Plan Malawi is implementing. Similarly child protection structures at community level have not been well connected to the child rights clubs in schools.8. The formation of several structures with overlapping roles, membership and size has been questioned within the context of effectiveness and sustainability.9. The organisational monitoring system in place does not adequately capitalise on collection of information and monitoring indicators that go beyond quantitative aspects of the project. Program review meetings are conducted but no project specific reviews were carried out.10. No baseline was conducted to guide the design, implementation and monitoring of this project11. Capacity building of community development structures and child rights initiatives were more successful than learning (adult literacy and supplies) and community managed project components of the project. Recommendations 1. There is need to designate relevant coordinator at Operational Level (Program Unit) to oversee the project.2. Interventions that had less fit with the governance and capacity building issues like construction of Community Resource Centres are better allocated to relevant Country Program, in this case the Learning Program.3. Effectiveness can be enhanced if number of committees formed or supported can be streamlined and be more focused.4. There is need for a Clear HR strategy to guide how staff are held accountable for their work5. There is need for increased fiscal decentralisation to limit implementation delays caused by piecemeal funding modalities.6. Plan Malawi to align its geographic boundaries of communities and development planning processes to Local Government structure and (timing) processes. The Community Development Planning process should nonetheless be continued recognizing its strength in people centeredness, empowerment and sustainability more than just focussing on the need to produce the physical output of Community Development Outline (plan).7. Encourage a more balanced participation from all teachers and pupils in Rights of the Child events than focussing on events that largely involve club members than wider population of teachers and pupils.8. The engagement of strategic partners from key line Ministries and the District Assemblies is to be continued and enhanced, where necessary building partner capacities for advancing participatory development planning and management, strengthening the locus of power in the district assembly decentralised structure.9. The project has made positive strides in ensuring gender focus in its capacity training even though gender action planning is still lagging behind.10. Plan Malawi should build in-house capacity for gender analysis, mainstreaming and advocacy11. There should be stronger quality control in training content and capacity of trainers as well as need for follow up action as a result of training conducted.12. Baseline studies would be undertaken to feed into the Monitoring and Evaluation system which should be more regularized and be inclusive of qualitative aspects of the project. Comments from the organisation 1. The report does not fully reflect added value by Plan Norway: i.e. participation in developing proposal, technical discussion during monitoring visit in implementation stage and input into ToR for evaluation for instance.2. Gender and specific age group impact were included in ToR, although assessed, has not been captured in conclusions. Recommendations focus on only one of three areas where success was relative limited e.g. gender action planning.3. The report did not clarify how differences in geographical delineation between Plan and government might result in overlap. At the moment the Community Development Plans produced cover the village development areas as defined in the district assemblies.4. Mechanisms for streamlining various committees are already under consideration through the National Technical Working Group on Child Protection. Village development committees whom Plan works with will soon also look into issues concerning participation and protection of children.5. The issue of reallocating the "education component" specifically the on multi purpose centre to the education program that deals with education and related infrastructure is hereby counter challenged. This is because these centres are considered part of community empowerment and does not only target school based learning. However, the suggestion to map out clear linkages with the various country programs will be considered seriously.6. Program Unit based coordinators were not assigned to this project because this role was not foreseen at the time of project planning. In most cases the front line-staff have traditionally worked as general coordinators for projects in their areas. This particular initiative was supporting components of an already existing country program. The direction Plan Malawi is taking is to build the capacity of all front line staff to be able to implement rights based programs. To that effect all staff are being oriented in child rights programming. This will also be reflected in their performance plan and review.While hiring of technical staff at Program Unit level in Health for instance was done, the Child Rights role was initially viewed as a cross cutting function. The need for specialized in house technical competency requiring a separate function is a more recent development. As a matter of fact, the Country Position of Child Rights Advisor was a more recent position than the other technical areas of health, water and sanitation and learning, for instance. This change in thinking was aligned to Plan International's strategic move towards human (child) rights based programming using its Child Centred Community Development Approach. Nevertheless, the evaluation has pointed to the fact that the Rights of the Child has been the strongest component of this project which may positively reflect on the capacity of the Child Rights Advisor brought on board, though this was way after the project had started.While capacity may also have paused a challenge in the other Pus particularly Mzuzu which was also faced with considerable delay and staff turnover at one point, it is still commendable that the Child Rights initiatives took an advanced pace in Kasungu a learning which will be shared across the other program areas.7. Plan Malawi will look into all the other recommendations and attempt to address the issues raised in its rights and community empowerment programme. Plan Malawi has drawn more detailed responses to each of the issues raised.