Evaluation of Competence Sharing Network Project in South-Eastern Africa
Background The Competence Sharing Network Project (CSNP) 2009 to 2013 projected ended with a thorough external evaluation. CSNP was first conceived at a financial management seminar in Kenya in December 2004 organized by The Pentecostal Foreign Mission of Norway (PYM), gathering project staff from East and Southern Africa. The participants appreciated the knowledge and experience of their peers during the seminar, and realized how beneficial it would be to meet regularly to share experience and develop new knowledge. They wanted to continue exploring this possibility. At the end of the second project Phase of five years, 2009 – 2013, an evaluation was recommended which was commissioned by PYM in order to inform the planning for the future of CSNP before the next application. Purpose/objective To assess the progress of CSNP by reviewing its scope: membership, organisation, methods and approaches - as a method for project management capacity building and to learn from the experiences of 2009 – 2013 to inform the planning for the future of the network. Methodology The method of the evaluation was a participatory approach. Priority issues within each key evaluation question were developed by the CSNP Steering Committee together with the evaluator. The preparatory evaluation workshop with the Steering Committee included discussions about evaluation stakeholders, evaluation use, identifying key issues of concern for the evaluation and an analysis of the project’s theory of change. The evaluation workshop during the Annual Network Meeting in October 2013 included data collection on some issues that could not be covered in the online survey earlier, as well as sense-making and validation of preliminary findings. The workshop included sharing of value creation stories linked to CSNP and illustrating the potential it has had through member activities. The evaluating consultant was able to observe the Steering Committee meeting, and the part of the Annual Network Meeting that was not the evaluation workshop but Network business. Methods used: Document review Direct observation of Steering Committee meeting Preparatory evaluation workshop with Steering Committee Online survey distributed to all participants of ANMs 2009 – 2012 Skype interviews with members of the Steering Committee Direct observation of Annual Network Meeting Evaluation workshop; data collection, sense-making and validation of findings Key findings The learning Network achieved its aims and successfully contributed to professional insights, improving skills amongst the CSNP members through its chosen methods of operation: ‘members learn, members apply learning, change is happening at individual and project level, thereby validting the theory of change.The combination of intentionally building relationships of trust, and providing space for regional exchange and diverse perspectives are strong points.’ The focus on leadership made an impact on a majority of the members. The book ‘Leading with Courage and Humility’ and was seen as a useful bonus result that may continue to be very beneficial in leadership development in and outside the Network. The organising model of CSNP is commendably simple and functions reasonably well. The strength of the Steering Committee is its consistency of members from different countries and is democratically assembled. CSNP comprises a community of experienced project leaders, administrators and field workers; as a resource it continues to exist in spite of members leaving and new members coming in, to foster improvement in systems and team work, policy implementation among members; increasing networking capacities and better relationships of trust with communities and government. ‘CSNP has lived gender equality and that this has had an impact on the participants own gender awareness, which in turn impacted on their work.’ Men and women have continuously interacted during the ANMs teaching members the value of men and women working together. CSNP has been less successful in stimulating the members to connect between the Annual Network Meetings and to monitor the network itself. There is a general problem within CSNP of members not responding to emails. This has decreased the efficiency of both the steering committee and the network. One reasons for this is attributed to lack of resources, but this and any other reasons need to be addressed to provide the Network a high level of efficiency. the Steering Committee has logistical challenges to meet usually because of unreliable internet connections More clarity needed on different professional insights. Recommendations: Summary Creating communities of practice within CSNP, to become even more focused; enhance learning topics relevant for the members. From the heart of CSNP, deciding on principal functions, using the functions-thinking when developing the theory of change and theory of action for the next phase of CSNP. The Network challenging itself boldly to interrogate itself and recreate for transformation, building on relationships as a strong basis for learning, knowledge creation and advocacy. Learning how to learn with members developing new strategies for social and organizational learning as a focus area for CSNP Continuing to build relationships of trust – with a healthy openness for diversity and protecting the hallmark of trust that has been created while guarding against too much introspection. Connecting member to projects’ organizations so that the learning and knowledge creation has a place within the organization, and to promote organizational ownership of CSNP. Developing a culture of responding to emails and other communication from fellow CSNP members to increases network’s efficiency. Inspiring actions that help members engage in CSNP by developing practical actions that help members remember CSNP even though they have very busy schedules. Increasing member ownership and taking responsibility for its sustainability, moving away from the thinking that PYM will always be there to do it. Developing a strong network monitoring system with accountability towards the members’ organizations; regular change stories, common goals and clear change indicators for CSNP as a network. Comments from the organisation, if any The follow-up on the evaluation report, its findings, and lessons learned, conclusions and recommendations were analysed by members and partners. The continuation has been to use 2014 to undertake a process of diligent and In-depth consultations, clarification of relationships, needs/challenges and using the data collected for planning for the Networks future. The All Network Members are focusing on analysing and drawing out some reflections on what strategic planning is, its elements, as well us drawing out common understanding on the characteristics of project proposals. CSNP is considering engaging; as well as initiating all members and stakeholders into seeking the appropriate frameworks and ideas for the new CSNP strategic plan. Further development of utilising the network to continue to strengthen civil society in Africa through focused organisational and leadership development by assisting each other in designing and implementing projects that promote sustainable, measurable and above all meaningful change.