Wednesday, December 5, 2007

How to facilitate an auto-evaluation?

Picture: restitution and planification workshop

Erwin Brouwer wrote a case study about auto-evaluation which is the basis for this blogpost. He is making use of the following (downloadable) toolkit: Participatory Capacity Building, a facilitators Toolbox for Assessment and Strategic Planning of NGO Capacity.

In september 2005 he started a new capacity building program in Congo, with an OD/ID approach and a special focus on Peace and Democratisation. He explained the participatory capacity building cycle through an introduction workshop for 11 partner organizations. The objective was to ensure the support of the representatives.

Then an auto evaluation took place with all organisations, using a questionnaire. This was finalized by restitution workshops and the development of a capacity building strategy and workplan. Erwin worked with a local consultancy organization. The consultants knew the context and the local NGOs well, as well as the culture and openness to discuss internal problems.

The most important result of the auto-evaluation was that the organizations feel a sense of 'ownership' of the results. It was their evaluation and interpretation of the results, which lead to their capacity building strategies. A positive effect of the auto-evaluation was that internal discussions were started which mirrored their own situation. They discovered their strengths and what needs strengthening by training, coaching or exchange. Members from all levels of the organization participated, giving a voice to persons who are not always involved in decision making.

Some downsides of the method: sometimes staff did not feel comfortable to speak their mind in presence of the coordination of the organization. The facilitators tried to resolve this by splitting up the groups. Sometimes participants did not have enough trust to give 'negative scores' even after clear discussions on weak elements of their organization.

Furthermore, the method had to be adapted to the local context and level of understanding of each organization. This is not a downside, but something that should be kept in mind. In South Kivu, there is a culture of talking and listening. This means quick brainstorm discussions and writing ideas on cards is difficult. The written words count and should be weighed. The method of presentation with a computerized calculator, graphics had to be adapted. In this context there was often no electricity.

The language was also a problem, not all understand French, hence the questionnaire was translated and the facilitators were allowed times to explain. This meant that the strict time-tables of the manual were not feasible.

Some do's and don't for the facilitator
  • Do make it clear that you are not there to judge them or their program
  • Do work with local consultants
  • Do respect the confidentiality, don't send the reports to ICCO for instance
  • Don't follow the method without adapting it to the level of each organization
  • Don't mix your position with that of a prgram evaluator
  • Don't hand the program over to local consultants, but stay in charge of the method
  • Don't pay per diems for participants in workshops, this is about learning

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