The Vitol Foundation has expressed an interest in supporting Africa AHEAD in the next phase which will entail developing a three year strategy for 2019-2021. However, before they commit to an investment, they rightly identified a need for an evaluation of the CHC model and where better to assess whether ‘it works’, and whether it is sustainable than in Zimbabwe where we have been operating for the past 25 years.
A consultant, David Harding, was given the task to find out if it ‘works’ and conduct an objective evaluation of the programme in Zimbabwe. He sought to answer some simple questions. Are the communities where there were CHC started years ago still benefitting from the training. What is our footprint? Can the influence of the CHC still be seen on individuals who have been properly trained in a CHC by our organisation? Given that some of the CHC training goes back more than 20 years, it was a tall order to expect to find much evidence of our impact.
Therefore, it was with some trepidation that we boldly suggested to the consultant that he go off into the field without us, to snoop around and see for himself what had been happening in our project areas. Whilst he is an experienced development consultant on capacity building of NGOs, he is not a WASH expert and therefore the chances of him picking up on the more subtle indicators of good hygiene and sanitation were not to be assumed.
David spent two weeks in Zimbabwe, the first week in the field talking to CHC members of old clubs and new, as well as government stakeholders in the Districts of Makoni and Chimanimani. The second week he remained in Harare consulting key informants in Ministry of Health and past partner NGOs on how the work of Zimbabwe AHEAD was perceived. Neither our Country Director, nor other staff were present at the interviews he held with numerous key informants and the translation from Shona to English of the responses was not done by AA staff or project stakeholder in order to avoid interviewer bias. Nor was a specific schedule set up in advance and he was free to choose where to inspect without prior arrangement to avoid any possibility of the community having been primed for his visit.
The following week the CEO, Anthony Waterkeyn and co-founder Juliet Waterkeyn met David for his feedback in Zimbabwe, which he gave at the AGM for Chairperson Jannette Hetherton and other trustees. His observations were encouraging: the consultant was able to affirm that ‘the CHC model does indeed work in ways we don’t entirely understand,’ and that ‘the process was really appropriate for the Zimbabwe context.’
He looked for an answer to the question – ‘What is it about the process of training that encourages women in particular to stay on in the CHC for at least 6 months and attend 25 meetings? And I found that for most respondents it was obvious – this was a process that engaged and energised women, providing them with a truly positive social event in their lives. It wasn’t something that they had to grit their teeth and stagger through in order to graduate to get a certificate – it was something they looked forward to, i.e CHC meetings are fun. There were obviously some qualifiers there, but in general I would say the model and most importantly how it was run by Zim AA, provided just the right mix to galvanise women. He saw that the ‘outputs were consistent in the places he visited, with a positive sense of progress generated by the training, – it tells me that something is going on – it was good, effective and engaged the community’.
But he warned ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and it was concerned that when the model is picked up by other NGOs it might not be as effective, as they don’t always show the same commitment, passion and energy as the Africa AHEAD team.
One of his most positive observations was his take on the sustainability of the CHC. He made the distinction between the existence of the CHC as a structure, and the outputs of the CHC, the ways in which people had changed as a result of being CHC members for some time. He said he ‘was not sure if it was critical that the CHC itself had to remain in existence, if the objective of improving hygiene had been achieved’. He was not perturbed by the fact that although some CHC continue to run after the training, some die. He doesn’t see the CHC ‘as a ‘movement’ which has to be bolstered up artificially by ‘over-institutionalising it’ instead it could be ‘merely a six month/one year campaign in which the CHC exists for certain objectives, and could itself disband once those objective have become ingrained in the community.’ He had seen that ‘where there has been a CHC, the impact lasts’, and that is the sustainability that is required.’ He said it was an ‘intangible quality’ that he could observe through the confidence it had given women to be more pro-active in their own lives, to address some key issues that could be solved through their own efforts and with little financial cost. This is an aspect that has not been adequately accentuated. His sensitivity to such abstract qualities was impressive.
The other useful observation he had was that ‘the usual 5 day training wasn’t really enough to ensure the NGOs who were to set up a CHC programme were then adequately prepared to implement. There needs to be more thought on how to provide more support and more follow up.’ He is not a supporter of cascade training as ‘a lot of detail is lost in translation’ and he feels that the quality diminishes with each generation of trainers. This all reinforced our frequent frustrations over the years as a service provider to other organisations when largely due to budgetary constraints, we were given a minimum amount of time for training and with rarely an opportunity for follow up. The ‘snatch and use’ strategy of many NGOs was recognised as one of the major threats to maintain quality of the CHC model.
These and many other astute observations which David had gleaned will be fed back to the Africa AHEAD Board in March when Vitol is hosting a Brain storming workshop to chart the way forward for Africa AHEAD.