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Balancing research and practice in an international NGO

REL Practice Paper 1 Ten Years of Change is a collaborative, long-term practitioner research initiative designed to take place in three countries – Colombia, Kenya and the UK. It is implemented by the Research, Evidence and Learning team at Christian Aid. The research began with the overarching question how are community members and supporters being influenced by, and influencing, processes of social change? Each country team adapted the question to make it relevant to their socio-political context, and designed research at several different levels, from local to national. This paper tells the story of the first three years of Ten Years of Change. It narrates our ideas and ambitions and how we clarified them; how we identified where, by whom and how the study would be implemented; and how we worked with colleagues in other countries to begin to translate our idea into practice. It then discusses the forces that shaped the parallel but distinct evolution of each of the three streams of the study, before reflecting on the challenges of trade-offs and power. It concludes by returning to some of our assumptions about practitioner research, reflecting on how they played out in practice, finally turning to considerations for the next stage of the study.  

Research summary: better forecasting delivers impact

Since 2007, Rice Watch Action Network has been helping small-scale farmers adapt to a changing environment through the Climate Resiliency Field School. This is a summary of the impact assessment on developing climate services in the Philippines.

Central America governance programming – video methods

This note summarises the approach used to make two short videos contrasting the work of Christian Aid funded governance programmes, one in Guatemala and the other in El Salvador. It sets out the challenges, learning and insights from the process from the perspective of the producers of the videos – and makes recommendations for how to approach similar projects in the future. Related resources Video: Guatemala Video: El Salvador

Bangladesh – accountable governance - a theory-based approach

Christian Aid Bangladesh (CAB) has been implementing the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) Standards in Accountability and Quality Management1 since 2011, as part of its accountable governance mechanisms. Along with its partners, Christian Aid (CA) also uses Participatory Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (PVCA), a tool for empowering communities to undertake risk and capacity analyses and action planning . The use of both HAP Standards and PVCA is seen as important for CAB and its partners in taking a more systematic approach to downwards accountability in its programme work. In Bangladesh, three partner organisations have piloted and been most involved with implementing HAP Standards with CAB support - Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK); Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK); and the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB). Each of them are CA partners in the Department for International Development (DfID)-funded ‘Programme Partnership Arrangement’ (PPA) programme. This evaluation focussed on the use, and added value of HAP and PVCA in their recovery and resilience work within the PPA. Related resources Methodology: process tracking

LPRR: action learning research

In order for productive learning to occur within the context of this project, monitoring practices must be robust and go beyond collecting data against indicators. This is especially important within a resilience context, as the pre-emptive baseline measurement that is usually used for measuring progress/success is not desirable here. Instead, an ‘outcome harvesting’ approach is more practical, as it does not measure progress towards predetermined outcomes or objectives, but rather collects evidence of what has been achieved, and works backward to determine whether and how the project or intervention contributed to the change. Within the LPRR project there is a need for rigorous evaluation, which balances accountability and learning. Given the ever-evolving evidence base of ‘what works under what conditions’ coupled with the need to demonstrate quality, impactful programming in both upwards and downwards accountability, these types of robust evaluations are essential. In order to ensure learning and accountability are achieved through evaluations, they must be well-planned and budgeted for. This is where the role of the learning strand comes in; by recognising that learning is essential at the outset, it enables it to be included within the design of the project.