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We are lucky to have a community in ITL made up of supporters, Christian Aid staff, local partners and communities. We have shared a series of reflections from ITL supporters previously and in this edition we have a reflection from our programme manager Philippa Jane Juma. As we pass one year since the launch of the second phase of ITL, we have faced unprecedented challenges. Philippa reflects on these moments and how our adaptive approach has enabled us to respond and make the changes we need.

I’m now almost one year into my role of overseeing the ITL portfolio, and for me it has been a year predominantly of listening, learning and supporting project teams to adapt accordingly. One of the things I love most about ITL is it’s flexible nature which enables us to respond to change; both change in context, and change in our understanding of ‘what works’. 

Our projects have been hit by devastating hurricanes in Nicaragua, the coup in Myanmar and ongoing related outbursts of violence, and in Ethiopia we sadly lost two of our colleagues to COVID-19. We have been required to rethink how we address each challenge in order to ensure our projects remain relevant and have maximum impact. The coup in Myanmar last year, for instance, required us to re-look at the advocacy element of our project and rather than focus on advocacy to local government, we reshaped the project to instead focus on highlighting challenges, risks, vulnerabilities and proposed solutions within more local structures such as through village and faith leaders. 

We have also been testing and trialling new ways of working and doing things, and we are constantly looking to see what is working well so that we can scale and run with it, and what other areas might we need to change or even drop in order to achieve our outcomes effectively. In Ethiopia, for instance, we are examining the findings from our baseline survey and have learned that one of the biggest challenges in the community is transfer of knowledge on climate-sensitive diseases from health centres to communities. We are now looking at how we adapt our approach and scale up activities that involve information sharing, and involvement of communities in public health emergency management. 

Our country teams, and more so, our partners have a wealth of experience in identifying and understanding the challenging contexts in which ITL projects are operating. ITL gives us the opportunity to capitalize on their knowledge and expertise by giving them the space and scope to run with new ideas, drop those that aren’t working, and thereby maximise project impact.  

There’s an African proverb that says ‘If the rhythm of the drum beat changes, the dance step must also change’. Situations change, contexts change, and sometimes even the rhythm of what we think works, or what has worked previously, changes. If we are not adaptive to the change, we will inevitably be left behind.

Thank you to our ITL supporters for trusting us, and enabling us to test out new ideas and givng us the flexibility to adapt to new circumstances and new learnings accordingly.