What about M&E?
In previous newsletters and blog posts, we’ve talked a lot about facilitating a government-led program at scale. A big part of the story is how the government will track its progress and have the information to adjust course. We spoke with Nhim Tum, WaterSHED Research and Learning Manager, about the monitoring, evaluation, and learning exchange between WaterSHED and the government.
A program that has proved to be key to the sustainability of the rural sanitation market in Cambodia is the Civic Champions program. Initially conceived and implemented by WaterSHED, it was slowly transitioned to government ownership over the course of 7 years.
But as Tum pointed out, ‘ownership’ of a program also means ownership of the requisite monitoring and evaluation (M&E). To that end, the government requested his team to train their M&E staff in a series of fortnightly workshops.
“‘Ownership’ of a program also means ownership of the requisite monitoring and evaluation”
Mr. Sok Suor, Head of the Research and Governance Development Office with the Ministry of Interior, shared, “The workshop is an important resource for us to learn how to conduct M&E with Civic Champions and subsequent programs after WaterSHED leaves. It is also an opportunity for us to build new skills since we are currently preparing an M&E framework for our own five-year strategic plan, which is a challenge for us”.
The Ministry of Interior is one of two cooperating ministries taking Civic Champions forward: their goal is to apply the leadership development methodology to other sectors—such as health and education—and to the curriculum of the national training academy, NASLA, where all national officials are trained before taking office. The other ministry is Rural Development, whose interest lies in ensuring sustainable access to safe sanitation in rural areas.
The M&E Journey
Both ministries have big ambitions to take Civic Champions forward. But Tum remarked that understanding program costs is crucial to the continued implementation of Civic Champions. “If the program is implemented nationwide in the near future, both subnational and national governments will need to allocate significant human and financial resources. In order to evolve and improve program efficiency, those in charge will need to know the costs.” He identified four main objectives of the M&E training. If successful, participants will be able to effectively:
- Assess the capacity of provincial and district trainers (i.e. training skills, leadership skills);
- Assess the capacity of commune councilors;
- Track and report the program cost at the national level;
- Track and report the program cost at subnational level.
The initial sessions of the workshop covered logframe, project implementation, and different M&E methodologies. “For the M&E team to understand how a project is implemented is critical to the monitoring and evaluation process since we want to make sure the implementation is on the right track, and what corrections might be needed,” Tum shared. “Logframes have baseline and endline targets, and indicators to measure outputs and those responsible. They act as a mirror to see if a program is going in the right direction”, he continued. “Our logframe is not plug-and-play, so we work with our government counterparts to build one step-by-step in these learning exchange sessions”.
“[Our government partners] are not just thinking about what we are doing now, but how the government will scale this program. ”
The final sessions will cover measurement of key program indicators (e.g. change in capacity of trainers and commune councilors), while allowing participants to practice monitoring latrine construction—including how to conduct ‘spot checks’ in order to validate the data being collected. The participants will also work together to evaluate mechanisms for budget allocation for future government-led Civic Champions at scale.
This work is not without obstacles. “The participants are sometimes overwhelmed by the potential reach and magnitude of the program. It might seem like a negative thing at first, but this thinking impresses me because the government is being proactive with a strong leadership mindset – they are not just thinking about what we are doing now, but how the government will scale this program.”
In closing, some inspiring thoughts from Tum
With a PhD in Environmental Economics and Natural Resources & background as a civil engineer, Tum reflected, “In my previous work, I realized that system-building requires a deep understanding of the interaction of complementary systems. At WaterSHED, we work with big perspectives. I am invested in this unique approach to changing behavior over the long term, by working with the institutions governing market systems.”
“…we work with big perspectives. I am invested in this unique approach to changing behavior over the long term, by working with the institutions governing market systems.”
“In many cases, NGOs are not different from the government because they are trying to create another way of governing. We [NGOs] should not be another government.” He continued, “In Cambodia, we are transitioning to a middle-income country. We will have less outside funding for development and essential roles will be transferred to the government.”
Tum concluded, “At WaterSHED we have a clear mission: we are making a permanent impact but without a permanent imprint. We feel that we have achieved the mission because the government is ready to take over from us. This is a rare thing in Cambodia, and it is meaningful work for me. The skills we transfer to the government will continue to support the development of the country in a multitude of ways.”