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Through the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s engagement with our partners over more than ten years, we have developed a deep understanding of what is working to push back the ravages of AIDS. We have amassed a wealth of information from grassroots groups in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and learned from our 300+ partners which interventions and what manner of financial support are optimal in order for community-based groups to be more effective and efficient.
Now the challenge is to develop a method of meaningfully documenting this impact. Traditional impact assessment models have focused on quantifiable results — numbers of children in school, of people accessing medication, of clinic serving communities, etc. What they continue to miss, and what the Foundation has found most critical, is the qualitative, harder-to-measure results and indicators of reclaiming lives and rebuilding futures. Activities and numbers can be easily documented. However, measures of quality of life, sustainable livelihoods, happiness, well-being, participation in community development — these are the more ephemeral, and yet equally urgent metrics needed to ensure that the impact of investment in the work is meaningful.
For example, it is not enough to simply measure the number of children who have access to ARVs (life-saving HIV medicine). Community-based organizations know full well that a lifetime of adherence to these medications, especially for children, is impossible without also addressing nutrition counselling and food security, transportation to clinics, stigma at school, grandmother training around how and when to administer the drugs, ongoing psychosocial support, and a host of other challenges that arise as a child grows from infant to teen.
With this in mind, the Foundation, in consultation with our partners, set out to develop an impact assessment tool that would reflect the whole story of what it really takes to resurrect lives and communities and what it really means to turn the tide of AIDS — a tool sophisticated enough to measure success in the most human of terms. Our partner organizations in Africa have already begun discussions about putting in place systems to track and document both quantitative and qualitative impact. With this as our starting point, we began working together to develop a system that could assess the impact of their programmes over time — looking at the overarching change they catalyze individually and in their communities. It is essential that the measurements selected are the right ones to accurately capture the meaningful change being achieved, and that the successes of our partner organizations are illuminated and articulated in a manner that is relevant to their work.
Recently, we met with a group of our long-term partners from six countries, to discuss how to capture this story of resilience and go beyond anecdotes in order to document all the dimensions of the work that it takes to create real impact in people’s lives over time. It was agreed that we would, together, track 3 stages of impact:
This is the story of how people begin to cope with the crises that HIV & AIDS creates in their lives — crises of hunger, housing, education, and treatment. Our partners are quick to point out that it’s equally a story about the first stages of emotional and psychological recovery, of overcoming grief, fear of stigma, and re-establishing safety, love and care.
Here we see individuals and communities regroup and rebuild — how individuals regain their ability to manage their own lives, and how the ties that knit people and families together grow stronger. Community-based organizations track incomes and savings programmes, how children are staying in school, how grandmothers learn to parent again, how people join together in mutual support groups and maintain their life-sustaining treatment. At the same time, we’ll be tracking the often overlooked inner changes that take place: the ability of children to play and create, a restored feeling of personal and family security, the renewed power to plan for the future, the resurrection of hope, and the capacity to experience happiness and the pleasures of daily life.
Here we see a renewed sense of self determination; people taking on new leadership roles and tackling the challenges faced by their communities. Here is where children stay on ARV treatment into adulthood, graduate from school, and start to earn decent livings. Where women — so many of them grandmothers — join local councils, start campaigns to end wife inheritance, win legal battles to own the land they and their children depend upon, and lobby governments to get better protection of their rights.
Our new Impact Assessment Framework, developed in constant consultation with our partner organizations, will be rolled out over the next year. Watch this space as new information emerges from this collaborative assessment process![/fusion_text][/two_third][one_third last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”#ffffff” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding=”10px” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”grvleft” id=””][fusion_text]
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