Anna is a staff writer for the Sustainable Development category of JustMeans. She has experience working for international organisations – both in the public and private sectors – in Africa, Asia and Europe. Anna is interested in collaborative approaches to sustainability, poverty reduction and international development....
Sustaining Development and Redefining Goals
In development, results are not a single event, but are a process, according to Alison Evans, Director of the Overseas Development Institute, UK.
This week, at a talk concluding the results of a three-year community project in Uganda, the sustainability of development programmes was valued as the ultimate measure of success.
Katine is a village in the north-east of Uganda where in October 2007 the Guardian began a test in NGO transparency with its journalism project that would oversee the actions of the African health organization, AMREF. The objective was to scrutinize the actions of the NGO, to offer the donor community a true insight into how funds are used overseas. The village itself had received little assistance in the past and suffered badly from poverty, poor health, low levels of education, unreliable water supplies, little in the way of infrastructure links and a fragile economy. The project has been documented on the Guardian's Katine website, providing insight from the journalists assigned to the village, those involved in development in the outside world, and the residents of the village itself.
Whilst AMREF will continue their work in the village for another year, the reporting side of the project is over, and as such, people are talking about what has been successful. People want tangible results, particularly in the fundraising world, where a statistic can be the basis of a whole marketing campaign, or for reassuring a donor that their money has been well spent. I have looked previously at how statistics can overlook substantial gaps.
In the case of Katine, over three years, over 7,000 malaria nets have been distributed to families with small children and village health teams (VHTs) have been instrumental in more than doubling immunisation rates, to above 90%. However, the VHTs were actually on strike for a whole year within the reporting period, which cost many adults and children life-saving skills and knowledge.
Alison Evans warned that seeing results as an event was problematic, for the sense of finality that it falsely provided. Development, she said, is a process of ups and downs. Whilst the majority of babies have been immunised over the course of the project, will VHTs continue to do this in two to three years time?
Evans' solution was to create new benchmarks that are not based on quick wins but rather based on institutional changes. Reiterating this, Grace Mukasa, the head of AMREF UK, made a differentiation between quick wins and sustainable development. Development, she said, is a complex process, and AMREF's work in Katine has only laid the foundations.
Photo Credit: Dan Chung / Guardian