Working as NGO Programme Coordinator in Mozambique
By Jonathan Paci on June 7, 2014
In January 2014 I started my new experience as Country Representative and Coordinator for the NGO CAM in Mozambique.
This NGO has been working in Caia, in the Sofala province, for more than 13 years investing over 10 milion euros to implement, together with local partners, a complex multi-sectoral programme in 6 main development areas:
- Water and Sanitation;
- Urban and territorial planning;
The programme currently relies on 4 expatriates, 94 local workers and 76 paid activists.
The challenges we are facing are many and the biggest one is definitely the careful planning and constant re-adaptation of an exit strategy.
By December 2015 the NGO will leave the district of Caia, and is gradually reducing programme inputs.
As a Programme Coordinator I have a big responsibility in leading the phase down process while ensuring that achievements of the programme development goals are not jeopardized and that progress towards planned goals will continue also when we will leave the district of Caia.
Defining the steps to be followed, in view of the progressive withdrawal of funds and technical resources to the programme, is per se a big challenge since it implies the building and constant re-adaptation of a sustainable exit strategy.
An exit strategy requires holistic thinking, including a plan for transferring resources and assets; building capacity of beneficiaries and local groups; as well as setting benchmarks and monitoring to gauge the readiness of local groups to eventually assume responsibility for the hand over.
Rethinking about the whole programme in light of a sustainable exit strategy means that one should consider all ongoing projects and the people involved, activities, results, beneficiaries, funding, communication and transparency issues, and so on. Putting things straight is a challenging and rewarding exercise.
The first thing I do with any project is figure out exactly what I want to achieve, and I write it down. What is the purpose of the project? What problem am I trying to solve?
In order to define a sustainable strategy my first step was to create a "functional diagramme" in order to take a snapshot of the current situation of the programme itself.
I considered the programme under its 4 main pillars and assessed residual projects and activities, according to their degree of absorption by the district of Caia, our beneficiary.
All our activities, when implemented, are complemented by specific training to beneficiaries and local groups in order to develop those technical competencies which should guarantee future sustainability. This approach has proved to be very useful in this phase.
A valuable and analytical approach which I have adopted (and created) is the "snap-shot functional diagramme" which interlinks ongoing activities and projects with lines of different colours, each of which indicate the degree of the phase over process and which help to capture the whole picture in a snap-shot.
Through this diagramme it becomes easy to immediately capture phase over stages and thus focus on approaches to graduation and exit strategies.
Once this preliminary work has been done, the next stage is to further focus on projects and activities since, depending on the exit phase, the timeframe of the phase off, and other factors, an appropriate exit approach will be decided and scheduled.
The nature of our activities determines whether to use a phase over or the phase out approach.
Interventions that require specific activities to continue and an entity to take responsibility for implementing or overseeing the activities require a phase over approach. Interventions that create permanent changes in communities and do not require the ongoing provision of services or resources are suitable for phase out.
There are obviously many factors which affect the decision to use a phase over or phase out approach among which, available funds and resources (human, institutional, financial, and physical) are the main.
The whole process implies flexibility, constant monitoring (in order to promptly readapt to changes), and transparency at all levels with all the people involved in the exit phase.
Since our programme is deeply rooted in the community of Caia (by the end of the programme 15 years will have passed) a constant interaction with local institutions and beneficiaries is of capital importance.
Being part of this process is a big challenge which implies great sensitiveness, a strong analytical approach, capacity to promptly react to changed situations, team work and sense of diplomacy in order to be clear and transparent on the exit process at all levels.