The workshop content was tailored to respond to results from a needs assessment conducted this year. Over 100 organizations participated in the needs assessment, which aimed to identify barriers to innovation within the WASH sector in India and East Africa. Some of the top needs expressed by organizations in India informed the content of the first workshop, including theory of change, monitoring and evaluation, and fundraising.
Here are five highlights from the workshop:
1. Building relationships and setting the stage
The workshop began with a round of ice breakers that helped participants get to know each other, and also understand the way communication works—and often doesn’t work. For example, one game called “Finding Funding” required blindfolded volunteers to find an object by getting directions from two different groups—one that was unable to speak and the other that was unable to see.
Mr. Gautam Prakash from Reap Benefit explained what he learned from the activity: “We need to change our method of communication—that was my main takeaway from the finding funding game. There are gaps between what we hear and what we say and what we assume. Sometimes you have to work with very unreceptive listeners, and then you need to find out a better way to communicate.”
The game and Gautam’s reflection on it set the stage for the rest of the workshop that focused on how to use evidence and frameworks to measure impact, and then communicate that in a concise, clear way that responds to the expectations of funders.
2. Theory of Change
The first step in being able to communicate the impact of a program is to be able to understand the theory of change behind it. Led by Hugh Waddington from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluations (3ie), participants practiced creating a Theory of Change based on real-world examples of WASH programs. Participants were able to work together in small groups to identify the end impact they are trying to achieve, and the building blocks it would take to get there. They looked at the differences between inputs, outputs, and outcomes, and the assumptions they made along the way.
When participants were asked to identify one thing they learned from the workshop that they will implement within their own organizations, fifteen out of sixteen reported that they will create a formal theory of change for their programs.
3. Monitoring and Evaluation
Activities on days two and three built on the Theory of Change framework by designing Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (SMART) indicators to measure the outcomes they chose. Groups presented the resulting M&E frameworks to the room and received valuable feedback from their peers. In addition, Mr. Waddington from 3ie also demonstrated the value of impact evaluations and online resources that can help program managers determine what kind of data is available to help inform their programs.
4. Building Partnerships
One of the aims of the WASH Impact Network is to connect organizations to each other and foster peer learning. Megha Jain from Dasra facilitated two sessions called “Know Your Peers,” which are rounds of quickfire presentations from participants in which they give an overview of the work that they do, and their biggest challenges. Their peers were then able to offer advice or services to the presenters, starting a larger conversation among the cohort on mutual support and peer learning.
5. Getting Funder Ready
One of the top needs expressed by WASH innovators in the needs assessment was operational financing. In order to help program managers address this need, participants created a three-page funder document that expressed their vision and described their program and theory of change. Experts at Dasra coached participants in the creation of these documents, and participants also received feedback from their peers. These documents can be adapted and expanded for a variety of funding applications and proposals.
In order to understand what donors are looking for, representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Arghyam, and HSBC were invited to participate in a funder roundtable where they discussed what they look for in a grantee, what programs they fund in the WASH sector and why, and their visions for the future—insights rarely accessible to on-the-ground program managers in the WASH sector.
Workshop participants will attend a second capacity building workshop in spring of 2016 that builds on the theory of change, M&E and fundraising skills learned in this workshop. A workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2015 will host 15-20 WASH innovators from East Africa, hosted by R4D and its regional partner, Millennium Water Alliance.