The Jamaica Partners for Educational Progress Story: Local Facilitation, Impact, and Sustainability
Presented at the 2010 KM World Conference, this presentation defines Communities of Practice and provides ten principles for successful communities. Garfield suggests goals and tools, and provides clear guidelines for how to make Communities of Practice vibrant, and how they are different from organization sites, and teams.
In 2012, USAID’s Europe & Eurasia Bureau (E&E) was preparing to start its close out of the majority of its health projects in the region after a 20-year engagement. The Bureau approached the Knowledge-Driven Microenterprise Development (KDMD) project with a request to capture the successes from the many health projects that have done so much for the region. It was decided that the Bureau would need a cost effective format that captured the successes in a way that incorporated stories directly from the participating Missions. A digital story format was chosen for this activity. In the following Lab Note, KDMD’s activity lead, Maciej Chmielewski, explains what a digital story is, why it was chosen, and how others can use this approach effectively.
Digital stories were pioneered in the early 1990s by artists and professional storytellers, merging physical art movements from earlier decades with the technology boom in the early 90s. This medium uses classical storytelling, via an audio narrative, laid over digital photographs or freeze frames. The purpose of a digital story is to convey a powerful message in a short period of time, with still images reinforcing the emotion of the narrative. Typically, digital stories are best suited to deliver a message in less than 10 minutes. This format is ideal when you want to showcase either an experience as told by one person, a single lesson learned from a long-term project, or simply to showcase visual images.
Keeping it local
For KDMD’s work with the E&E Bureau, cost-effectiveness was the main driver for the selection of the digital story format. We started by conducting interviews with various Development Outreach and Communications Officers (DOCs) in the Regional Missions and realized there was a wealth of knowledge and visuals that had already been captured. As we mapped out the timeline for the whole process, not only did we keep costs in mind, but we also utilized various technologies to streamline the process of working with multiple individuals in various countries without having to travel to the field. Using pre-existing materials bolstered USAID’s true ownership of the product.
Important lessons learned
The process was a learning experience for many involved, and useful lessons arose that will help USAID and the KDMD project refine its approach to digital stories in the future. The first phase of the activity involved interviewing stakeholders to determine key themes and messages. The KDMD team learned that recording these interviews was an important step in being able to refer back to them throughout production. Next, Mission staff and their partners sent all the electronic materials they had on hand relating to health projects they implemented. Materials included digital photos, videos, documentaries, news spots, briefs, brochures, Public Service Announcements, and other marketing materials. Then, while working on a basic script and storyboard, KDMD coordinated the assignment of sections to each stakeholder. Once the script and storyboard were approved, the final script was sent to each stakeholder so they could record the audio for their assigned section. Having these local stakeholders from the various Missions record the narrative was critical since it gives the story more authenticity and helps the listener to feel a personal connection to the region. For a similar reason, regionally appropriate music was selected to accompany each section. It’s important to set aside some time to look for music, as it is critical to get permission from the artist before deciding to use it. Using the electronic materials and the audio recordings, KDMD used Final Cut Pro to produce a preliminary version of the video. Several rounds of reviews with various stakeholders took place until a final version was approved. A communications plan was also developed ahead of time in order to strategically roll out the digital stories to achieve maximum impact.
A lasting impact
In the end, the stories mainly convey results and the steps taken to achieve those results. The entire process facilitated an important discussion with the Bureau on how best to refine its message and reflect on the big picture of its completed work. Since these messages were incorporated into an easily consumed format, which is also accessible around the world, other Missions or programs working on their own development strategies might use E&E’s experience as a guidepost for moving forward. The product makes use of existing material, which is much less costly than having to create it retroactively. For other teams that are nearing the completion of a project, activity, or initiative, E&E’s digital story model might inspire them to strategically plan how to capture and share their own lessons learned for the benefit of future programming.
USAID’s program cycle made simple! My team’s video has finally been released!
Questions you should ask:
- What are your key messages? Try to include no more than two.
- Do you have enough photos/video footage?
- Do you have access to/participation from stakeholders to answer historical questions on the project/activity?
- Who is your audience?
- How will the digital story be used?
- What is your time frame?
- Do you need a subject matter expert to advise the production team?
- Do you have a communications strategy for dissemination?
- Hold preliminary meetings with stakeholders to define the message
- Conduct one-on-one interviews with stakeholders on what they have to contribute to the overall story (document this step in an audio recording)
- Request digital material from all stakeholders
- Regroup with stakeholders to discuss major themes from interviews and assign sections to each stakeholder
- Produce rough draft script and basic storyboard
- Submit first draft of script and story board for stakeholder review and approval
- Finalize storyboard
- Record audio of script, source music if needed
- Create the digital story with stakeholder input
- Publish and disseminate
Learning networks are small groups of individuals interested in solving a common problem or producing a collaborative output in an effort to advance industry practice. Check out this vast resource center created by my project to help organizations learn about and set up their own learning networks.
Projects trying to create systemic change—whether in markets, public health, or governance—have a notoriously difficult task: to shift mindsets, behaviours, and institutions in incredibly complex systems. Social, political, and business norms are continually changing, and often invisible until acted upon. This requires programs to remain outcome-oriented, to learn quickly, and continually adjust interventions in response to new, unexpected insight. While the external impact of successful projects is often talked about, the internal structures and processes that enabled such projects to succeed are seldom highlighted.
Engineers Without Borders - Canada shares a presentation on process-focused case studies.
This case study is based on the breakout session presentations by Barri Shorey of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Owen Ozier from the World Bank during Day 1 of Making Cents’ 2013 Youth Economic Opportunities Conference in Washington, DC.
Sometimes what looks like “failure” is an opportunity for rich learning. This is what happened during a project aimed at empowering adolescent girls through microfranchising.
The Girls Empowered by Microfranchising (GEM), implemented by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its partners, grew out of a small pilot project in Sierra Leone called YouthWORKS. In this project, IRC sought to provide self-employment opportunities for 100 youth (ages 15-24) by facilitating franchise business relationships with existing companies that had products or services that could be distributed and sold independently by the youth. The results of YouthWORKS sparked the interest of the Nike Foundation, who eventually provided funding for what became the GEM project, a similar program that focuses on adolescent girls—one of their prime markets—as part of the Nike The Girl Effect initiative.
Committed to learning from the start
The GEM project team and its donors were committed to pinpointing what aspects of the microfranchising model would work with young girls in Nairobi, Kenya. Researchers from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), The World Bank and Population Council all expressed interest in conducting rigorous evaluations alongside the project. Shortly after the beginning of the project, a research agenda was identified and designed. Overall, the GEM project provides girls aged 16-19 with a package of support that includes: basic life skills and business training conducted by local partners; franchise-specific training conducted by the local businesses that agreed to operate, or were already operating, a franchise model; mentoring; and IRC’s startup support of business-related assets and initial stock supply. The World Bank, Population Council, and IPA worked together to establish a baseline, and then, using a randomized control trial (RCT) evaluation design, planned to conduct a midline and endline evaluation of Year One. Through a randomized selection of applicants, 244 girls composed the treatment group while 100 girls composed the control group. Ozier stated that the research was meant to answer two questions:
1. Measuring “process outcomes”—Do participants actually go through the program as the implementers intended?
2. Measuring “economic outcomes”—Are participants working, earning, spending, and saving more, and are they more food secure?
Not far into Year One, the project was immediately confronted with a number of hurdles. For example, because the impact evaluation was designed at the outset of the program and not hand-in-hand, research partners did not initially establish a relationship with the local implementing partners who were the keepers of the data, so access to the information was initially very challenging. Tracking program applicants in an urban area was really difficult due to high mobility among youth, especially girls within this particularly age group, which was not accounted for. This also led to very low retention. Attrition was close to 50 percent for the first year of the program from girls who started training to girls who ended up starting businesses. To make matters worse, changes in the local market were unpredictable and sometimes detrimental to franchises in the program. In sum, Year One did not allow a large enough sample to be able to tell anything conclusively.
Despite the inconclusive findings, the project team and the local business partners helping to enfranchise the girls felt that the learning generated was invaluable. On the positive side, two of the local businesses were making profits, along with the young business owners. While one business did drop out after Year One (because it was barely breaking even and the product was not particularly marketable in the new areas it was targeting), based on the benefits they observed from the program, the business did decide to expand the training programs it was providing to include more youth. From this perspective, a number of achievements were made that would not have happened without the intervention.
Learning from “failure”
Instead of trying to sweep their problems under the rug, the project team is energized to start fresh in Year Two. In addition to integrating cash transfers into its design, the team would like to test whether “flooding the market” with new franchises has effects, either positive or negative, on local business community. The data collection methods are now more streamlined (including application roll-out and not all at once), and while one business had to drop out of the program, it plans to expand its training program for adolescent girls in rural areas as a result of their experience. The other two businesses are making a profit and are enthusiastic about the project’s continuation. The GEM team is looking forward to sharing impact-level data from the project by the end of 2014 and expanding its reach of microfranchising for girls and boys in Kenya, engaging new businesses and new beneficiaries.
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