2004 SUD: Mid-Term Evaluation of the Child-Friendly Community Initiative
Author: Parker, B.
The Child Friendly Community Initiative (CFCI) is an integrated, cross-sectoral and community-based approach to achieving sustainable improvements in the lives of rural children and women. CFCI is a key component of UNICEF’s 2002-2006 Master Plan of Operations. The current Master Plan represents a departure from the previous Plan, in that it has a stronger but more limited geographic and programmatic focus. Information had emerged through the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2000) and Safe Motherhood Survey (1999), which revealed wide disparities between states for most key indicators of maternal and child well-being. For example, 78% of girls and 75% of boys attend school in River Nile State, while only 47% of girls and 50% of boys attend school in South Darfur State.
This mid-term evaluation of CFCI is expected to be a significant component of the mid-term review of UNICEF’s 2002-2006 Country Programme of Co-operation. In addition, its major findings and conclusions will be shared with key partners and stakeholders at a workshop that will be held in Khartoum. The evaluation’s purposes were to:
- Assess the appropriateness of the Child Friendly Community Initiative as a sustainable community-based approach to ensuring participation and ownership of the 2002-2006 Country Programme,
- Determine whether changes in Sudan’s political and socio-economic contexts, in the situation of children and women, and/or in UNICEF policies and emerging issues, warrant changes in CFCI’s operational modalities, objectives, strategies or programmatic contents, and
- Provide recommendations for adjustment and alignment in the Country Programme goals on the basis of constraints identified and lessons learned during the implementation of CFCI to-date.
The evaluation team was comprised of an independent evaluation consultant, UNICEF’s CFCI ICBD PO and Asst. Project Officer for CFCI, a representative of the Ministry of International Cooperation, and the Coordinators of state CFCI Coordinating Units. In some states, the UNICEF APO joined the team as well. In Khartoum, members of the evaluation team met with representatives of the MIC, the NFSS, and UNICEF’s Section Chiefs to obtain their views on the progress of the program to-date and the constraints it is encountering. Time and travel constraints prevented the team from visiting all twelve focus states, but the team was able to visit eight of the focus states during the evaluation period. These states were Western Bahr El Ghazal, South Kordofan, North Kordofan, Upper Nile, Blue Nile, North Darfur, Kassala and El Gedarif states. In each of these states, the team met and discussed the program with the Minister and DG of Finance, the CFCI Steering Committee and the CFCI Coordination Unit. In states with Technical Committees or functioning locality leadership bodies, the evaluation team also met with representatives of these units.
The team then visited two communities in each state to observe the program’s achievements in these communities, to identify any obstacles that the community was facing, and to assess the extent of participation and ownership that had been achieved, particularly among women and youth. The CFCI Coordination Units arranged these visits on the basis of the evaluation team’s request that they select one high-performance community and one weak community. In each community, the team discussed CFCI first with a group of randomly-selected community members, and then with members of the CDC. These discussions were loosely directed by a set of question guides (Annex 1) that had been developed to structure the discussion. These discussions had the following goals:
- To ascertain to what extent the program was actually operating according to its formal design and structural mandates at the community level,
- To assess the level of community ownership and empowerment, and the breadth of community participation (including participation of women and youth), that has been achieved,
- To assess the degree to which community members understand and support the goals, methods and procedures of CFCI,
- To identify specific constraints the program has encountered during its on-the-ground implementation,
- To obtain the views of community members on how well the program is meeting their needs for basic services.
The team observed the results of completed community projects, such as buildings and equipment established in the village through the CFCI program, and watched performances of Theatre for Life and other community presentations relevant to the program.
Findings and Conclusions:
- The CPC was found to be an appropriate, relevant and generally well-designed approach to achieving improvements in the well-being of children by instituting sustainable community and state-level structures. After a slow start in 2002 and 2003, it appears to be picking up momentum in 2004. To date, however, the program has not achieved the support and commitment it needs from partners at every level and it has made only limited progress toward gender empowerment..
- There is an inherent contradiction between the CRC-inspired goal of providing essential services to the most vulnerable children in the most inaccessible locations and the goals of broad coverage and efficiency – providing as high a level of services as possible to the greatest number of children at the lowest cost. A careful compromise might allow UNICEF to make more efficient use of human and financial resources while still serving underserved and vulnerable children and women.
- CFCI has achieved its greatest support and commitment at the community level, as indicated by the findings on financial contributions from all partners. There, Community Development Committees have been formulated through democratic and participatory processes, and strong planning and monitoring capabilities have been established among most of them through training and follow-up.
- Nevertheless, CDCs and communities have faced obstacles in some cases that have seriously limited their ability to carry out planned activities. These obstacles include armed conflict and displacement, lack of access by road during the wet half of the year, delays in the release of funding, and inability of some partners to meet their planned financial contribution to CFCI.
- CFCI Coordination Units were found to be committed and proactive, with few exceptions. State Ministries in all the states visited had seconded focal point persons to the CFCI Coordination Unit. In most states, however, one or more of the sectoral focal point persons was seconded only part-time to CFCI. The effective functioning of the Coordination Units was found to be undermined by the failure of all Ministries to second full-time personnel.
- Support and commitment are weakest at the higher levels of the CFCI structural configuration, and are particularly weak at the federal level. Commitment from UNICEF itself has been inconsistent, and some federal line Ministries have been largely bypassed in the implementation and monitoring of CFCI. This is both a cause and an effect of the failure of some line Ministries to fully accept and endorse the CFCI concept and approach..
- Significant variation was found between states with respect to the performance of CFCI and its progress toward its goals. In at least two of the best-performing states visited, the system appeared to be functioning efficiently and as planned. In two of the worst-performing states, although Community Development Committees had been formed and trained, they were not receiving the state-level support needed to carry out their planned activities.
- As they are currently constituted, the members of State Steering Committees are over-committed, and so fully half of those visited were found to be unable to work closely with CFCI Coordination Units. The top officials in state-level Ministries, then, are not the appropriate choice for membership on the body that is responsible for providing the high level of supervision and technical assistance needed by the Units.
- There is evidence that CFCI has established committed and sustainable structures at the community level. Even if communities continue to plan and organize child-friendly activities after UNICEF withdraws, however, their ability to carry out successful initiatives will be severely limited if they cannot secure material inputs and technical assistance from partners outside the village, and if their links to line Ministries at the state and locality levels are not firmly in place. In addition, low funding and lack of material resources have been serious constraints, and are threats to CFCI’s ultimate sustainability. Recommendations: General and Structural Recommendations.
- CFCI is an approach that should be continued and expanded, if sufficient financial resources can be found to enable it to succeed. • Stronger support for CFCI among the federal line Ministries should be built by activating the National Coordination Unit, scheduling quarterly review and oversight meetings for the Unit, and gaining its full commitment and support through an intensive orientation and planning workshop for its members.
- Successful elements of CFCI in the states and communities where it is working well should be standardized and developed into models for replication in new and less successful states/communities. Exchange visits and short training modules conducted in successful sites should be part of this modeling process.
- State Technical Committees, based on the successful model pioneered in Blue Nile State, should be organized from Dept. of Planning and line Ministry technical staff, in order to provide close the monitoring and guidance to CFCI Coordination Units that the top officials on the State Steering Committee are unable to provide. The Technical Committee members should themselves be senior enough to wield influence within their home Ministries.
- Once they are fully formed and vested with their legal responsibilities, the Localities that are host to CFCI villages should be formally represented in the structure of planning, monitoring and evaluation for CFCI. A Locality CFCI Technical Committee should be formed that includes the Locality Commissioners, Executive Officers, chiefs of the sectoral departments for the Localities, and heads of the Administrative Units that include CFCI communities. This body should advise the State Steering or Technical Committee on local affairs, and its sectoral focal persons should accompany the CFCI Coordination Unit members on monitoring visits to communities.
- In each state, the Ministry of Finance, Planning Department, should coordinate the activities of all development and relief organizations working in the state. The Ministry should utilize its authority to rule that all organizations must work through a single set of structures, institutions and procedures in a given village (though these may vary from village to village). In addition, UNICEF CFCI should investigate opportunities for collaborations with sister UN agencies that could open the way for introducing new components, such as agricultural improvement, to CFCI.
- CFCI should provide training in participatory planning, monitoring and evaluation to more community members (especially women) in existing CFCI communities, in order to widen the sense of ownership and participation within the community, and to provide substitutes in case any CDC members resign from the committee. In particular, the members of the various sub-committees should participate with CDC main committee members in planning, monitoring, evaluation and community mobilization training modules; and, in addition, they should receive an orientation and basic information concerning the sector their sub-committee will represent. In communities preparing to graduate, CDCs should receive a “pre-graduation training module” in which they learn to establish direct links with state Ministries and to solicit new partners.
- To prevent the type of premature expansion that has delayed implementation in some areas, no expansion to additional communities is recommended until all Phase I and II communities have been fully trained and have successfully carried out at least one community project..
- To ensure that planning is based on solid information, it is recommended that CFCI Coordination Units should produce updated state-level status reports on activities and key indicators every quarter, and use them in quarterly planning meetings with State Steering or Technical Committees.
- A follow-on project to CFCI should be planned for the next program cycle (2006-2010). It should follow a similar model with certain modifications suggested by the findings above:
- UNICEF should build stronger support from the outset among federal line Ministries, through vigorous advocacy and through activation and training of a functional, accountable National Coordination Unit.
- At the state and locality levels, Technical Committees should be created to provide the intensive monitoring and technical assistance to CFCI Coordination Units that most State Steering Committees are unable to provide – and to act as champions or advocates for CFCI within their home Ministries.
- Target sites should be identified in terms of the most disadvantaged Mahaliyas (localities) rather than isolated communities. Synergies can be achieved by approaching the Mahaliya as an interacting organic whole, in which activities focus upon the most vulnerable communities, but communities interact freely to share resources, personnel, experiences and lessons learned. To supplement CFCI staff, Mahaliya-level technical staff in all sectors should be engaged in training, planning, implementation and monitoring of CFCI activities.
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