Global 1999: Strengthening Organizational Learning Through Accelerated Programming UNICEF's Technical Support Group on HIV/AIDS and Youth Health and Development
Author: Kruse, S. E.; Hertzber, A.; UNICEF NYHQ
In 1992, the Executive Board of UNICEF endorsed a recommendation to intensify and expand programme support activities in HIV/AIDS prevention and care, following a broad societal approach and working in close collaboration with governments, WHO, bilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations and other partners. At that time, the organization had a low profile, few activities in countries and limited technical expertise in this area. The Health Promotion Unit, the unit responsible for the coordination of HIV/AIDS activities, was given the task of mounting an appropriate response to the Board's request. The Health Promotion Unit searched for a new strategy to accelerate organizational learning and it took time before a new concept and approach emerged. A Technical Support Group (TSG) process was launched in 1993 with a two-year time horizon.
Purpose / Objective
The Diakonhjemmets International Centre (DIS) in Norway was asked to conduct a study in order to document the Technical Support Group (TSG) process, analyze its characteristics and assess relevance, effects and effectiveness at global and country level. The study was to discuss whether the TSG experience provided sufficient evidence of success to justify continuation or replication, or alternatively, whether other strategies could have achieved the same or better results with the same resources.
The study involved document review, interviews of staff from NYHQ and technical partners and visits to country offices on three continents.
Key Findings and Conclusions
At the field level, a large majority of the participants were satisfied and enthusiastic about the TSG meetings. The approach was perceived as innovative, and the participatory network approach to programme development was said to add a new dimension to UNICEF's operational strategy. It was also a successful staff development initiative. TSG conveyed policy messages and provided guidelines and strategies, which staff members internalized and applied in programme development. And the meetings served as an effective sounding board to ensure quality control.
The study noted that the TSG process identified and introduced but did not generate or replicate innovations. This was not the intention of TSG, even if some of the initiative's objectives and interviews with participants could be interpreted in that direction. TSG was a global process detached organizationally from country programmes. At the country level, institutional impact in relation to national counterparts was difficult to trace and the level of collaboration was largely unaffected as national counterparts were not directly involved. The process stressed collaboration, but country replication of global inter-agency efforts was not systematically followed up.
Globally, though data and information were scarce, results were considered to be the following: HIV/ AIDS programmes were accelerated; UNICEF's profile was better known; strategy development was weak (coherent conceptual frameworks and guidelines for the five thematic areas were not prepared); UN collaboration was strengthened at global level.
Assessing TSG from a country perspective and how they benefited from the process, it seems that most country offices 'broke even' and that the majority finished the process ahead of where they started. From the perspective of the global coordinators, it could be argued that TSG was a cost-effective means for providing technical support since they met with more country programmes in TSG settings than they would have been able to visit individually.
As an alternative, innovative approach, TSG had a number of advantages: a network based on peer review and a built-in mutual accountability; a meeting place for researchers/specialists and operational aid agency; team-building with participants motivated for cooperation; a mechanism that combined bottom-up participation with global structure and guidance, a motivating approach rather than a traditional approach for implementing Board policy.
Among the conclusions and recommendations are the following:
The TSG process was an effective strategy to raise awareness, knowledge and commitment for a new priority, to increase technical and programmatic knowledge and sharpen the international profile of the organization and to broaden partnerships with UN and other agencies.
TSGs was a success in collaboration but weak on substance, synthesis and strategy development.
The TSG approach seems to have comparative advantages in the establishment and introduction of a new thematic programme area in an organization like UNICEF.
A successful TSG is basically a dynamic networking relationship and not a bureaucratic mechanism which can be easily be replicated in new settings.
Full report in PDF
PDF files require Acrobat Reader.