Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Chiang Mai NGOs do their self assessments

On the 21st of September nine organizations from Chiang Mai, Phayao and Chiang Rai gathered to learn about the AIDS Competence Process (ACP). Despite the floods in Chiang Mai there were about 20 participants. The outcome was promising and energizing. People were enthusiastic and are eager to apply the ACP. As a group we agreed to self-assess our organizations and use the tool with communities and meet again on the 8th of November to share the experience of the assessment and to do some first sharing of competencies.

The workshop was facilitated by Usa, Carl and me. The quality of the participants was great and we learned a lot from each other. I think this is a very sound foundation to launch an ongoing AIDS Competence Process in Northern Thailand. Maybe the initiative will even spark over to other regions in Thailand if we can maintain the drive.

What I learned from this event: I have been working in Chiang Mai for 6 months and have not plugged into all the experiences and existing AIDS Competence surrounding me in the city and around it. Sometimes we neglect to see what is close and is ready to be shared and learned when we are working on a regional, national or global scale...

Friday, September 16, 2005

AIDS Competence in Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Last week a small team of the Constellation consisting of Alison, Jerry and me hit the sky to follow an invitation by the World Health Organization (WHO) to Papua New Guinea. Our agenda was to build a relationship with the WHO and other partners, to identify members to constitute a core facilitation team, to share ideas and immediately start working.

However, things turned out quite differently. Today I realize that we left for PNG taking the understanding of our AIDS Competence approach for granted. I now see that this was a mistake because what we are promoting is quite different. Our approach requires a mind shift. It requires shifting the focus of attention from technical programs and interventions to the competence of communities, individuals and organizations.

In PNG the WHO expected us to intervene in communities with a new and innovative approach. But the Constellation is not about intervention, it is about appreciating, fostering and connecting existing strengths and competencies in order to spread local responses and make them stronger. I admit that I underestimated how much it takes to communicate this vision clearly. Yet, we eventually got there through intensive discussions, two community visits, testing the AIDS Competence Process on ourselves and last but not least the strong support and understanding of Dr Yves Renault who is WHO representative in PNG.

While writing this text back in my office in Chiang Mai, Thailand I realize how much I have learned in PNG. I have seen how beautiful it is to witness communities realizing that they are already responding to HIV in their own particular way, with their own particular strengths and without using technical terms or technical knowledge. At the same time I have learned how hard it is to get communities to shift from the “want-to-have/give-us mentality” towards a “where are our strengths/what can we do attitude”. I also understand why the strengths of the AIDS Competence approach are not obvious to “aid” organizations and that the process has to be experienced in order to be understood. Finally, I have learned how fine and fragile the line is between a) supporting, fostering and strengthening communities in their own local response and b) intervening to quickly with technical programs because we believe we have understood a community's needs. While the former can increase a community’s pride, ownership, action and its will to take on responsibility the latter may disempower a community and may result in a dependency relationship between the intervening organization and the community.

I have the feeling we left PNG with the seeds planted for a successful AIDS Competence Process. Our core team for the PNG process now includes Regina from UNICEF and Fabian from WHO in addition to the Constellation team. Both, Fabian and Regina, are enthusiastic and are helping to expand the team to build a powerful foundation to foster local responses in PNG. It was simply beautiful to hear what Regina told me after our visit to the Hanuabada community: “Today I learned to listen”.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

ACP Evaluation

Finally, the results of the ACP evaluation have been officially presented! Many of you may remember that in July 2004, while the joint UNAIDS/UNITAR AIDS Competence Programme was unfolding in a number of countries, the Exd UNAIDS requested an external evaluation in order to assess the value of the proposed approach.

This evaluation was commissioned by the UNAIDS Evaluation department and carried out by an external consultant during the first half of 2005. The main results were presented during a brown bag session on the 29th of August 2005 at the International Environmental House (IEH) in Geneva. Although the audience was small (mainly because of the location of IEH – from UNAIDS and WHO), there were representatives from Aga Khan Development Network, WHO (HIV/AIDS and M&E departments, Rollback Malaria), several departments in UNITAR (including its Exd), and UNAIDS (EVA, CRD and HRD).

The consultant highlighted the methodology followed during the evaluation, the first steps of the AIDS Competence Process (heavy focus on the Self-Assessment Tool), and findings with regards to process, outcomes, coverage and impact. Most of the findings were very positive, but the study mentioned the need for better planning at local level and for adaptation of the tool to local context. The lack of baseline indicator also limited the evaluation of outcome and impact. Among the Lessons Learned by the study, it was noted that ACP really increased ownership of interventions and optimized programme implementation. Another lesson was that ACP allows for an integration of health with other development issues, facilitating the capture of external factors which would otherwise be ignored. The lesson N°5 finally mentioned the possibility to influence policy at upper level through ACP implementation. The recommendations of the study are clear: (i) Some improvement in term of planning and monitoring outcomes to be brought to the approach, (ii) ACP to be continued and strengthened, (iii) UNAIDS – UNITAR partnership to be maintained and (iv) ACP to be endorsed and promoted by other institutions.

During the discussion, some brief comments were made about the methodology, the need for more appropriate outcome and impact indicators for the approach and the real extent of the full process (not just including Self-Assessment tool). Then a statement from the UNITAR Exd called for a renewed partnership between UNITAR and UNAIDS around the further development and utilization of ACP. He mentioned the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions for scaling-up the City-AIDS project. The Director of the WHO Rollback Malaria programme praised the two institutions for been leaders in the development of a very powerful and innovative methodology which can be utilized with other issues such as Malaria. She urged the two institutions to continue to work in that direction as it can benefit to many development programmes.

In general, the presentation of the results did not raise a lot of questions: is it because findings, lessons and recommendations were so straightforward? It looked like nobody wanted to address the question of the next steps. And what to do with the recommendations. At the end of the session, the Director of the UNAIDS Evaluation Department declared his intention to organize another presentation within the WHO/UNAIDS premises and to post the evaluation document on the UNAIDS website.

The Constellation for AIDS Competence was mentioned several times by the presenter as a new NGO which has fully taken the responsibility to promote and scale up ACP amongst partners. Flyers were also distributed. It is clear that, at that stage, UNAIDS hesitates to take action in relation with the recommendations of the evaluation. However, 3 weeks after the evaluation the EVA department confirmed its will to help organize a second presentation within UNAIDS building. This presentation would be led by CRD and focussed on the implementation of the recommendations. This is a task I can undertake, providing there is enough support from CRD in general.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Aids Competence Network sythesises the learning

"I want to say that I am indeed enjoying this exercise and though it was my first time to synthesize notes from such a forum, I hope I will be able to do much better in future", Onesmus Mlewa wrote to me this week. " I loved the experience to not only participate but learn from others views", was the reaction from Jane Macharia.

With four members of the Aids Competence network we have been working on the synthesis of the first discussion round on the AIDS Competence eWorkspace.
Onesmus Mlewa (Kenya), Marcelle Vitral de Oliveira (Brasil) and Jane Macharia (Kenya) reacted immediately after I had posted a request for help in the platform. We all reviewed the contributions to the discussion and wrote down individually ten points we learned from them. When we shared what we learned individually, we soon realised that together we were learning more!
A synthesis of our lessons resulted in the beginning of a Knowledge Asset. We then divided tasks in writing down examples and quotes that demonstrate our lessons. And we added references such as websites, reports and email addresses for people who want to find out more.

The result of our groups work is a nice Knowledge Asset. A work in progress that should be refined by the network on the basis of more experiences.

The Knowledge Asset is available on the Aids Competence eWorkspace. If you want to join this platform please send a message to marlou@aidscompetence.org.

Many thanks to Onesmus, Marcelle and Jane!

Marlou

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