Thank you!

We held a report back and next steps session with all eight guards providing reports. They all gave heartfelt thanks to all those that had contributed towards their recovery following the damage caused by the wild weather.  The all provided at least one other to vouch that they had spent the money on what they claimed.

Austin giving his report back with our Japanese and Cameroonian neighbours in the background.

Austin giving his report back with our Japanese and Cameroonian neighbours in the background.

Joseph Purchased buckets, plates and plastic sheet and also sent money back home to his wife in the village.

Austin, whose rental accommodation was not damaged sent all the money to his parents in the village who had lost everything.

Willard explaining how he'd spent the money

Willard explaining how he’d spent the money

Willard : Purchased bricks and rebuilt half of what was knocked down and plastic sheet to cover the remainder. He also sent money to his widowed Mother.

Leveson: Bought bricks and a bag of cement. Rebuilt half the damaged wall. Also purchased plastic sheet to cover the remainder and household items, e.g.: plates and bucket.

Francis: Spent part of the money on child in hospital and the rest on plastic sheet to cover damage and some household items.

Robert C.: Took child for check up to hospital. Also bought plastic sheet and roof poles. Purchased household items e.g.; plates, dishes and buckets.

Ali: Bought 2000 bricks and two bags of cement and a sheet of plastic

Robert: Bought 3000 bricks and 2 bags of cement

Grace translating the report  back sessions

Grace translating the report back sessions

 

As we have received some additional donations (thank you!) after the first workshop, we are trying a more community development focus with these funds. To start this we asked them for income generation ideas. (Grace was emphatic that they worked in pairs, otherwise she said they’d just say the same thing as each other) The ideas were:

  • Buy a goat and breed it
  • Buy flour and oil to make mandasi. Wife will sell by the road side
  • Buy second hand clothes or fish and re-sell
  • Pig farming
  • Set up a mini-shop to sell groceries
  • Find a job as auto-electrician (Joseph) or driver (Austin)

We asked them to come up with plans by the next meeting.

On a completely different and sad note, we attended Tigwirizane Nkhoma’s funeral yesterday. He was only 32 and apparently died of TB.

Malawi Floods

Last week torrential rains hit Southern Malawi. To date it is estimated 175 are dead and 250,000 have been displaced by flood waters. There are dramatic pictures and an official appeal. Concern Universal is becoming increasingly involved in the official response and recovery work.

Nearing the front of the queue

Nearing the front of the queue for water. Fortunately we went at lunch time on Sunday, when many Malawians are at church AND after three days the water came on that night.

For us the major subsequent inconvenience has been highly erratic water and electricity supply. Most days one, other or both are off for a number of hours. We have been fortunate with only having to go for 3 days without water before the taps worked again. For many in the city it is weeks. Whilst the strong winds and rain did not affect conventional buildings, for those that work in our compound the story is very different.

Also: Ali: He lost a wall to his bathroom and most of his kitchen. Martha: She lost her house. Alfred & Gerard, both lost walls to their houses.

Also: Ali: He lost a wall to his bathroom and most of his kitchen. Martha: She lost her house. Alfred & Gerard, both lost walls to their houses.

We visited Ali at his house and viewed some of the damage in his neighbourhood. This is (informal) suburban Blantyre. lost roofhill side

MB viewing the damage.

MB viewing the damage.

Ali's wife Mazie and son Emanual preparing food in their wrecked kitchen.

Ali’s wife Mazie and son Emanual preparing food in their wrecked kitchen.

 

 

Whilst we encourage donations to the official appeal, we have decided to run a collection from those that live in the compound for these ten and their families. Our intention is that on Sun 8th we will run a ‘participatory budgeting’ process where these ten would decide on who to allocate whatever money was raised. Should you feel so inclined you also could send some money to my PayPal account martinbutcher@mac.com. Contributions can be small e.g. $2. These guys monthly wage is $70 p.c.m and anything makes a difference.

 

 

 

Definition

A friend recently asked ‘what exactly is an impact report’. Good question, but with many answers. if you live in Australia (or probably any other Western democracy), google the name of your local council and search the site for the latest annual report. Near the front will be a statement called ‘Our Vision’. It will probably say something like “….a flourishing community living in harmony with the natural environment and achieving a sustainable and dynamic economic base”. The annual report itself will say how much the new library cost and the number of meals on wheels delivered, but the impact report happens at the next election when the council is either voted back or a new one given a go.

It's a statistic that surely needs to be considered. That the International Labour Organisation

It’s a statistic that surely needs to be considered. When the International Labour Organisation states that more lives are lost in the workplace annually than in war, and that doesn’t even count the number of lives made miserable at work. When will we acknowledge that ‘impact’?

At the National level, there is probably some document that talks about ‘honouring our international obligations’ which gets translated into having an overseas aid budget. A proportion of this aid budget then might be given to a Non Government Organisation (NGO), who has a vision saying something like “We will help the local community flourish, protect and enhance their environment and achieve improved economic livelihoods”. A problem is that it is not the “beneficiaries” of this gesture who vote, but the folks back home. And the Government wants to tell them that their taxes have been spent efficiently, effectively and made a difference. This is where a different form of impact report comes in, and which generally means trying to describe, define and measure something as ephemeral as a ‘flourishing community’.

The standard way to do this is through logframes (sometimes known as ‘theory of change’) and associated indicators. Indicators of achieving a ‘flourishing community’ could be fewer people getting sick, or increased life expectancy. This is fine as long as the situation is relatively simple. Collect the records from the local clinic, construct a borehole, check the clinic records again. Where it gets tricky is working within a complex environment. In other words, how do you claim attribution (or responsibility) that it has been your bore hole that has reduced diarrhoea when there are three other NGO’s doing the same thing and there is nobody in the clinic actually reporting why people are being admitted other than being ‘sick’, and/or another NGO has been training local people to treat simple ailments at home and the weather has been seriously wet?

I think I've heard this mantra too many times to take it seriously. Unless it means helping people have an enquiring mind, supporting them to try new things, celebrating failure.

I think I’ve heard this mantra too many times to take it seriously. Unless it means helping people have an enquiring mind, supporting them to try new things, celebrating failure?

A question for today regarding both situations is whether the ‘impact report’ provided then results in any real learning and change. Or do we just keep trying to do the same thing (albeit with computers and smart phones) whilst hoping for a different result? That different result being not just about bore holes and libraries, but genuinely achieving a ‘flourishing community with a stable economy living in a sustainable natural environment’? And if this is the case, then what do we need to change for us to make a real difference in how we live, work and play? My own tentative suggestion is to enable more people in on both the decision making and the subsequent assessment process of the impact of that decision. “WE made this decision and on reflection it’s sort of worked here, but could have been better there”.

Impact Report 2

I have just run the second workshop to gain staff input to the Impact report, this time with half of the WASH members. There are seven WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) projects implemented by CU, which account for 23% of the total project expenditure, so I was pleased to have a few hours of their time as part of a Whole of WASH (WoW) get together.

WASH staff look at posters describing activities and outcomes across the whole of CU

WASH staff look at posters describing activities and outcomes across the whole of CU

I again used the poster process, but this time remembered how successful it was in ’19 points of connection’ to have sticky dot likert scales associated with each poster. These sticker dot surveys have given some Interesting insights into the development world.

It looks as if there is more  support for water provision than sewage.. funny that.

It looks as if there is more support for water provision than sewage.. funny that.

Junaid Ahmad is senior director for the water global practice of the World Bank Group. He maintains that interventions that focus on collective behavior change and shifting social norms are vital in this war on open defecation. ‘In rural India, there are places with signs that say: “We will not give our daughters in marriage to someone from a village that doesn’t practice total sanitation.” This is the type of social movement that is required. In addition, political will at the highest level is absolutely fundamental…..’ Unfortunately Malawi is unlikely to make it’s Millennium Development Goals in this area, mainly because according to UNDP, there is not sufficient high level political will in the country.

OK, so it was WASH staff commenting on agriculture, but almost everyone in the country grows maize.

OK, so it was WASH staff commenting on agriculture, but almost everyone in the country grows maize.

I am pleased to see that there are some attempts at innovation, which when I consider the lack of political will to enact any change to carbon producing behaviour in other parts of the world it all makes Malawi look positively dynamic.

 

Impromptu Unofficial Impact study

I have recently been taken on a trip to Dowa & Kasunga Districts with the CU Water Sanitation & Hygene (WASH) team. One stop was at a village where CU have just finished rehabilitating a bore hole that had been out of action for 8yrs. On our arrival we were met by what soon became quite a crowd. I was expected to say or do something.

A reflection on how far away they lived from the borehole. On the left - not far, those on the right - a long way

A reflection on how far away they lived from the borehole. On the left – not far, those on the right – a long way

I asked them to illustrate how far they had to walk to this borehole (Short way, Medium and Long Way). On enquiry a short way was about 3-5 mins, medium about 10mins and a long way 20 -30mins. I then asked them if thinking back to eight years ago whether they had noticed any difference in their health without the borehole. I was somewhat surprised when there was quite a proportion who indicated not a lot of difference. On further explanation though, it was because that group had been going to the next village to get water, whilst the group that had experienced an increase in diarrhoea & cholera were far from there and had been drawing water from a closer unprotected water source.

Measuring difference in health. Those on the left had not noticed much difference, those on the right, considerable difference.

Measuring difference in health. Those on the left had not noticed much difference, those on the right, considerable difference.

I then asked them if they thought the rehabilitated bore hole would make much difference to their lives in terms of time or health. Again, there was a spread. We then numbered them off, and asked the small groups to consider what impact the bore hole would have and what they might do with the improved time and health.

Small groups considering what they might do with the improved health and time in their lives.

Small groups considering what they might do with the improved health and time in their lives.

The answers across the groups were generally similar, comprising:

  • Cleaner clothes & latrines
  • Improved marital relationships (this was with much laughter, but also agreement)
  • Able to make more things to sell (mud bricks, donuts etc)
  • More time for cultural events
  • HIV +ve people better able to survive

We then asked the groups to determine what they might be able to do to ensure that the borehole continues working. Answers were:

  • Make a door to keep kids and goats out.
  • Lock the pump with specified opening times
  • Work with the village leadership to have a bye law to keep kids out
  • Make sure the bore hole management committee has funds for spare parts

The Management Committee comprises of 5M and 5F representatives from the seven villages that would use the bore hole and that they had decided that there should be a common maize field that all should work on, with the proceeds being sold to fund maintenance costs. Given the variety of answers from the small groups, I’m left wondering how much support this decision actually has.