The SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) Alliance is a coalition of 5 Dutch civil society organisations in the Netherlands. They work in 5 countries in Africa and 4 in Asia. FSAS was requested to conduct a Mid-Term Evaluation of the collaboration process of this Alliance in Bangladesh. In this country 5 national organisations jointly implement the “Unite for Body Rights” programme over the period 2011-2015. The main evaluation questions were: 1) what is the added value of working as an Alliance, and 2) what are the main limitations of working as an alliance.
The evaluation had a strong learning and reflection character. The Alliance also expected to get feedback on how to improve the programme in the remaining period. The evaluation focused on the ambitions & interests of collaboration, implementation & results, content of collaboration, structure & governance, and gender. Feedback on these aspects was gathered from different stakeholders in the 5 Bangladesh organisations: executive directors, programme managers, technical learning groups, and national programme coordinator; complimented with the Dutch counterpart.
The evaluator used a questionnaire with open, probing questions, for both individual as well as group interviews. A key element in these interviews was how persons had experienced the changes and dynamics in collaboration since its start in 2011 till present day. That time perspective provided the major illustration of how collaboration had developed and how it was appreciated by different persons within and between the 5 partner organisations. Checking the different ‘change’ stories between different respondents helped to validate findings and building up a complete picture of this collaboration in an iterative fashion.
People were eager to talk about the many positive changes that had taken place both at the alliance level as well as on their personal level. The success of the overall programme had also stimulated a strong personal growth of persons involved. The topic of sexual and reproductive health and rights often lead to such growth in life skills. People then got motivated to educate others on it. The success of the alliance was especially experienced at field level, where it led to intensive collaboration – joint planning, implementing, resource sharing and learning – between the field staff of the different alliance partners. Dealing with a highly sensitive topic such as sexuality in a very conservative setting also boosted collaboration. The progress that was noted, gained a greater and more convincing weight thanks to this collaboration. People appreciated the learning of the other organisations and it seemed as if colleagues coming from different organisations are better able to learn from each other, are more open to learning from staff they don’t see every day. Youth has better access to youth friendly services; comprehensive sexuality education is now provided on a greater scale, including by madrassa schools; a greater and more active involvement of parents and teachers in creating a favorable local environment.
Limitations were noted in a surprising manner: the enthusiasm for this collaboration implied that more staff members were drawn into different types of joint learning activities and smaller organisations were often not used to give staff space to learn and to reflect. Most remarkable was the analysis that instead of lack of communication within the alliance, the biggest barrier in communication was within each organization between the different management layers. Since the programme manager of each organization did not have regular and open contact with the Executive Director, communication problems grew bigger due to alliance work. Due to alliance work, the lack of transparency by the Executive Directors became more obvious.
FSAS facilitated this MTE successfully, as it highlighted issues that were not well understood or observed before. This enabled the SRHR alliance to take proper measures for the remaining period.