As the imGoats project enters its final six months, the whole team gathered in Udaipur, India from 2-6 July 2012 to participate in a learning and reflection workshop on the activities completed so far and the work still remaining.
During the workshop, Outcome Mapping specialist Ann Braun took time out to answer a few questions. She spoke about the role of Outcome Mapping in the imGoats project and her experience of working with this unique team of people.
How did you become involved in the imGoats project?
There is a large international Outcome Mapping community and one of the things they have is a listserv. One day, I found a notice in my emails that the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was looking for someone who knew about Outcome Mapping to facilitate its introduction into one of their programs. One of the requirements was that the person speak Portuguese. And so, although my Portuguese is by no means fluent, I was excited. I got in touch with Ranjitha Puskur (former imGoats project coordinator), one thing led to another, and that’s how I got involved.
What have you observed between the initial meeting in February 2011 and this week’s learning and reflection workshop?
The purpose of the workshop in February was to develop an Outcome Mapping framework that was owned by the entire team. This is one of the principles that I think is very important. There has been a lot of experience in monitoring and evaluation consultancy developing frameworks for programs, which are often not then implemented. So this was exciting because Outcome Mapping is participatory. There was an opportunity for the India and Mozambique sub-projects to come together; the two non-governmental organizations that are involved (CARE in Mozambique and BAIF Development Research Foundation in India), together with ILRI staff, and on all levels – field level, project management level and higher up decision-makers – to agree on this framework.
The February meeting was a large one, with the entire team putting together a comprehensive and complex framework. With Outcome Mapping you start by formulating a vision, then identifying a mission and choosing key boundary partners (the groups, individuals and organisations who the project hopes to work with directly). It was a challenge and quite an achievement to get such a diverse group of people to agree on the Outcome Mapping framework for imGoats.
In this week’s Learning and Reflection workshop, we reflected on that framework to see if it still makes sense and if the team are on track. By and large, we found that it is working and that the project is on track, which is very encouraging. For most of the team, it was their first experience of adopting Outcome Mapping. Both the India and Mozambique teams are using a hybrid of existing monitoring and evaluation processes and systems and Outcome Mapping. This shows that the methodology is a very pragmatic one that can be adapted. In Mozambique, it’s a much smaller project and so more of the Outcome Mapping tools are used whereas the India hybrid depends much more heavily on existing monitoring systems used by BAIF.
What has Outcome Mapping in the imGoats project revealed to you about change, and indeed behaviour change?
Well, one of the things I think this workshop has shown is the pathway to change that the teams identified. We’ve got two very different contexts: the Mozambique team is working in a handful of villages, whereas the India team is working in two states in India with a large number of households across hundreds of villages. Despite minor adaptations, both teams are now, over one year later, still using a common framework. That tells us that the pathway to change has some similarities in these two extremely different contexts. At the same time, as both teams pointed out, they have also encountered some unexpected changes – which surprised them. So it’s a situation of both order and chaos, with some change occurring in an unpredictable way.
What do you feel you have learned about Outcome Mapping itself from working with the imGoats team?
Here are two very different scales; two very different organizational cultures; different skill sets and approaches to the work. BAIF is an extension-oriented system that does things on a very large scale, and CARE has a community development and ‘research for development’ background. We’ve been able to adapt Outcome Mapping in both of these cases, which displays its flexibility. The really exciting thing for me is that two main purposes were envisioned.
First, that the Outcome Mapping data would support decision-making in management programs so that the program could make adjustments in its strategies as it unfolded. This workshop showed that this is happening in both cases. Another thing that it showed is that people are able to use it to track progress. For example, one of the things I did in the initial workshop was show the linkage between the Outcome Mapping approach and the log frame approach that imGoats also uses.
In the imGoats time frame, if we were just to evaluate the program based on these log frame indicators (oriented around things like changes in income, improvements in food security, articulation of the value chain, and so on), we wouldn’t be able to show that there was a result at that level. But data collection at the the behaviour change level shows that there has been significant change in the direction that the program wanted to go. So, with the help of Outcome Mapping, we can safely say that this program is on track to achieve some of the changes it aimed to achieve.
What challenges did you face in this project, if any?
One of the challenges has been working across the different languages, because it took a lot longer to transmit the conceptual ideas. Another challenge has been that the way of working is very different in the two countries. In the India case, there is a lot of motivation and really good ideas and knowledge of the team who work at the field level, but I think sometimes they feel unable to express themselves when the higher level staff are present in meetings, and of course we need those decision-makers to be there.
One of the ways that ILRI has managed this is by locating a staff member here [in Udaipur]. Ramkumar Bendapudi is extremely skilled in working within the system here, is very well-respected and has been mentoring those people. One of the exciting things is to see both the hands-on staff in Mozambique and India are conversant with the Outcome Mapping approach in that they are using it and they see some benefit in it because they have gotten something out of it.
The imGoats project seeks to investigate how best goat value chains can be used to increase food security and reduce poverty among smallholders in India and Mozambique. Funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), the project is led by researchers from ILRI in collaboration with the BAIF Development Research Foundation in India and CARE International in Mozambique.