Archive for the ‘ECB workshops’ Category

It was important to interrogate our model and gauge how our participating clients, team members, and Advisers perceived the effectiveness its effectiveness.  In order to do this, we threw out a series of provocative statements to start the discussion.

Participants were divided in 3 groups, and each of them tackled a “provoking (or provocative!) statement”:

  • There is insufficient demand to justify maintaining a standing team
  • The standing team is not cost-effective
  • The standing team members are perceived as too junior to have the necessary impact

We asked:

  • What justifies these statements? Provide supporting evidence
  • What are the counter-arguments? Provide supporting evidence
  • What are the potential options for a way forward?

Each group discussed the statement and then the results were reported in a plenary session.

Additional comments / experiences / opinions were shared by participants following each presentation.


There is insufficient demand to justify maintaining a standing team

  • There should be a better balance between accountability and impact measurement to increase demand.
  • Many country offices do not know about the Standing Team, which is why they may not be requesting it.  We need to do better marketing to make people aware of the services!
  • There have been repeated requests from Bolivia, Bangladesh, and Nepal (non-ECB consortia country) requested the support when they were made aware of it.  However, it is important to note that there was funding provided for this.
  • Standing team members are approached directly for their services in-country, but this is not requested or documented formally at the ‘global level.’
  • Important to note the difference between demand and donor obligation.
  • Demand from other collaborating agency to work with the ST, e.g. CDAC.

The standing team is not cost-effective

  • A large initial investment (“start-up cost”) was required to improve the capacity of the ST members.  We are only now seeing the fruits of this investment and would argue that they are worth that initial investment.
  • Due to their positions within agencies, one ST member can raise the capacity of fifty (or more – 900 in the case of PSEA trainings in Haiti!).  The training and experience of this one Standing Team member goes a lot further than has been documented.
  • With the ST model, the money stays within the agencies, rather than going to an outside consultant.  We are paying for our own capacity building, and that knowledge remains internal.
  • Members can remain on the ST even when they switch agencies or positions within agencies (e.g. Tania in Bolivia and Idrissa in West Africa). Knowledge and experience are not necessarily lost with turnover.
  • It is clear that there is a lot of value that has not been documented or shared properly.
  • Regional workshops or deployment could be more cost-effective (though there was something to be said for the cross-cultural learning of a deployment such as Emmanuel’s from Kenya sharing his experience with Bolivia).

The standing team members are perceived as too junior to have the necessary impact

  • There are many different levels of experience within the ST, which is seen as normal.
  • Are there gaps in the ST selection process? A strong selection process on the part of the agencies is key to having a high-caliber team.
  • Everyone appears to agree with the CARE model of deploying one ‘junior’ staff (less experienced in accountability) and one senior staff member. Coaching and mentorship is key.  ECB has always tried to deployment one AIM Adviser for each mission, but it has proved extremely difficult to deploy AIM Advisers due to busy schedules.
  • If a deployment is requested or planned at the last-minute, it may be difficult to release the most suitable team member.
  • As the team members have been selected by the AIM Advisers, we believe that they have validated their members skills and experience by selecting them.
  • Post deployment evaluation process should be strengthened and formalized.

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D2-final energizer

Participants stand in a  circle.

The facilitator says…

1..2..3.. Look down

(and everyone looks at the shoes of someone)

1…2..3.. Look UP!

(everyone look at the eyes of that person whose shoes they were looking at)

If two people look at each other, they are out!

This is repeated until only the winners remain in the circle.

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In this session, participants moved  along “5 corners” to examine–and challenge–the supposed benefits of the Standing Team. They were also asked to provide comments on the added value of the team, specifically around the value to
  • Individuals on the team
  • Country offices receiving deployments
  • Agencies at the global level
  • Donors
  • Clusters

Here are highlights of the discussions.

Individuals on the team

  1. Having the opportunity to learn from other countries and other agencies. While this can happen outside of ECB, ECB provides a structure for opportunity to learn which is useful for various initiatives. Day to day there are new approaches, like learning to be a facilitator.
  2. ECB tools and approaches: there are unique tools being developed in ECB, eg Good Enough Guide, particular trainings.
  3. More exposure through AIM advisers and interaction with colleagues.
  4. Specific focus on accountability, community of practice across agencies, shared expertise.
  5. Increased credibility on accountability issues.
  6. Deployments provide an opportunity to solidify agency commitments to AIM.
  7. Increased capacity to do own job.

Country offices receiving deployments

  1. Interest of leadership level to incorporate accountability into programming. But deployments also expose challenges in implementing AIM at the leadership level.
  2. ST provides a forum for sharing best practices, lessons learned, etc. ECB provides access to resources.
  3. The ST links to authorities, UN/OCHA, etc . While this is not necessarily unique, compared to other Q&A initiatives, we are supporting cluster accountability in a unique way.
  4. Increase coordination among participating agencies, including interactions with AIM Advisors.
  5. Increased visibility through a credible internal voice (as opposed to an external sector) on AIM.
  6. Joint evaluations add a level of accountability.
  7. We bring an internal / external perspective in a safe space with a shared understanding of the key elements. Deployments provide a unique way to do this, as the team can challenge the status quo within a country office.
  8. Availability of inter-agency human resources – AIM ST members bringing back resources from different perspectives. ST members are better agents than consultants because they have specific training, shared objectives, and can follow-up and own the process.

Global agencies

  1. We tap the skills and resources from the ST to help increase accountability at agency level
  2. There is an opportunity for staff capacity building that increases agency capacity
  3. We can promote mutual accountability though inter-agency deployments and cross learning at the global level.


  1. Standing Team members can help increase agency’s program quality
  2. ECB tools and perspectives  are valued by the donors, including joint evaluations, joint needs assessments, joint accountability framework, impact measurement systems, etc.
  3. Coordinated approaches  and forum for work includes capacity building.
  4. Learning and innovation, there is new energy and creativity in accountability
  5. The Standing Team can help donors be more accountable to disaster affected populations.


  1. Agencies must participate in the cluster system, while other Q&A initiatives do not, so there is an incentive to bring the focus of accountability to the cluster.
  2. We can raise awareness around accountability beyond ECB.
  3. Make clusters more accountable at the global and country level
  4. We can share accountability tools, skill, and knowledge with clusters
  5. Providing independent observations, opinions on cluster work to increase learning, and ST can lead some of the cluster work
  6. Technical support to pilot and implement the IASC Operational Framework
  7. Increase the influence of the Standing Team, by being able to put on the hat of a cluster rather than any individual agency.

The methodology for the activity: Each group started from a corner, and then moved to the successive ones. The discussion of a group was captured on a flipchart which was then left behind as the group moved on. The following group then reflected on the group’s work and used it as a basis for further discussion. A facilitator remained at each corner, to help discussion and clarify points made by previous groups.

  • The first stop was discussion for 10 minutes about the benefits that the Standing Team can provide to that specific stakeholder.
  • The second stop was to check and add to the benefits – for 5 minutes
  • The third stop involved identifying the listed benefits that the Standing Team currently provides well
  • The fourth stop required identifying the roles that are most uniquely provided by the ECB AIM ST, compared to other sector actors.

The groups then presented an overview of the the last corner where they stopped.

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As  they received their name tag, participants had to barter for it with their expectations for the workshop.

Expectations were put on the board, side by side with workshop objectives.

And… good news! The expectations seems to match the goals!

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Sharp on time, we start the workshop!
Sarah gives an inspirational introduction about the workshop.
Lex Kassengerg, Country Director of CARE Nepal, welcomed us here.


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Greetings team members, Advisers, friends, and colleagues!

We’ve successfully made it to Nepal, bringing together Standing Team members, clients of Standing Team services, and AIM Advisers. It’s very cold up near the Himalaya mountains, but we’re looking forward to a great final workshop together.

Please follow along with us, as we will be blogging about our workshop! The goals and agenda are outlined below.


  • To generate evidence of the pros and cons, successes and challenges of the Inter-Agency Standing Team model in order for the future of the team to be decided
  • To document experiences with the Standing Team, the value that it adds, and the impact that it has had both on country offices and participating individuals
  • To collect feedback on Standing Team / AIM tools to highlight any improvements needed
  • To develop a shared understanding of global accountability initiatives and space and value of the ST with  the cluster system


Day 1

Morning session 1 Welcome and introductions, security briefingWho is in the room? Who is the Standing Team?Expectations for workshop
Morning session 2 Timelines: A history of the Standing Team and its work and milestones
Afternoon session 1 Deployment experiences: facilitated conversations about the deployments the Team has done to date
Afternoon session 2 Deployment experiences: creation of videos
Night activity: Homework: online questionnaire

Day 2

Morning session 1 Interrogating the Standing Team model: video and discussion of challenging issues
Morning session 2 Interrogating the model: review results and analysis from the survey, attempt to answer the Big Questions about the Standing TeamWhere is the added value of the Standing Team?
Afternoon session 1 AIM tool review: Good Enough Guide Training of Trainers, Standing Team toolkit, and moreWhere have these tools been used, and how? What questions have they raised? What is the potential for these tools? What further work needs to be done?
Afternoon session 2 Cluster accountabilityHow is cluster accountability different from individual agency accountability? What could be the role of the Standing Team in supporting cluster accountability?
Night activity: Cultural event, organized by CARE Nepal

Day 3

Morning session 1 Tackling, revising and updating the Standing Team Terms of Reference
Morning session 2 Action planning: looking beyond 2012
Final session Closing activity
Night activity Evaluation

We are looking forward to hearing from you along the way! Submit questions and comments via the “comments” section on the blog.

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The Standing Team learning workshop is quickly approaching! December 3 – 5th Standing Team members and other stakeholders will meet in Dhulikhel, Nepal to discuss and debate the past and future of the AIM Standing Team. This workshop will provide a place for Standing Team members, clients, and AIM Advisors to provide honest feedback on this model’s successes and challenges.

As you know, this Standing Team model has been an experiment. We’ve done both trainings and deployments, and we are now at a critical reflection juncture.  We would love to hear your thoughts!

  • What kind of demand is there in the sector for this model?
  • What ideas do YOU have for increasing accountability to beneficiaries?
  • How can we operationalize our commitments to beneficiaries?

Post any thoughts here on the blog or email them to Katy (klove@care.org) and Sarah (sarnason@care.org).

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Eating healthy is a virtue not many would dispute. But even though we all know that we should get a variety of nutritious foods every day to keep ourselves and our families healthy, the demands of daily life often help us rationalize dietary shortcuts. As one mother told me, “With all the work I have to do, I don’t have time to cook all these complicated recipes. I know we should eat more healthy food, but the kids don’t like it. They just want to eat the regular stuff.”

The sentiment is instantly relatable and one that could easily be heard in family households across the U.S. But it wasn’t a suburban American mother rationalizing her family’s habit of eating fattening foods. The explanation came from a farmer in a remote hamlet in Timor-Leste during a focus group discussion (FGD) about the high incidence of malnutrition in the impoverished country. Although a variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables are sometimes available and accessible in local markets—and in many cases growing unattended in natural areas around houses and farms—poor Timorese families often limit their meals to a repetition of starchy staples.

MAP: Sara Gonzalez, Carole Reckinger

The FGD was one of many conducted as a qualitative compliment to a midterm evaluation of a Food Security project being implemented by Mercy Corps. The FGDs were aimed at capturing unexpected feedback from beneficiaries. The regular evaluation measured progress toward program targets, which include increases in on-farm production and household incomes, reductions in post harvest loss, and the establishment of small businesses to support those efforts. By looking beyond the original targets and ensuring that the program is accountable to the communities it hopes to benefit, Mercy Corps learned about key food security issues it hadn’t been addressing—such as food preference and climate change—and added project activities to address the gaps.

I joined the AIM Standing Team in 2011 while working as M&E and Food Security Advisor with Mercy Corps in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. As a member of the Standing Team I’ve had the privilege to participate in engaging and well-designed workshops in both Jakarta and Casablanca. By Joining the Jakarta workshop I became an official Standing Team member, helping to advance Mercy Corps’ commitment to accountability and to the ECB consortium. Among the things we covered was how to sell accountability,” and, in fact, membership on the Standing Team itself has been an important lever to prioritize accountability. Charged with conducting the midterm evaluation in Timor-Leste, I was able reference the Standing Team, the blog, and the Good Enough Guide. And even though AIM materials are emergency focused, the food security project team saw the value of including open-ended feedback from beneficiaries in the study.

The workshop in Casablanca emphasized the fact that communication is an essential component to promote accountability and transparency. Communication in projects is not just about sharing information. It can also be used for trust building, conflict resolution, effective participation, and provision of psychosocial support. Participatory activity is better documented by photography and video, and they convey a human context that is impossible to capture any other way. After the workshop, I put a heavy emphasis on applying photography and video to Mercy Corps projects. I created a photo essay and video for a spice market development project in Eastern Indonesia, a photo essay and video for a food security project in Timor-Leste, and another video for an aquaculture project in Timor.

The final visual communication products made the voices and experiences of beneficiaries far more prominent in otherwise dry technical reports and presentations for donors and partners. More importantly it helped to improve understanding and buy-in of the project efforts among the communities, in the government, and even within the project team at Mercy Corps. Projects often have many disparate components, and the overall vision can be lost or confused. By using voices, stories, and images from the communities where we work to bring project activities together under a shared vision, understanding and buy-in is improved among all project stakeholders. When the vision is shared, relevant new ideas and feedback can converge to strengthen it.

In response to feedback from the community during the evaluation in Timor-Leste, Mercy Corps added activities to help farmers reduce risks from climate change—such as crop diversification—and to encourage household diet diversification. Both initiatives require that the community be willing to buy, cook, and eat food that they typically wouldn’t. Using research undertaken by UNICEF and Timor’s Department of Health, we created a cookbookof locally appropriate dishes. The dishes included vegetables that Mercy Corps has begun to support the seed replication for among project farmers, as well as tilapia fish—supported by an aquaculture development component of the project.

PHOTO: Tom Pfeiffer

To disseminate the recipes and ignite community interest, the project funded 50+ community food events where the books were made available to all. Each event included music by a local band and at least four recipes were cooked at each by community members and shared. Mercy Corps limited its presence in order to build community ownership of the events. The project video is entirely in the local language and includes the testimony of several community stakeholders. The video is shown at the food events and other community meetings, helping to communicate the vision of the project and solicit continued relevant feedback from the community.

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Standing Team member Faten believes that working for the Child’s Rights program at Save the Children – helping to create more accountable programs for Palestinian children – has been one of the most interesting and useful experiences in her professional life.  Last fall she participated in the Standing Team Accountability and Impact Measurement Fundamentals workshop in Jakarta.  This was Faten’s first introduction to many of the key concepts of accountability, and she describes it as the starting point of a “breakthrough” in her work. She states that upon her return:

I was back full of energy to transfer this learning to colleagues and partner organizations. I called for several briefing sessions for staff at different levels in my organization, and I conducted a four day training for Save the Children staff and partners in Gaza, where there is a high need for accountability in the context of emergency.

Trainees from partner organizations were very impressed with this learning, and requested access to the training material in Arabic in order to conduct a similar training for their staff and volunteers.

Thank you Faten for sharing your experience!  We would love to hear from more of you.  How has the learning from past Standing Team workshops contributed to your work?  Share your thoughts as a comment on this post or email sarnason@care.org or klove@care.org if you’re interested in drafting a blog submission!

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Silva Ferretti, consultant to our project,  and facilitator of the two workshops for the AIM Standing Team, gave an online presentation in February 2012 to share her innovative approach to share knowledge and learning. This approach is using mediums other than written reports. Silva prefers that her evaluations (of trainings or programs) and other types of “reports” are portrayed in a more appealing way.

The following are the different types of mediums Silva discussed. You will recognize a few from the workshops with Silva.

  1. Blog through WordPress to summarize daily activities for a later evaluation of the activity (a workshop, for example)
  2. Photos and Videos
  • Participatory activity is better documented by photography, such as through a powerpoint presentation, or video. For example, Silva showed her Powerpoint using photography that documents the process of a vulnerability analysis.
  • For a Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices analysis, Silva, as the consultant, prefers to use photo and video to document the analysis with the community. Using this medium promotes ownership by the community.
  • Video is Silva’s preferred medium to capture people’s reflections, opinions, and explanations, such as beneficiaries’ feedback or staff’s explanation of an activity or approach.
  • Use 1-2 minute clips to capture learning from workshop participants when the learning happens
  • A video can portray emotion and a picture is worth a thousand words!
  • use Youtube to post the video
  1. Prezi is a free downloadable presentation software that presents information in one screen and allows the reader to zoom in to different parts. A prezi presentation allows the reader to see the creator’s structure of thinking behind the presentation of information which is not possible in a linear report. Silver showed an evaluation she did, which includes all the regular parts of a report. This prezi presentation also includes an embedded video of a staff person explaining a program component!
  2. Google Doc to conduct an online survey and get results quickly.
  3. Animation using xtranormal software allows you to create characters to act out a skit (which always turns out funny). Animation can be used to depict a sensitive or controversial topic when there is no real voice to do so, such as problems in a program found through an evaluation. Have you seen the cowboy video created by ___ during the first Standing Team workshop in Bangkok? Not only was this video super fun to watch, it sparked a great discussion of the importance of high quality evaluations.
  4. Diagrams, flow charts, and maps can be used to break down and present a big idea, problem or concept in a visual way. There are tools online to do mind mapping, problem solving, flow chart diagramming.

Advantages to these alternative mediums of sharing knowledge and learning:

  • They are interesting, fun and cool!
  • They can spark an interesting discussion among participants.
  • These mediums are more likely to be given attention than written reports.
  • The images are memorable.
  • Using these mediums is at no cost.
  • They only requires a computer and internet.
  • Presenting knowledge through these mediums allows participants to work together in a different and fun way.

Serious can be Cool too!

Silva believes that just because the content (like an impact evaluation) is serious doesn’t mean it can’t be presented in a more interesting way. She explained that she is trying to overcome the “report wall” whereby many in the field, including big donors and report commissioners, prefer a “proper” written report over the alternative mediums of presentation of information, such as video, diagrams and infographics. Silva and the participants in the online presentation discussed the challenges of getting big donors and report commissioners to accept these new formats.

Which medium do you prefer?

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