Creative Consulting & Development Works

We are a research, evaluation and communications consultancy, servicing nonprofits, governments and donors with innovative solutions within the development context.

Take my word

22 May 2018

Recently Creative Consulting & Development Works hosted acclaimed pitch presenter and coach, Louise Mitchell from Take my Word for a Thursdays Together Lunch and Learn.

Louise has specialised in business-to-business communication for more than 30 years and currently holds interactive, engaging workshops on pitching for business, pitching for investment and persuasive presentations.

In addition, Louise coaches individuals for perfection in advance of public speaking events, conferences and sales presentations and lectures on the topic at UCT. She is also a three-time toastmaster winner.

Louise had some fantastic tips and advice  to share :

  • When presenting evaluation findings draw the audience in initially by using punchy introductory statements.
  • The factual information, findings, and recommendations provide the depth and detail and how this is shared is paramount.
  • Highlight and draw attention to key points of emphasis.
  • When bidding for work provide a compelling pitch and demonstrate unique competitive advantages.
  • Skillful preparation methods and continued practice are what lead to a confident delivery and the knowledge that the room and the audience are yours.
  • Small things are important – such as lighting, projection, the number of participants and the PA system – check these details before you even start to prepare for your presentation.
  • Listeners want to hear more from you when you command their attention. Confidence speaks volumes and inspires confidence.
  • Be memorable to your audience.
  • Take care of the unspoken language of presentations.  This includes body language, eye-contact, and thoughtful timing and pausing within a presentation, which all lead to the poise and confidence needed to engage an audience with confidence.
  • Do not rely on the visual slides one is presenting – be prepared to deliver your presentation even if there is a power failure.

It is Take My Word’s mission to encourage communication with clarity, impact, and credibility for all types of speaking opportunities.

Louise’s skill lies in the ability to help a speaker develop unique messages and use them to the speaker’s competitive advantage.

Thank you Louise’s for your  key message of “Be heard, be understood, be remembered.”

For more info on Take My Word visit: http://takemyword.co.za/ or tweet her @takemywordct

They don’t owe us their stories

21 May 2018

For those who managed to listen into Eusebius McKaiser’s show of Monday, 21 May 2018, you’d have heard this important conversation about how, and even if, friends and family members of victims of gender based violence should support and disclose their friend’s situation. Eusebius hosted journalists Karyn Maughan, Nolwazi Tusini and Claire Mawisa in a provocative discussion about how best to support survivors of abuse, while respecting their agency and voice as survivors.

Given the extent of gender-based violence in South Africa it is imperative that these conversations about disclosure take place and that we honestly acknowledge the extent of intimate violence in our society.

“Intimate femicide is a horrific epidemic in South Africa. We cannot underestimate its terrible reach and the way in which its destroying our society.”

Karyn Maughan shared how she had covered over 100 femicide murder cases in her investigative journalism career.  Maughan shared with deep emotion her experiences of hearing women’s stories, or sensing that there was abuse happening – and the ethics and challenge of whether to report it, or speak up about it.  She spoke of the case of third-year Journalism Student, Twenty-two-year-old Rhodes University student Boitumelo “Tumi” Manyadioane who was killed by her intimate partner.  Maughan spoke of how people suspected something was wrong, but didn’t speak up. Likewise with Karabo Mokoena people new but didn’t speak up, or if they did they were unable to provide the necessary support and empower the victim to seek help, or escape the abuser.  Maughan emphasized that women in these situations are vulnerable, undermined and disempowered and so find it extremely hard to have the courage to speak up for themselves.

However this does not mean that it is okay to disclose another’s experience so publicly and effectively shame them in public. Is it not the right of the victim to tell their own story? How do we respect the dignity of a survivor as they have their own voice? Knowing they have their own voice, or agency, how can we help them if they do not have the courage to speak up?Also if it’s a living survivor one cannot re-traumatise them, as they have already suffered the trauma of the abuse itself.  Disclosure must be based on the victim’s willingness and agreement to disclose.

 

“Don’t force people into situations where they are further traumatised.”

The social media firestorm was sparked by the public disclosure by Masechaba Ndlovu during a Metro FM drivetime show that Babes Wodumo, self-proclaimed queen of Gqom, was being physically abused by her long-time partner, Mamphintsha, who is also her ‘boss’ and a musician and record label owner.  Babes since split from Mamphintsha but public disclosure, by Masechaba, left many callers sharing strong views.

Some felt disclosing Babe’s abuse alienated Babes and disempowered her even more. Inadvertently Masechaba shamed Babes by disclosing this so publicly on radio. Some felt she had sensationalized it, and should rather have gone to the police, or had Babes permission to disclose. 

“They don’t owe us their stories”

This begs the question when and what does one do if you are aware that a friend, colleague or family member is being abused? In the case of Maughan she mentioned that, as an investigative journalist, she is guided by a code of conduct.  Empathy is important when interviewing, or researching a story and she always puts “the person before the story” said Maughan. Yet there is the personal challenge of how to be an activist journalist fighting the fight against gender-based violence and abuse, yet not wanting to put the individual person at risk, through writing about their abuse, or disclosing their identify, or story. What happens if we don’t speak up and that person, be it an interviewee, friend, colleague or family member, is then killed by their partner?In case you missed it click here to catch the show. https://omny.fm/shows/mid-morning-show-702/abuse-when-if-ever-is-it-right-to-tell-someone-els

For more on intimate partner femicide in South Africa:

“South Africa femicide rate is 5 times more than the global rate,” said Nathi Mthethwa, previous Minister of Arts and Culture at a Femicide Imbizo in 2017.  Key findings from the “many surveys which have been done on this matter” included that “in South Africa, every 8 hours a woman is killed and at least half of these women die at the hands of their intimate partners” said Mthethwa. (https://africacheck.org/reports/femicide-sa-3-numbers-murdering-women-investigated/)

Researchers, mainly from the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit, corroborated the data by interviewing police investigators “to verify the cause of death, to identify relationships with perpetrators and to collect other crime investigation data”. The sample of cases was then weighted to be nationally representative.

For the study’s purpose, intimate femicide was defined as the murder of women by their “current or ex-husband or boyfriend, same-sex partner or a rejected would-be lover”.

A study on Intimate Partner Femicide in South Africa indicated that the police could identify the perpetrator in 1,792 of an estimated 2,363 cases. Of the cases where a perpetrator had been identified, more than half of the murders (57.1%) were by an intimate partner. (Intimate Partner Femicide in South Africa in 1999 and 2009, Naeemah Abrahams, Shanaaz Mathews, Lorna J. Martin, Carl Lombard, Rachel Jewkes) http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001412

Integrating appreciative inquiry in a theory of change workshop for an ECD programme

18 May 2018

Early Childhood Development (ECD) at its best is about practitioners who put the child first, and are more caring.  Creative Consulting and Development Works endeavors to incorporate creative and innovative elements in our work so we included Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in a recent Theory of Change (ToC) workshop with a client who implements ECD programmes.

The workshop started with background on what ToC, Theory of Action (ToA) and Logic Models are, followed by examples of what a ToC can look like. Participants were then confident enough to build their programme’s ToC, guided by a set of questions. Participants worked hard, and through lively discussion and inputs, they plotted their high-level ToC. Below is an outline of the workshop process:

Once this brain-twisting exercise was done, participants went on to some “easier” work. The group had to consider what ECD looks like at its’ best. A thorough AI process can take an entire day or more, but can be adapted. With only one day for the entire workshop, the team adapted the AI methodology to fit into an hour.  Four simple questions, and five steps were used, as shown below:

With only four participants expectations were not very high of what could be achieved from the exercise with such a small group.  There was a risk of not getting any common themes at all. The process required that common themes had to be identified from participants’ stories, and that these themes had to be prioritised according to their potential to design the best possible ECD programme.

Despite these concerns, the group were not disappointed. It was proved once again that AI “lights up” our thinking and identifies important aspects that may be otherwise overlooked. The themes that emerged (ranked in terms of importance) were:

  • Putting children first – making environment ready for them; focusing on their needs and designing the school environment according to children’s needs, including those with diverse abilities.   
  • ECD practitioners who are more caring and go the extra mile for the learners.
  • Better relationships with parents and recognising them as key in their children’s development.
  • All stakeholders are motivated and engaged.  

Some of these themes were already incorporated to some extent, but the AI exercise made its importance clear, ensuring that these aspects will be included more prominently in the programme. Most importantly, however, is that the themes identified in the AI exercise points to critical values underpinning ECD at its best.  Infusing these values explicitly in the programme will enhance the impact of the programme.

   

Workshop feedback:-

  • I have improved knowledge on how to develop a M&E ToC. I liked the practical aspects to the workshop.

  • Good workshop. Lots of headway made. Better understanding of the M&E tools for me. The process of getting to the final outcome was good. 

  • Now I understand the theory of change in ECD. 

  • I loved the way she facilitated the workshop, simple, open-ended and quite fun.  

Article written by Fia van Rensburg  for Creative Consultants & Development Works

Giving youth alternatives: The Youth Safety and Religious Partnership Programme

10 April 2018

The Youth Safety and Religious Partnership Programme (YSRP) is a holiday programme implemented in the June/July, December/January and Easter school holidays.  This Western Cape Government Department of Community Safety (DoCS) initiative is in its sixth year and targets children and youth aged 14-21 years living in high priority crime areas that form part of the Community Safety Improvement Plan (CSIP).

The Department partners with faith-based organisations (FBOs) in these communities to serve as direct implementers of the Programme. The rationale is that FBOs have a significant presence and footprint in these communities and are well suited to attract community members to participate. WCG DoCS advertises and invites FBOs to apply for YSRP funding to run a holiday programme and the programmes include sporting activities, recreational games, youth development, life skills and career development activities.  In some cases, a safety promotion or crime prevention activity is included, for example, a presentation on drug awareness, or gangs. Children and youth are provided with a meal and supervised by adults.

The primary aim of the YSRP is to keep children and youth in high crime areas off the streets during the holiday season. Through involvement in activities, they are physically prevented from being unsupervised and potentially getting involved in high-risk behaviours, or being exposed to violence and crime.

  

WCG DoCS commissioned Creative Consulting & Development Works to conduct an evaluation of the YSRP in 2017 to assess Programme implementation, outcomes (or results) achieved and provide recommendations to assist in Programme strengthening. Our methodology included a clarificatory workshop, implementation evaluation, and outcomes evaluation, following a formative and mixed-method approach, which included quantitative and qualitative data. The clarificatory workshop produced two versions of a Theory of Change (ToC): the first depicting the current scope of the YSRP i.e. immediate/short-term results, and the second depicting potential intermediate and long-term effects that the YSRP could have. The implementation and outcomes evaluations used primary and secondary data. The latter was used in a literature review and a document review. Various primary data collection methods were used, with: 1) 30 FBO Programme Manager interviews; 2) 10 beneficiary focus group discussions (FGDs); 3) 1 WCG DoCS staff FGD; 4) 2 key informant FGDs and 1 key informant interview; 5) and 51 beneficiary activity sheets were completed.

Some of the key evaluation findings include:

  • The Programme kept close to 100,000 beneficiaries off the streets over a 6 year period. It provided a good alternative to risky behaviours.
  • The YSRP was able to run in dangerous communities because FBOs formed partnerships with SAPS, CPFs, and neighbourhood watches; venues were secured; there were consequences for misbehaviour; weapons were confiscated and gangs avoided harming the YSRP.
  • Many FBOs continued a relationship with the children even after the YSRP concluded, especially if beneficiaries were part of the church’s constituency, or if FBOs had long-standing community presence; promoting the sustainability of the programme’s outcomes.

The evaluation revealed that the YSRP was indeed producing its intended outcomes of keeping children and youth in high crime areas off the streets during the holiday season, when they may otherwise not have adult supervision. Several design and implementation recommendations were also made to produce even longer-term benefits.

  

Beronisha Cloete, one of our data collectors, was enlightened by the beneficiary focus groups and observed that the programme played a role in making children and youth feel safe:

“I have been living in the Western Cape all my life and always knew at face value the challenges we were facing with regard to crime, safety and gang-related violence. This fieldwork has brought us face to face on a deeper level with the real problems and issues that people deal with on a daily basis. Many of the stories from participants were such eye openers and definitely made us realise how important it is to keep children and youth off the streets. The YSRP programme implemented by DOCS has most definitely brought a sense of safety and security for children and youth within the Western Cape.  Many of the participants had very positive feedback about the programme and activities offered to them. Almost 100% of children and youth within this programme felt it was a safe haven for them and were very grateful for what was provided, be it food, activities, educational games, or just a loving environment.”

Another fieldworker, Mkhululi Mnyaka, had similar perceptions. He recounts the joy the programme brought to the beneficiaries:

“From my observations in the field, I felt like the YSRP programme provided a safe space/heaven for the kids who needed these in their communities. I could see the kids were very much free and happy to either be at the church/mosque or community hall where they are in the presence of programme implementers who were making sure that they are playing safely and not affected by the everyday crime and violence on the streets. I also felt that the kids really enjoyed themselves in the programme because they participated and engaged in the activities with much excitement.”

Our team’s third fieldworker, Carmen Sylvester, was humbled by the data collection experience, where she witnessed the joy and persistence of beneficiaries in the face of adverse circumstances:

“Regardless of what is happening in their community, they still have hope and dreams of a better life. These kids were always happy and smiling. What an experience and learning opportunity for me.”

Article written by Jenna Joffe for Creative Consultants & Development Works

POETIC INQUIRY AND EVALUATION: DOES THE CURRENT FASCINATION WITH DATA VISUALISATION EXTEND TO POETIC REPRESENTATION OF DATA?

9 April 2018

 

Creative data collection and presentation

A well-known creative data presentation option is data visualisation. Where creative data visualisation was previously the exception, it is fast becoming the norm.

Data visualisation can be equated to a language available to researchers and evaluators, and competence in the language of data visualisation comes progressively and with practice and critical self-assessment and feedback. As in any language, competence is made up of the ability to understand the language, to convey ideas through language construction and the ability to analyse the content and meaning of the language.

Creative Consulting & Development Works introduced a short course on data visualisation in 2017 which is based on transferring key concepts and principles underpinning data visualisation, to enable participants to “learn the language” of data visualisation.

Poetic inquiry, for example, may be perceived as a somewhat “stranger” concept, and further removed from hard data than data visualisation.  Resistance to the use of poetry in qualitative research and/or evaluation may stem from negative associations with poetry based on negative experiences with poetry at school and feelings of inability to make sense out of poetry. There may also be a perception that poetry is simply too ambiguous and emotionally laden to be useful in a research and/or evaluation context.

Science, evidence, reality and knowing  

The quest for hard, scientific evidence seemingly opposes consideration of poetic inquiry as a credible research and evaluation method. Science is about understanding the world and discovering and knowing the truth. “Social research aims to generate knowledge about the social world… by describing, explaining and evaluating phenomena in the social world (Mouton, 1996: 46).” This appears to be a simple statement, but there is a slight problem – there are multiple interpretations of what the “social world” is, and how it should be described and defined. These interpretations also influence how the social world is interpreted, and different interpretations of the social world are often contested.

This brings us to what Mouton (1996:46) calls social ontologies. ”The term ‘ontology’ literally means the study of ‘being’ or ‘reality’.” In the field of evaluation, key questions regarding ontology are: “Is there one reality that I can discover? Or are there multiple realities that differ, depending on the experiences and conditions of the people in a specific context (Mertens & Wilson, 2012: 36)?”

Social scientists also have to consider the kind of knowledge that can tell us more about the social world, and what the relationship between the “knower” and “that which would be known,” is. This is the epistemological question, which can be formulated as follows: “How should the evaluator relate to the stakeholders? Do you stand apart from the stakeholders, or do you engage with them in deep conversation and in their activities (Mertens & Wilson, 2012: 36)?” For the purpose of this discussion, suffice to say that different evaluation paradigms provide different answers to these questions.

Ontology, epistemology and poetic inquiry

Counter-questions can be an apt response to questions about the “knower” and “knowing”, specifically questions such as: “Can hard quantitative scientific data adequately describe the social world?” Generally, and particularly in evaluation, there is a realisation that mixed methods, which include both quantitative and qualitative data, are very useful in evaluation as the limitations of the one are often covered by the strengths of the other.

Image Credit: @MattPLavoie | Source: http://www.inspeier.com/blog/2016/3/4/using-qualitative-and-quantitative-research-in-cx

Another question to be considered is: “Is the typical methodological toolbox of social scientists (researchers and evaluators), which typically consist of a combination of surveys, key informant interviews and focus group discussions, sufficient to collect data on complex phenomena and experiences in the social world?”

The epistemological question is closely related to the preceding question, and without elaborating on the issue of objectivity, it can safely be stated that in a post-modern world, objectivity may no longer be the holy grail it was, when the social sciences were guided by the positivistic paradigm. Similarly, the social sciences have become more confident about qualitative research and the need for research to transcend numbers.

Art-based research

Art-based research (ABR) and art-based evaluation (ABE), which use creative data collection and presentation, is mostly qualitative. ABR and ABE occupies the space which is sometimes called the “borderland space” between science and art.

Arts-based research includes: visual arts, performance arts, creative writing, music, textile arts and crafts.

Poetic inquiry is regarded a methodology that is able to reflect the existential reality and lived experiences of research participants and evaluation stakeholders, which also recognises their ownership of the data. Poetic inquiry, with its ability to reflect the raw reality of testing situations and deep emotional experiences, is a form of push-back against over-reliance on thematic analysis, and synthesis which can appropriate and overpower the voices of participants. It is “embodied research” which honours the subjective experience of the individual taking part in research or evaluation and allows for “the heart to lead” when “sensemaking of numberless things” are required.

There is no pretence of “independence”, “objectivity” or “generalisability”. Are these draw-backs? Definitely not. Consider the following poem from Brady (2009), about the value of poetic inquiry.

Now that you have found my unfaced place

in the census count

                   and pulled me up as a person,

and thus have heard my heartbeat,

and had a glimpse of the interior of my soul,

How will you deal with living a life

that includes rape, murder, bigotry,

bombs, beatings,

                 and the stoning to death of children,

among other things that cannot be re-presented

as numbers in a survey?

And if you cannot empathize with these things

slicked up wet by floods of blood and tears,

how will you ever deal honestly

                  with the enthrallments

and ecstasies of life that erase the pain

reported so dutifully by your local poet?

Am I you?

Can you find yourself in me?

                What is my number now?

 (Brady, 2009 in Van Rooyen, 2017: 12)

The observant reader will notice that in the poem above, the researcher is also fulfilling the role of poet. Poetic inquiry does not only lend itself as a data collection method through which the voices of research participants and evaluation stakeholders are heard.  It also provides opportunities for the researcher/evaluator to engage in poetic sensemaking of data, and for representation of synthesised data in poetic format, which is equipped to communicate meaning and depth of emotion.

Suitable contexts and the body of knowledge

As with any methodology, data collection tool and presentation format work better in certain situations than others. Poetic inquiry has been used in research in certain fields, such as education, social work, nursing, psychology, feminist research and social justice research. In some contexts, poetic inquiry has a dual or multiple purposes: in psychology, it also serves a reflective and therapeutic purpose; and in feminist and social justice research it does not apologise for taking on an advocacy, or political dimension.

Poetic inquiry also resonates with the notion that engagement with the social world through research, or evaluation, impacts in some or other way on that which is being researched, or evaluated. Further, the interactive relationship of poetic inquiry with the evaluation context and its transformative potential reminds of the characteristics of action research.

Every methodology has advantages and disadvantages.   Knowing the usefulness and challenges of poetic inquiry is essential to ensure that it is used appropriately. Some of the advantages and challenges of poetic inquiry are captured below.

 

USES AND ADVANTAGES  of poetic inquiry Challenges
 Encourage multiple ways of expression Elicit new perspectives on a theme or topic  Outputs are by nature difficult to interpret
Express complex idea  Could be difficult to disentangle multiple standpoints presented
Generate rich data Technical challenges could occur, e.g. level of artistic skills, which are not always required in evaluation processes
Encourage participants to share their feelings Resistance from participants and other stakeholders
Empowering participants
Embrace the idea that we are all creative beings Potential conflicts between informed consent and artistic values
Build on the creativity fostered in the project. Recognition of authorship and confidentiality
Lay the ground for more in-depth responses  Time-consuming
  ·        through questionnaires or interviews · ·        Give a quick snapshot of where a group is at · ·        Generate materials (poems, drawing, collages, etc.) to be used in final reports Enhance dissemination
·        through questionnaires or interviews
·        Give a quick snapshot of where a group is at · ·
Generate materials (poems, drawing, collages, etc.) to be used in final reports
Enhance dissemination
Sources: CC&DW, Charlton, (n.d.); Daykin (n.d.)

Guided by research and evaluation questions

Poetic inquiry may not be commonly used, but it has been around for a more than a decade. Since 2007 a total of six biennial international Poetic Inquiry Symposiums have been held in North America, with the 7th scheduled for October 2019. A substantial body of knowledge exists in the form of academic publications, journal articles and conference and symposia papers (see references and links below). Experimenting with creative research and evaluation methodologies should not be done for the sake of methodological experimentation, or as an attempt to do something different.  The research or evaluation question(s) should always be the determining factor.  Researchers/evaluators should select the best possible methodologies and tools to find the answers and the (often multiple) truth(s) related to these questions. Researchers/evaluators may want to consider adding poetic inquiry to their toolboxes, so that they are able to adequately access the depth of experience of research participants or evaluation stakeholders, particularly in contexts where depth of emotions is key to understanding a situation. The flip-side of this statement is that researchers/evaluators should avoid using the “same old, same old” conventional tools, when they are simply not sharp enough to answer the research or evaluation question in a context where creative methodology should be used. We hope that our fellow researchers/evaluators will have cautious and thoughtful explorations of possibilities regarding ABR and ABE.

REFERENCES AND USEFUL LINKS