Friday 16th of February 2018 was a special day for all South Africans, as the long-awaited State of Nation Address (SONA) was delivered by the newly appointed president, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa. As the president was delivering his speech the team at Creative Consulting & Development Works (CC&DW) embraced the following words, “During the course of this year, the community Policing Strategy will be implemented, with the aim of gaining the trust of the community and to secure their full involvement in the fight against crime. The introduction of a Youth Crime Prevention Strategy will empower and support young people to be self-sufficient and become involved in crime-fighting initiatives.”
These words were of significance as CC&DW is currently conducting an evaluation for Youth Leadership Development for Community Safety Training Intervention. This work is supported by South African-German Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The Youth Crime Prevention Desks (YCPD) is implemented by the South African Police Service (SAPS), Community Policing Forums (CPF) and Department of Community Safety (DoCS) at a national and provincial level to promote community safety through the youth and the structures are based at South African Police Service stations.
The evaluation of the training programme is intended to assess the impact of the training programme in order to provide information for decision-making in terms of scalability of the approach and communicate findings to internal and external stakeholders and the wider public.
A unique component of the evaluation of the Youth Leadership Development for Community Safety Training Intervention is our use of mixed methodology with Story-boarding (SB). This creative tool is used to collect data on how the situation has changed since Youth Leaders and Mentors have been exposed to the training and mentorship programme. SB sessions are being used to identify stories of project implementation or planning, and to assess the changes that took place after the Youth Leaders attended the training in terms of implementation of knowledge and skills, confidence levels and commitments, and changes in attitudes and beliefs.
Given the high levels of crime and violence in South African homes and communities, it is vital that policy-makers, civil society and nonprofit organisations working with these issues learn what works and what doesn’t. Working with youth to promote community safety is a vital strategy to redressing violence on our streets and in our homes. This evaluation will provide decision-makers and implementers with key findings and recommendations to plan the way forward. CC&DW is privileged to have the opportunity to work on this important evaluation study, currently underway.
Creative Consulting & Development Works recently had the pleasure to complete a fascinating research study for a remarkable client, FHI360. Our research team travelled to Ingwavuma Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, on 22nd of January 2018 to present the findings of the completed Synergy Study. The Study was Funded by America’s FHI360 and implemented by local NGO Zisize Educational Trust.
The Synergy Study is a yearlong qualitative research study to evaluate Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation and Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) programming designed for vulnerable youth based in disadvantaged communities. The aim of the study was to explore how psychological, behavioral, economic and social factors interact to affect HIV risk behaviors in adolescent girls and boys enrolled in the ASPIRES programme. The programme has five different components within it, and these cover different topics like, how to use and save money, how to protect yourself from HIV & AIDS, etc.
In our presentation our research team focused on the key benefits of the programme reported by the ASPIRES learners where qualitative data was collected in the field during the course of the programme throughout the year. Three key themes emerged in the self-reported benefit discussions with learners. These included ASPIRES giving the learners a sense of direction; ASPIRES taught learners about financial literacy and how to foster a culture of saving and finally ASPIRES taught the learners about self respect and how to handle themselves around other people.
The presentation was received with great enthusiasm within the community. Teachers, Facilitators and Zisize staff contributed to the discussion and shared their appreciation in receiving the findings of the Study. What a pleasure to work with a dynamic and thoughtful community so engaged in the study. The community had a range of questions and these were answered and grounded in a practical emphasis on learning outcomes.The team also used the opportunity to encourage learners, teachers, and caregivers to continue practicing positive behaviors learnt from the programme in their communities in future.
There was a small awards ceremony that took place after findings were presented. These awards were met with great excitement by all involved. It was a very touching and encouraging moment when the attendees, and in particular the parents and caregivers of the learners, noted a positive behavior change in the learners since they had begun the programme.
There was an overwhelming appreciation towards the Creative Consulting & Development Works team who had returned to Ingwavuma to share findings and consider learnings. As this was the first time a programme of this nature had been implemented in the area a feeling of pride and achievement was evident.
Our research team are so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such an appreciative community of learners and a truly special and supportive client, FHI360. The experience was insightful and inspired and motivated our team. We look forward to working on similar projects in future to further develop a culture of continuous innovation that can deliver better learning in financial literacy.
Thank you community of Ingwavuma and all the wonderful learners who participated in the SYNERGY study! Thank you FHI360 (Greg Guest, Amy O’Regan, Meredith McCann) – it was such a pleasure to work with each of you! Thank you to Zisize Educational Trust and particularly Andrew Ganizani Sitima. Thank you to the entire Creative Consulting & Development Research team under the guidance of Susannah Clarke and Senior Evaluator, Leanne Adams, supported by Mkhululi Mnyaka, Itumeleng Romano, Carmen Sylvestor, our dedicated fieldworkers, and all the others who were involved in this two year study, for their sterling work on this important assignment.
To discuss your research needs kindly contact Susannah Clarke, Research & Evaluation Director, or Lindy Briginshaw, CEO of Creative Consulting & Development Works: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
More on ASPIRES:
The Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation and Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) project is managed by FHI 360, a non-profit human development organization. ASPIRES supports evidence-based, gender-sensitive programming to improve the economic security and well-being outcomes of vulnerable families and children, particularly those infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and others at high risk of acquiring HIV. ASPIRES is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
We’re loving February for many different reasons.
This is the month when we realise time does not stand still, and the first portionof the year is gone. Inevitably those who made new years’ resolutions will pause to think about their progress with their commitment to lose weight, spend more time with friends and family, study, sleep more, drink less, quit smoking, etc.This means that February may bring some stress, disappointment, or satisfaction, depending on what we did in January.
February is also a reminder that summer in the Southern hemisphere will not last forever, and that autumn and winter will be here soon. Depending on whether you love summer or winter best, you may love or hate it that days are becoming shorter and cooler. With winter approaching, there is hope for rain in the drought-ridden Western Cape.
There is also the State of the Nation Address, on 8 February 2018. This key political event is an opportunity for the President to report on the economic and social state of the nation, and includes a review of the past year and priorities for 2018. Given the current state of affairs this SONA is going to be decisive in determining how South Africa’s future political and economic landscape unfolds.
For those who are romantically inclined and are looking for an opportunity to make a (daring) move, February is the time. It is hard not to notice the red hearts, roses, candles teddy bears that and other items signalling Valentine’s Day on the 14th. Not everyone celebrates the day – some call it “Single Awareness Day” and others just ignore it.
Interestingly, there is no agreement on the origins of the day of love. Some say it originated from an ancient pagan festival of lust and nudity in the times of the Roman Empire; others say it morphed into a Christian celebration of St. Valentine as the Catholic Church gained ground; and an alternative explanation is that it is just an excuse to celebrate spring in February – that is in the Northern hemisphere.
So, what does all of this have to do with evaluation?
Apart from the obvious need to plan properly to make those New Year’s’ resolutions work out as intended – read Theory of Change, Theory of Action, Indicators, Targets, Timelines – there are two other things that come up: context, and values.
The importance of context is clear from the above thoughts on February – for everyone in the world it signals the approach of a new season, but depending on whether you live in the Southern or the Northern hemisphere, the approaching season will be different. The issue of context in evaluation is equally important.
It is also clear that where we “stand”, or in other words, our own perspectives and situation has an influence on what we think about February. Similarly, in evaluation, every evaluator has a position, like it or not. As evaluators we give careful consideration to many aspects and variables, but are we conscious enough of how our own background, position in society, gender, age, preferences – the list can continue endlessly – shape how we engage with an evaluation, right from the time when we read the Terms of Reference).
February is a reminder that it is a good idea for evaluators to pause, stand back, do some introspection, and check our assumptions, biases and filters. As evaluators, we need to make sound judgements about the projects and programmes we evaluate, and we cannot take that responsibility lightly. This said, we also have to be conscious that finding the truth is not as simple as it seems. Who we are, where we come from, what we value, and what we want from the future may influence us profoundly in our work, particularly in qualitative inquiry, where “the human being is the instrument of data collection” (Patton, 2002: 51).
Patton proposes that the social scientists need to “carefully reflect on, deal with, and report potential sources of bias and error” in addition to other ways to ensure that high-quality qualitative data, which is trustworthy, and fair to the phenomenon and/or the people being studied. If not, our work will be worthless.
Bias can occur at any stage of research, even when we decide what to study/evaluate, or how the research questions are formulated. Even in research where rigorous quantitative data is collected, bias and distortion can occur. For example, measurement bias happens when values are produced that “systematically differ from the true value in some way… one of the things that might contribute to response bias is the appearance or behaviour of the person asking the question, the group or organisation conducting the study, and the tendency for people not to be completely honest when asking about illegal behaviour or unpopular beliefs.” (Peck, Olden, Devore, 2012: 38)
Without elaborating on all the potential sources of bias, it should be mentioned that social theory is steeped in values, embedded in the context and culture from where they emanate. Some argue that “researchers must be unbiased” (Weber 1949 in Neuman, 2003: 497), while the idea of value-free research is disputed as being “a value in favour of ‘value free’”, and that it is used to disguise or hide scientists and professionals’ own values (Gouldner, 1976) in Neuman, 2003: 497).
Realising that it is virtually impossible to be totally value-free, Gouldner recommended that researchers make their own values explicit, and saw value in how researchers’ own values can motivate them to make a meaningful contribution: “The researcher who is motivated by a strong moral desire to effect change need not invalidate good research practice” (Neuman, 20013: 497).
Another suggestion comes from Patton (2002: 51), who says that credible research requires a “stance of neutrality” regarding the phenomenon being studied. This means that the researcher does not attempt to prove any perspective, or does not attempt to arrive at “predisposed truths”, but has the intention to understand what is being studied, with all its complexities and the multiple perspectives related to the phenomenon.
Perhaps the proposition that social researchers should “adopt a relational position – a position apart from any specific social group, yet in touch with all groups” should be considered (Mannheim, 1936 in Neuman, 2003: 497 – 498). A relational position requires social researchers to be somewhat detached, or marginal in society, albeit with “connections with all parts of society, even parts that are often overlooked or hidden.” Roughly translated in plain language, this could mean “on the outside looking in”.
In the diverse South African society, where all are affected and influenced in some way by the history of the country, and where many issues are highly politicised, it is particularly relevant for researchers and evaluators to engage in discussions on values, and positioning, and perhaps to define what “relational positioning” means in the South African context, and what we can contribute to society through our unique positioning. This discussion could be useful to interrogate the potential contribution of social research, and particularly evaluation, in an evidence-based policy environment.
But before we start with this serious and important discussion – enjoy February, and happy Valentine’s day.
Fia van Rensburg is a Senior Evaluator at Creative Consulting & Development Works
Neuman, W.L. 2003. Social Research Methods. Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. 5th Edition. Pearson Education. Boston.
Patton, M. Q. 2002. Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. 3rd Edition. Sage Publications. London.
Peck, R., Olsen, C. & Devore, J. 2012. Introduction to Statistics & Data Analysis. 4th Edition. Brooks/Cole. Australia.
 Systematic data collection procedures, rigorous training, multiple data sources, triangulation, external reviews etc.
In 2015 global health achieved a seemingly ambitious task of providing antiretroviral therapy (ART) to 15 million people – a global health history first. Following this success, UNAIDS began to develop a workable model to reach the 2030 target for ending the AIDS epidemic.
The 90-90-90 targets are new research-based targets set for 2020 to endeavour to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. It stands for:
The key to this target is viral suppression. Viral suppression refers to a condition where an HIV-positive individual with strong adherence to ART suppresses the viral load to undetectable levels. Studies have shown that viral suppression is a key element in limiting the spread of HIV.
“Interim findings from the PARTNER study indicate that among 767 serodiscordant couples, no case of HIV transmission occurred when the person living with HIV had suppressed virus – after an estimated 40 000 instances of sexual intercourse.”
In order to reach the targets, the global community must address the key barriers that are currently preventing treatment adoption, access to treatment and treatment adherence. These include:
It’s a tall order, requiring long-term flexibility and responsiveness of health systems, sustainable financing, innovations in pharmaceuticals, early detection and a significant shift in perspectives.
For more info on this insightful study click here: http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/90-90-90_en.pdf
Fia Janse van Rensburg and Sitho Mavengere presented a paper titled; Is the seemingly simple ‘urban/semi-urban/rural’ classification still relevant and adequate, and are evaluators aware of the discourse on geographic typologies in South Africa? This paper was motivated by the argument that in development thinking and evaluation practice and subsequent evaluations there is continuous reference to typology of ‘urban/semi-urban/rural areas’.
The key question in this paper, is whether the ‘urban-rural’ dichotomy, or an ‘urban-semi-urban-rural’ continuum actually exists. This typology is widely used, but there are differing definitions of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ exists, so although the same label may be used, the conceptualisation could differ. There is no standard definition of urban or rural characteristics as there are different geographical typologies that are used in South Africa. Migration and changing settlement patterns shows up the limitations of the ‘urban-rural’ classification, and questions its ability to adequately respond to the reality of social, economic and developmental diversity of populations residing in areas classified as ‘urban’.
Evaluators need to be aware how the geographical classification can contribute to intervention effects. More importantly, evaluators should be able to identify and use the appropriate geographical classification system to ensure adequate coverage of beneficiary groups in an evaluation. In South Africa, informal settlements are developing in affluent areas resulting in both urban communities and informal communities living side-by-side. When evaluations are being commissioned for these areas the interventions are classified as located in urban areas, yet it is both urban and informal.
For the evaluations to measure the effects of the programmes or projects, the geographical classification should play a pivotal role for the interventions to produce the desired effects. Therefore, evaluators need to understand contextual issues, including appropriate geographical classification of programmes implemented in South Africa.