By Madeline Vaughan, Senior Programmes Manager
Put a group of “Adarians” (as the Adara team affectionately call ourselves) in a room together, and one thing you notice straight away is diversity. I don’t mean diversity only in terms of nationality or gender, but also in our life experiences and professional expertise.
As I looked around the room in Nepal last month, I saw a greenhouse engineer sitting next to the office cook, sitting next to a Monitoring and Evaluation Manager with a PhD in Public Health, sitting next to a driver, sitting next to a Fulbright Scholar, sitting next to a lawyer and investment banker. A Hindu, sitting next to a Buddhist, sitting next to a Christian, sitting next to an atheist. A Nepali sitting next to a Tibetan, sitting next to a Kiwi, sitting next to an Aussie, sitting next to an American.
Each person at the table with something to contribute – each voice as important as the next. All fuelled by their passion for improving the lives of people living in poverty.
This room of amazing people had gathered to run a Theory of Change (ToC) process with our Nepal team in Kathmandu. Before you read the word ‘Theory’ and start to snooze, bear with me, as I promise this is a powerful tool!
At Adara, we use a ToC to plan projects, and to take a step back from our current projects to check if our work is leading to the change we want to see.
A ToC begins with identifying the long-term outcome we want to achieve. What is the change we want to see in the communities we work with? Then, we map backwards – what are all the preconditions necessary to achieve this change? By starting with the change we want to see, rather than the activities we are going to do, we can really ask why we do certain things, and consider if there are other things we should be doing instead.
Over three days of soul searching and lively debate, Adara’s Nepal team developed two ToCs to guide some of our remote community development work for the next five years – one for our work in Humla and one for our work in Ghyangfedi. They identified the long-term outcomes they are seeking as:
1) All people in our target villages in Humla experience improved living standards; and
2) Girls in Ghyangfedi are empowered to bring positive changes to their community, and are able to battle the risks they face
As we mapped backwards from these goals, we identified new things to consider, and found areas of our current work that need more focus or resources. We also identified areas where we are performing strongly and should continue work as usual.
The other cool thing about the ToC, is that it has given us a map for monitoring and evaluation of this work. Having the team clear on the outcomes we are striving for means we can identify the indicators that will show us if outcomes have been met.
Dr Mohan Paudel, our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Manager is devising stronger M&E systems for all our projects. Our ToC session in Nepal is part of this monitoring and evaluation process and ensures best practice in our work to improve health and education for women, children and communities living in poverty.