Strategy spotlight program

Strategy spotlight: Working to Prove and Improve our Programmes

Earlier this year, we launched our 2023-2025 Strategic Plan titled Strong Foundations, Broad Horizons. Structured through four lenses, this plan will see us:

  • Impact many more lives through our deep commitment to developing and scaling models of health and education excellence, including AdaraNewborn and AdaraRemote.
  • ‘Prove and improve’ our programmes, with an enhanced emphasis on monitoring and evaluation.
  • Amplify our reach by sharing our knowledge widely.
  • Resource and enable our vital work through robust strategies to continue developing Adara’s operations.

This is the third in a four-part blog series delving into these lenses. In this blog, we learn more about the “prove and improve” lens which will see us continue to develop and enhance our programmes, with an increased emphasis on M&E, and Innovation and Best Practice.

“At Adara, we are fortunate to have teams entirely dedicated to measuring and tracking our work,” says Caitlin McGrath, Adara’s Senior Programmes Manager. “When we began talking about our Strategic Plan last year, we knew that Monitoring and Evaluation would need to be at the centre. How are we meant to scale and expand our work without understanding the change we want to make and whether our programmes are having the desired effect? During the planning process, we had deep conversations about what we want to achieve and how we can ensure we track this for every single project or initiative. We came away with a strong understanding of where we want to be in 2025.”

In addition to M&E, our Innovation and Best Practice team, led by Dr Kimber Haddix-McKay, support us to continually develop our programmmes.

“This work is really about staying on the cutting edge of international development,” says Caitlin. “We want to ensure that we are always researching the best ways to deliver service and transform lives.”

Together, these two streams of work form the “prove and improve” lens of our strategy. But what are the tangible activities these teams have planned? And how will they impact the reach and quality of our work? We spoke with some of the Adara team about highlights from the coming years.

Monitoring and Evaluation Highlights

Since beginning our work in 1998, we have been committed to tracking our progress and monitoring each project to ensure we deliver best-practice service.

This is why we use M&E to:

  • monitor the performance of our work.
  • receive feedback on our programmes from the communities we support.
  • identify issues and trends in projects.
  • inform national or global knowledge.
  • advocate for programmes or approaches.
  • contribute to research.
  • demonstrate our impact.

“The M&E team support Adara to use high-quality monitoring and evaluation data to measure the efficacy of our programmes, learn from our successes and mistakes, and disseminate findings and recommendations to key stakeholders”, says Daniel Silver, Adara’s M&E Manager.

Over the years, our M&E stream of work has grown so that everyone – from hospital administrators to programme managers – can make informed decisions that improve health and education outcomes.

“We have invested in systems that provide rich data on admissions to the Kiwoko Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). We have regularly surveyed households to understand how our programmes have changed community attitudes and have developed comprehensive theories of change that outline how and why we will achieve expected outcomes,” says Daniel.

By integrating M&E into programme design, we can maintain continual ‘feedback loops’. This provides us with regular insights on progress and performance, while alerting us to any emerging issues to keep our programmes on track. This is an area of focus in our new strategy, as we aim to ensure the communities we work alongside are involved in programme design and adaptation. For example, our 2021 Humla household survey collected in-depth data from over 820 households to better understand their needs and to highlight whether programmes needed to change to meet these needs more effectively. The responses to the survey provided rich data to inform activities in the Strategic Plan.

Under this plan, our M&E team will also assess the effectiveness of project activities in line with our theories of change (ToC). At Adara, we use ToCs to plan projects, and to assess if our work is coherently contributing to the change we want to see.

“Theories of change allows the M&E team to outline clear outcomes our work strives to meet, meaning we can identify the indicators needed to measure the impact of our programmes,” explains Daniel.

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? We then 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.

Currently, we are reviewing all our ToCs to ensure they reflect the context of the communities we work with and include logical, relevant assumptions. We will also develop new ToCs where needed, including for AdaraRemote This will ensure our teams are united in their vision for the impact of our programmes.

Finally, looking forward to 2025, our M&E team also plan to facilitate the development of tools and methods for data collection and analysis to improve service delivery. For example, we will work in collaboration with our colleagues at Kiwoko and Nakaseke hospitals to develop a Quality of Care tool. This tool will integrate World Health Organization recommendations and best practice on measuring the quality of care provided to mothers and newborns in health facilities. It will be a crucial way of measuring the success of our AdaraNewborn model of care. This tool will encourage self-assessment and ensure that the care being delivered aligns with global evidence and necessary protocols and precautions. The findings from the tool will inform a Quality Improvement Plan that addresses areas of care that need to be improved and can be monitored by all relevant stakeholders.  

Innovation and Best Practice highlights

We are also committed to increasing the impact of our programmes by ensuring they are informed by innovation and best practice.

To help us achieve this, our Innovation and Best Practice (I&BP) team regularly develop papers and share emerging research to guide programme development and support the thinking of our Global Leadership Team.

“We are passionate about ensuring that we always consider the best and most impactful ways to deliver service and share knowledge,” says Dr Kimber Haddix-McKay, Adara’s Senior Advisor of I&BP. “Under our 2023-2025 strategy, we plan to continue to connect Adara’s Global Leadership Team with emerging knowledge and industry-leading findings to improve outcomes in the global health and education sectors. We will also build new mechanisms for the dissemination of Innovation and Best Practice findings to strengthen the implementation of best practice in Adara’s programmes.”

One instance where I&BP has informed programmes in a tangible way is through researching cultural beliefs and practical responses to safe sleep in Uganda. Thanks to research and findings from our I&BP team, we were able to tailor our response to introducing education on safe sleep. This also involved M&E as we reviewed incident forms that were collected for our Hospital to Home programme and discovered behaviours and outcomes that may have been prevented with safer sleep practices.

This also highlights the intersection between I&BP and M&E. M&E data found the problem. I&BP researched the solution. Programmes implemented some changes.

By integrating M&E and I&PB into all activities under our Strategic Plan, we believe we will deepen our impact. We look forward to sharing the progress with you over the coming years.

Read our full 2023-2025 strategy:

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