"Improving the livelihoods of people brings more stability"

Sustainable development impact – an abstract concept put into practice

Orange Knowledge Programme scholarship holders about their participation in short courses of Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation.
Posted by Nuffic

The development landscape has become increasingly complex over the last few decades. Many of the issues that we face today, such as climate change, poverty and conflict, call for a new way of doing business which contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals. The Managing for Sustainable Development Impact approach is central to the short course ‘Evaluating and Managing for Sustainable Development Impact’ at Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI). It supports leaders and development practitioners in navigating this complexity and guiding initiatives and organisations successfully towards sustainable development impact.

Connecting female farmers to markets in Syria

Basma Kamal Ibrahim Al Quzah is from Amman, Jordan and has a lot of experience in working with refugees from Palestine, Iraq and Syria in her country. Jordan welcomed many refugees and Al Quzah is proud of the hospitality of her country. “We open our doors to people in need and we help them. Our government does and our communities do as well.” The 47-year-old Al Quzah works as a monitoring and evaluation manager at the Near East Foundation in Jordan. “We support remote communities in the north of Syria by connecting farmers and food processors – who are often women – to markets and improving their productivity.” The people in this region suffered hardship due to the ongoing war in Syria. “They have nothing left. They need our support. Improving the livelihoods of these people brings more stability through economic development.”

Putting beneficiaries such as these people first and involving them in the project is one of the main things that Al Quzah learned during the course. “In the past, in many projects that I know in Jordan, the project would not be discussed with the beneficiaries. Now, I learned and realised that the beneficiaries are the main stakeholders. The people whose lives we aim to improve need to be involved from the start.”

She also learned the tools to do so, she adds. “The course is very interactive and practical, using cases of participants from all over the world. We learned how to involve stakeholders in making a theory of change – a plan for the project – and how to communicate effectively with different stakeholders. You learn how to use evaluation during the operation in the management of a project. This course helped me to develop capacities, for example in communication, that I now apply in my work. I share my experience and insights with colleagues and others here. Knowledge improves our work and this greatly improves the livelihoods of people. Having more and better-trained people would surely increase development and stability in the Middle East.”

"The course is very interactive and practical, using cases of participants from all over the world."

Engage people in safeguarding water in Palestine

Amal Said Hudhud from Palestine holds a PhD in environmental engineering and has worked at the municipality of Nablus since 1996, heading the department for strategic planning and economic development. People in Palestine endure conflict and hardship constantly, and it is hard to engage them in safeguarding access to clean water, energy and other resources. The course brought Amal the tools to engage people even when there are continuous safety threats.

To ensure access to water (which is under very serious threat), electricity and sound management of waste, a city plan was made in Nablus. “We need to engage people in that plan. We must cooperate, for example with representatives of ministries, youth organisations or civil defence. Also, the people in the street need to be engaged, because we need them to participate in saving water and energy, to keep the street and public places clean from domestic waste.”

During the course she learned how to engage stakeholders, by using monitoring and evaluation tools in the management of the city plan. “Through continuous monitoring and evaluation, we get information about the results and impact of what we do. We disseminate that and that helps to engage more people by showing them that it matters to them as well.” Another option is to teach them how to do it better. For example, when a new wastewater treatment plant was planned in the east of the city, Amal had a meeting with people living in the neighbourhood, explaining about the importance of the project and seeking their opinion. People disliked the smell of the plant and, in the end, the plant was located further away from residents.

Win-win for all

“I also learned to approach and communicate with different people in different ways. For example, you must talk about technical issues in simple words for most people. On the other hand, to engage people, you have to understand people and see how they could gain. You should have something to offer and build their capacities; for example, on how to raise funds for their own projects. There should be a win-win for all.”

"I learned to approach and communicate with different people in different ways."

Transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s government

Olasumbo Ayinde-Yakub Safuriat, a senior government official in Nigeria, sees that if her country wants to increase the effectiveness of national government programmes and to enhance transparency, it needs better monitoring and evaluation tools. She attended the same ‘Evaluating and Managing for Sustainable Development Impact’ course in Wageningen. Speaking via Skype: “I am in the middle of a training right now, presenting the knowledge I gained at the course in Wageningen to high-level policymakers from various ministries and agencies, for example on justice, security and economic affairs.”

She is Deputy Director at the Ministry of Budget and National Planning of Nigeria and heads the division on Monitoring and Evaluation. "Insecurity and poverty are still major issues in Nigeria. The government is putting so much money and resources into combating insecurity and fighting poverty. We need to monitor the programmes and see what happens to these resources.”

More transparency and accountability are needed in Nigeria, and better monitoring and evaluation are needed for that purpose, Ayinde-Yakub continues. “We need to be accountable to the public; to the citizens. They are the future; they need to know what the government does and why it is relevant. Transparency is very important, and that all depends on monitoring and evaluation, and communicating the results effectively.”

Build capacity

“The bottleneck is a lack of capacities. Good government planning needs critical thinking, and analytical and facilitation skills. More officials in government need to have this capacity, and we must make sure that they see the benefit of monitoring and evaluation”, she concludes.