Simavi’s belief is that maximising impact is not only about the number of people that we reach, but the genuine change we engender in people’s lives. This is why we are speaking out about our ambition to not only measure our results (e.g people reached with comprehensive sexuality education or number of people trained on hand washing), but we ask ourselves the question to what extent these results contribute to our highest aim: a healthy life for all.
At Simavi, taking responsibility for demonstrating the impact of our work has always been one of the main drivers to achieve our goal: a healthy life for all. In the past few years, we have developed a comprehensive theory of change as the ultimate principle to ensure that we empower behavioural change widely and effectively. But in practice, how do we measure the effectiveness of our work? This is where evidence informed programming comes in.
Evidence to demonstrate impact
Traditionally, when monitoring programmes, it is often to present immediate effects, such as the number of people given comprehensive sexuality education and the number of people trained on hand washing. But what about after the class is dismissed? Do we know if participants continue to practice healthy behaviours or making well-informed choices about their health? To understand the actual impact of our interventions, we need evidence.
In this light, Simavi partnered with Erasmus University in the end of 2015 to conduct a rigorous review to find out which interventions on our key areas of working (Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) have the most impact. We have assembled these interventions, based on rigorous scientific research in a database, which can be shared with the sector and with donors.
Database of interventions
The database showed interventions that: 1) have demonstrated impact, 2) interventions of which we do not know its impact, and 3) interventions that have no impact. Based on this, we embarked on a journey to see what we can do to stop the interventions that have no impact, and what we can do to create evidence for interventions of which the impact is unsure. For the latter, we have set up new programmes according to the principles of evidence informed programming.
In practice, Simavi has gained valuable insights on how to do that. For example, based on the Theory of Change of two large programmes we have assembled extra information during the inception phase to sharpen up and improve the Theory of Change and its assumptions. This extra information consists of a rigorous evidence review and a needs assessment providing information about the context. Based on this, we have set up two large programmes in Bangladesh (Ritu) and in Ghana and Tanzania (Going for Gold), in such a way that they provide rigourous evidence on impact. Simavi’s added value with regard to this is that we can share the results with the world, contributing to the evidence base of SRHR and WASH interventions, and we can share insights on how to embark on the journey of setting up programmes that can deliver evidence on impact.
Embracing evidence informed programming
Having these insights allows us to utilise our resources and design upcoming programmes more effectively. In addition, with our in-depth understanding of evidence informed programming, we expect to deliver three added values, accelerating the change towards a more responsible programming manner sector-wise.
Firstly, we believe that collaboration is vital and we are keen to reach out to other civil society organisations (CSOs) to strengthen knowledge and insights together, using our expertise on evidence informed programming. Collective intelligence allows us to deliver the most impact on as many people as possible. Without doubt, the development sector is responsible for gaining insights and analysing impact. However, donors also play a crucial role on translating words into actions.
Secondly, we encourage donors and partners to understand the fundamental reasoning behind our approach and empower them to take responsibility for the impact created with their money. To fully implement evidence informed programming, it requires more resources, in terms of time and money spent on research, monitoring, and evaluation. Therefore, donors’ support are essential. We aim to assure our donors that we make the most impact out of every cent they contribute and, most of all, to inspire them to examine our work based on scientific evidence.
Thirdly, based on our experience, we are in a strong position to assist other CSOs on starting their own trajectory of evidence informed programming. The more CSOs are on the same page, the greater impact we can achieve together.
Looking forward, what we need most urgently from all stakeholders is a shift of mindset. A mindset that’s open, critical, and self-critical. We are pleased to have embarked on this journey of embracing evidence informed programming. We envision our common vision ahead and we invite you to come on board!