EPMES and PRIN International hosted the first kick off training session in a series of planned interventions on increasing the selected Local Service Providers’ Understanding of USAID Policies and Regulations. This session focused on providing an overview of USAID foreign assistance principles and guidelines on program priorities particularly ADS 201 and the program cycle. Eleven members from the 6 firms participated in the training providing a diversity of ideas and contributions (Sign-up sheet attached). At the start of the session, each member was asked to provide his/her own expectations from the trainings and what they hope to gain. Some asked for clarification on the overall USAID goal for this endeavor and the underlying purpose and motive for the trainings and the resulting outcome of the interventions.
EPMES provided a detailed explanation along with a roadmap for the training objectives and the concrete deliverables to be gained by the firms continued participation. As a result, the firms were encouraged to send as many of their staff and technical consultants to attend future training to gain value from the knowledge sharing.
The groups were then given an opportunity to present each of their firms’ background and capability. Each firm was given 10 minutes to present a PPT that illustrated their organizational profile, areas of focus/expertise,
diversity of clients and M&E service capacity. This exercise was a great learning tool that allowed for greater understanding, team building and experience sharing. The groups were also asked to highlight some key differences and similarities as well as identify any gaps or challenges across their industry.
As each firm shared its experiences, the group found commonality of purpose and greater incentives to learn from one another.Some of the distinct similarities across many firms was that most of them already worked either with USAID or its IPs. We also witnessed differences
among the firms in size and capacity in terms of organization, staff, facility and engagement, which will have implications on the design of our capacity strengthening interventions.
Another element of diversification was in the regional scope of some of the firms which included East, West and Southern Africa. This encouraged some of the firms to broaden their network and seek international interventions. There was also clear value demonstrated in the active cultivation of a business development initiative
which focuses on identifying new funds/opportunities, on marketing and visibility, research and innovation, infrastructural stability and internal systems of control and quality assurance and the need for long term multi-year funding allocation.
Another key element was a discussion on how to grow your client base and how to identify and leverage your comparative advantage. In dealing with market expansion, firms were encouraged to seek untapped resources such as telecom and private tech companies that are looking to apply M&E services as well as areas of increased attention like gender-based violence (GBV) and Trade/Labor/Economic
Moreover, firms were also encouraged to tell their stories more with a clear communications strategy, to increase their visibility by joining professional associations, publishing more articles and conducting interviews. Each firm is also advised to publish an annual report with clear and transparent financial accounting.After the group presentations were concluded, a robust and candid discussion on potential areas of collaboration and mentorship, opportunities for cross-pollination and knowledge transfer and a commitment to share ideas was agreed to.
Subsequently, Mr. Dereje Getahun, the EPMES Senior Monitoring & GIS Specialist proceeded to give a detailed PowerPoint training on USAID organizational overview and program cycle priorities while highlighting key resources and tools for adaptive learning and implementation mainly ADS 201, the USAID Learning Lab, the Webinar Series and the Foreign Aid Explorer. Reference materials were also included as handouts. After a series of testing your knowledge questions on key aspects of USAID infrastructure and policy, Dereje extrapolated the importance of each firm understanding the core principles and values of USAID so they can be competitive and compliant with the required guidelines and regulations. One of the goals of the session is to manage expectations and to identify gaps in skills, systems and procedures that can be strengthened.
After having given the introductory session on USAID policies, Mr. Dereje emphasizes that given the diversity in capacity and scope of the 6 firms, EPMES is looking to customize the follow-on trainings to fit the desired focus and level of engagement to solicit greater contribution and learning from each participant. As such, each participant was given a detailed survey to complete that assesses the day’s training as well as solicits recommendations for future topics.
As part of the series of upcoming trainings and workshops EPMES is looking to incorporate elements of Proposal development; Contractual compliance; Budget and financial requirements (ADS 600); as well as Branding and Marking Requirements so the firms can get first-hand knowledge and practical exercises in proposal writing, responding to RFPs, marketing their firms, complying to standards and guidelines. As such EPMES is circulating an online survey to assess individual priorities and preferred topics and thematic areas to be covered. Therefore, EPMES along with PRIN plans to undertake 2 or 3 more trainings in mid to late January and February to accomplish those goals. Again, firms are encouraged to maximize their participation by including their consultants and other administrative staff (accountants, finance, data collectors etc.)
In conclusion, Dr. Tilaye from PRIN summarized some of the main criticisms and recurring complaints about the lack of local capacity for M&E service providers in Ethiopia. He highlighted what is often called the Iron Triangle which consists of Timeliness, Innovation, and Reporting. He urged each firm to do an honest inventory of its assets, its systems and procedures to address these 3 elements. They must each have a standard operation procedure that provides greater oversight of milestones and checklists, a system of transparency and ethics compliance, a quality assurance measure that ensures concise findings and recommendations, better triangulation of data, a system of indicator protocols and PMP plan along with a clear communications and marketing strategy. He also emphasized the importance of a robust physical infrastructure in relation to data collections systems, program management, and client interface. Moreover, firms are also encouraged to diversity their M&E design and planning strategies to include greater customization and innovation, and incorporating quality assurance measures to include copy editing, formatting and branding of reports.
As a helpful tool to assess each firm’s capacity, PRIN will be conducting a series of onsite assessments and desk reviews by applying the TOCAT toolkit to investigate and explore potential gaps and weaknesses. As such, each firm has agreed to set up a time for such an exercise of self-evaluation and technical assessment to be conducted by January 11, 2019.
The results of the TOCAT ratings will be used to customize the level of training/coaching or mentorship needed for each firm. Furthermore, Dr. Tilaye underscored the importance of having all levels of the organizational capacity assessment such as finance and administration, recruitment and staffing, information systems and communication, annual plans and strategic vision/mission, license/registrations and Tax compliance etc. on equal footing with the technical capacity assessment dealing with M&E design and performance management, as well as DQA, indicators, methods, and analysis.
Moreover, Dr. Tilaye outlined the larger aim of the initiative as being a comprehensive goal to develop a roadmap or national strategy for M&E capacity strengthening in Ethiopia. PRIN/EPMES has already been working in close consultation with key stakeholders such as CCRDA, NPDC, DFID, MOH, EPHA and EEV Association to draft a series of recommendations and a proposed way forward.
By: EPMES team