Monitoring and evaluation can often seem like the less glamorous younger sister of exciting implementation, who comes first, steals the show, is effortlessly photographable and charms everyone around her. As a CWS staff member whose job starts when the implementers go home, however, I’m here to tell you that monitoring ensures that implementation becomes something more than superficial AND has a certain charm of her own!
I recently read that, disturbingly, 50,000 rural water points representing $215-360 million in investments are in disuse or disrepair across the continent of Africa. This trend holds in the context of Northern Ghana, where we operate. In 2009, IIED surveys reported that 58% of established water points needed repair in this region. ABSURD!! While it is awesome to take pictures on opening day, it is even more awesome to take pictures 5 or 10 or 20 years down the line, with projects that continue work in the communities they were intended to serve.
CWS’ dedication to monitoring and evaluation led me to participate this week in a webinar titled “Test of Time: Practical Tools and Methods for Post-Implementation Monitoring”. I joined 90 other water and sanitation practitioners who listened to a panel discussion from sector leaders and innovators, moderated by Water for People’s CEO (and my long time celebrity crush… too lame?) Ned Breslin. The discussion was interesting in many ways, but what struck me most was how many cutting-edge monitoring “innovations” are already engrained in CWS daily operations! Routine project follow up? CHECK. Customer satisfaction surveys? DAILY. Use and publicizing of crowd-sourcing technologies like SMS, mapping, and data collection? Our new monitoring platform, ghanawaters.crowdmap.com has all these capabilities! I gotta say I was pretty proud of our commitment to follow-up that day. That’s not to say we don’t have ways to grow. Cool opportunities for continued follow-up include continuing an emphasis on behavior change and health education, continuing “capacity building” (NGO-ish for helping people become more competent and confident in relevant skill sets), and incorporating supplies like extra buckets and chlorine into the village market scene. But, with the help of some intensive initial monitoring (which allows us to DETECT problems, SOLVE problems, and SCALE UP solutions), 10 and 20 years down the line I envision CWS partner villages being functioning, self-sufficient and satisfied customers.
Here’s to bucking the trend!