Genevieve Drouin, Regional Program Manager for the Americas, travelled to Bolivia from July 22 to August 3, 2012 on a CFTC monitoring trip.
You travelled to Bolivia earlier this year with Canadian Feed The Children. Can you explain what the objective of the earlier trip was?
GD: Last time I travelled to Bolivia with CFTC was in February, and I went for one week to work exclusively with one of CFTC’s partners. I worked with our partner IPTK on a large proposal we are developing in collaboration with them.
IPTK works with some of Bolivia’s most vulnerable populations, prioritizing work with children, youth and women. It focuses on health, education and livelihoods support, including food security. Many of the children benefiting from IPTK’s urban programs in Sucre are from migrant families that move from the rural highlands to the city in search of a better quality of life.
CFTC supports IPTK’s community-based early childhood development centres and after-school learning and support centres. They are located in Sucre, which is the constitutional capital of the country and the fourth most populated city.
What was the purpose of this most recent trip?
GD: My most recent trip to Bolivia was, in part, a monitoring trip. I was joined by CFTC’s Director of Programs, Heather Johnston. We spent time meeting with each of CFTC’s partners. It makes such a big difference to our everyday work when we have the chance to meet the staff running our programs, and see the partners on the ground and how they work and run their programs. We are also better able to identify any areas that may require support or strengthening and this makes a big difference once we are back at the head office in Toronto.
The second purpose for the trip was to support and participate in CFTC Bolivia’s Theory of Change workshop that took place during our second week in Bolivia. This is an organization-wide strategy CFTC is using, which we call our Roadmap to Change, to gain clarity about the change we and our partners want to create over the long-term and how to go about doing that.
It was an excellent workshop, with strong participation and lots of new and innovative ideas flowing from our partners. We came out of this workshop with a really strong framework for focusing our work, a more coherent understanding of ours and our partners’ strengths and weaknesses, and the ways in which we believe we can have the most impact in Bolivia. We call this framework our Roadmap to Change Country Map.
The third reason for the trip was to support the country office and management.
How do you see the Roadmap to Change Country Map impacting CFTC’s programs in Bolivia?
GD: The country map will help our partners move towards a longer-term, sustainable development focus. This is part of CFTC’s transition from a broad year-to-year approach to a long-term, measurable strategy for change. Although none of our partners had used a theory of change approach before, their knowledge and experience in program and strategic planning allowed them to jump right into the process and get really involved to make the process as productive as possible.
What was their reaction to being introduced to this new tool?
GD: There was really strong openness and participation among all partners, with lots of great ideas that came forward. They really made the workshop a big success!
Was there anything that surprised you during your conversations with partners and beneficiaries during your trip?
GD: I would have to say the complexity of the political situation in Bolivia. There are so many layers of political organization, and very strong opinions about the country’s politics. All of this impacts the work of CFTC’s partners on a daily basis, because they need government support to build sustainable programs. They are aware of the need to work with the government, and many of them are, but it’s such a complex environment that it creates a lot of challenges.
None of our partners are politically affiliated in any way. They are all non-governmental, non-profit organizations, but they need public support to create sustainable programming. Most are working in education and health, and many of them are filling a gap that they feel should be better supported by the public system.
So the challenge then becomes running high quality programming for children and their families, while ensuring that they have a voice in strengthening the public system to reach more children with stronger, more sustainable health care and education services.
How does a monitoring trip impact future planning?
GD: Seeing how programs are implemented on the ground helps you understand the programs better. It is great to read the detailed reports that we receive in our Toronto office, but it takes seeing the work in action, and speaking to the staff and the children that are a part of these programs, to really understand how the partners work and the context and conditions that they work in.
Visits bring up new questions about our work, and provide the time and the direct contact to ask these questions to a number of different people, including staff and beneficiaries, and hear what their responses are. This allows us to better support the Country Office, the partners, and it also allows us to make better decisions at the head office when we have first-hand knowledge of the context our partners are working in.
When CFTC staff travel, we learn more about our partners, but also about the country and regional context, the political and social situation, and how that impacts the decisions our partners make – why they do what they do. It allows us to understand the bigger picture and then be able to work more effectively with and support our partners.
What is something that you will take away from this trip?
GD: I would say it would be a feeling of confidence in our partners, knowing that we are working with organizations that are running excellent programs, and have a lot of strengths and are really having an impact in the communities where they work. It is obvious that our partners are providing valuable programs that would otherwise not be there. I really believe that the partners CFTC supports are giving children a better start and a better chance in life as a result of their work.