Smart development in 5 questions
Customer service is at the heart of business. Companies tirelessly survey and sound out their clients, and adapt their strategies and products as necessary. Why should it be different when it comes to development?
A new approach proposed by a group of researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) intends to do just that: get continuous feedback from project stakeholders and make immediate use of the results to adjust priorities and adapt project implementation if need be. But in a quick, cheap, and effective way.
This approach, aimed at improving transparency, mutual accountability, and effectiveness of development projects, was just awarded a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenge Explorations initiative, and will be tested through an on-going CIAT project in Tanzania.
The 5Q approach, as it is called, is dramatically simple. It envisages asking sets of five questions at regular intervals to each one of a project’s stakeholder groups – e.g., farmers, project implementers, and donors – and rapidly analyzing answers to assess if the project is on the right track, and, if not, adapt swiftly.
“We are very proud and grateful for this grant,” says Andy Jarvis, Director of the Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area at CIAT, and the one who pushed the idea forward to his team and challenged them to develop the concept. “I trust that 5Q will revolutionize M&E in development, making it fun and effective. It ensures mutual accountability and integration of stakeholders in a way never seen before. I really look forward to see the first results.”
The 5 questions will change throughout the project cycle and depend on previous answers, but will always address changes in awareness, behavior, access, and use of information.
Answers will be collected through the means best suited to each stakeholder group, such as face-to-face surveys, mobile phone apps, web apps, participatory video, etc., to successfully involve a greater number of beneficiaries in program evaluation.
The results will then be disseminated in ways that allow all stakeholders to access them – community video nights, web platform, mobile phones, community radio stations, etc. – and stakeholders will be able to react with their preferred technology.
By visually presenting feedback from different groups side by side, 5Q connects stakeholders across the board.
This methodology will be first tested in Northern Tanzania as part of a project aimed to increase food security and farming system resilience through wide-scale adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices and technologies. The project is supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and uses participatory and communication tools to engage farmers in selecting locally appropriate climate-smart agriculture practices and link local and scientific knowledge. The 5Q approach will be integrated to engage in feedback and M&E right away.
“We need to be flexible, and keep the ability to adapt at any moment,” says CIAT’s Tenesia Benjamin, who will be coordinating the project. “In this project in Tanzania, 5Q will allow us to create timely feedback loops, with reduced workload for the project implementers. In the end it will benefit the farmers as well as the donors.”
If 5Q delivers on its promises, it may well change the face of M&E of development programs.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenge Explorations initiative was launched in 2008 and fosters innovation in global health research. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed US$100 million to encourage scientists worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas to fight our greatest health challenges. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.
CIAT’s 5Q approach was awarded the grant through the challenge’s Round 12 on Innovations in Feedback & Accountability Systems for Agricultural Development.