Hi, I’m Lisa Frantzen, Senior Consultant, Evaluation and Learning at TCC Group. I work with foundations, NGOs, and companies to strengthen their practices to use evaluation with a learning mindset.
Over the last few years, I’ve worked with more and more clients that are asking questions about how they can shift power and leadership of program implementation and evaluation to their internationally-based partners. I’m encouraged by this increased interest in “localization”, but I have also encountered steep challenges within organizations trying to make these changes due to deeply rooted norms within their ways of working. Some of these challenges include:
- Having established timelines set to meet organizational U.S. Board expectations, but that don’t allow the time needed for meaningful integration of international partners.
- Stating a desire to have international partners prioritize local needs and project designs but a reluctance to let go of a legacy program that isn’t prioritized by local staff but has ties to U.S. donors.
- Reluctance to invest in other ways of information sharing (e.g., reports submitted in local languages or in non-written forms).
- Moving to direct funding of local organizations but requiring overly rigorous evaluation reporting.
And, of course, there are many more challenges as well! However, I try to meet these challenges with a problem-solving mindset rather than with overwhelming feelings of despair and there are several examples from which I draw inspiration which I’ll share here.
- The Overseas Development Institute (ODI)’s report, Are we there yet? Localisation as the journey towards locally led practice: models, approaches and challenges, provides a list of key questions (see table below) to help determine the extent to which localization is being prioritized by an organization.
- In the report, The Story of SOS Sahel UK, The journey from one international to four national NGOs, and the accompanying webinar, learnings and challenges from a localization process are shared from both the perspective of the original INGO and the newly formed in-country NGOs.
- In this report,Time to Decolonise Aid, Insights and lessons from a global consultation, Peace Direct, ADESCO, Alliance for Peacebuilding, and WCAPS share important insights from a three-day convening to discuss structural racism and decolonizing aid. They offer recommendations for INGOs such as moving from short-term implementing partners to long-term strategic partnerships that are not determined by project cycles. They also offer recommendations for donors and policymakers.
- WomenStrong shares how they have changed how they work with their grantee partners to shift power structures in the article,Three Steps to Improving Evaluation in the Philanthropic Sector. They center the learning questions of their partners and take the lead from communities on what success look like.
As I learned years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer, regardless of where we’ve come from or where we’re going next, we have a lot to learn from each other when we listen and engage in the moment. In this blogpost, Building Evaluation Capacity Across International Offices, I share a process that I used working with Hand in Hand International to set up cross-country coaching while developing country-specific evaluation frameworks. I hope it may be of use to you.
Do you have other lessons that you’ve learned about localization? Or other sources of inspiration? I’d love to hear about them!
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