Misean Cara’s purpose is to enable missionaries to facilitate effective development work. With this in mind, it supports member organisations to reflect upon how they approach their work, and on how they can set themselves up for success in the projects they undertake. Strong and clear organisational structures and processes are major factors in implementing quality projects that create lasting change in people’s lives.
Member Capacity Development funding
Capacity development initiatives contribute towards our Strategic Goal 5 by strengthening the capabilities of member organisations and their project teams, as well as the systems and structures within which they work.
In 2018, we made Member Capacity Development grants totalling €427,265 to 16 members for 21 projects across 33 countries.
The benefits of this support are two-fold. In the first place, members are enabled to implement effective projects, bringing both immediate and longer-term benefits to communities. Secondly, the ability and professionalism of project teams are enhanced, thus building up the capacity of civil society in the country in general.
Important gains in improved systems have also been supported by Misean Cara capacity development funding. The take-up by members of system-wide policies and approaches in, for example, finance and in monitoring and evaluation have strengthened governance and accountability for development effectiveness. There is also better connectedness between rigorously developed strategic plans and objectives, and operational planning and implementation, rooted in results thinking.
In the past, members’ capacity development priorities tended to focus on the preparation of project proposals. By 2018, however, a focus on more strategic topics was evident, including governance, financial accountability and strategic planning at country and regional levels.
The Latin American concept of acompañamiento (“accompaniment” in English) is fundamental to how Misean Cara staff, mentors, Missionary Development Officers, project teams and communities work together. It is not an arms-length, detached provision of advice, but a deep engagement based on an understanding of circumstances, challenges and opportunities.
The mentorship programme is one element of our acompañamiento. Four regionally based mentors have been appointed in Latin America, Southern Africa, West Africa and East Africa. Between them, they cover 35 countries, making visits or maintaining contact with project teams, advising on all aspects of the project cycle from initial concept to reporting.
In 2018, the mentors made a total of 257 project visits across 33 countries, supporting 56 member organisations and their project teams. Almost half of the visits were of two or more days’ duration.
We want to ensure that our members and their project staff are up to date with the latest thinking in their thematic areas and that they have opportunities to share with others working in the same sector. Our mechanism for making this happen is the Sector-Based Community (SBC). There is a Community for each of Misean Cara’s thematic areas. SBC meetings are organised by Project Officers or by mentors, and often coincide with a country monitoring visit. There were ten SBC meetings in 2018, in Ghana, Kenya (3), Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, Zambia and Ireland (2). Topics covered ranged from health information management systems to child rights, to advocating for systemic change at a local level and barriers to girls’ education.
The key link between project teams on the ground and our staff in Ireland is the Missionary Development Officer (MDO)appointed by each member. The MDO is an essential contributor to the efficient and effective delivery of change in people’s lives. It is the MDO who channels project proposals from project teams through the online project management system. The MDO ensures that project teams are in possession of the most recent versions of policies, processes, guidelines and templates when preparing project proposals, reports, monitoring activities and evaluations.
Project monitoring visits, always carried out with a view to learning and the improvement of results, are another aspect of acompañamiento.
In 2018, MDOs monitored 71 projects in 19 countries, while Misean Cara staff and mentors visited 57 projects in six countries.
We carry out audit visits to a selection of members’ projects each year.
In 2018, 23 projects in three countries, valued at almost €1.5m, received audit visits.
Our acompañamiento also happens virtually through the Members’ Knowledge Resource Hub which was launched in July 2018. This is an online repository of documents useful to project teams and MDOs, including background documents, strategies, policies, templates and guidelines. Accessible by password through our website, there are over 250 Hub users worldwide.
Learning from our work
We strive constantly to learn from our work, so that there can be ongoing refinement and improvement in project implementation. Each year, a number of external evaluations are commissioned on different thematic areas, with a view to identifying lessons for the specific projects and for our wider membership.
In 2018, three external evaluations were conducted. All eighteen projects reviewed were judged to be very effective (13) or quite effective (5) in delivering change to the target communities.
The fourth piece of evaluation work in 2018 was a meta-evaluation, which looked at reports from 47 project evaluations commissioned by members in the period 2011-2018. The meta-evaluation found that “… Misean Cara member organisations are implementing quality projects that are bringing real change to the lives of vulnerable people. Project success is being enabled by the Missionary Approach to Development, involving as it does a holistic approach within a long-term perspective.”
We carry out research into the work we support. In 2018, detailed investigation into the missionary approach to development interventions, carried out over the previous two years, resulted in a reflection paper, a learning event and a learning brief.
Research in 2018 concentrated on a child rights-based approach to child safeguarding. Through an in-depth study of how missionary development organisations have approached the challenge of safeguarding, the purpose of the research is to develop and gain consensus on a set of signposts leading to new approaches to safeguarding that effectively bring into harmony the missionary approach, a human rights focus, and contemporary development best practice.
Lessons learned from evaluations and research are summarised in Learning Briefs, which are publicly available on our website. Six were produced in 2018, on topics ranging from livelihoods to peace-building to faith-based and missionary approaches to development.
Photo caption: In Nigeria, [L – R] Sisters Henrietta Eziashi, Anne Mogaji, Louise Orji, Rosemary Mbah and Ann Uba from the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception discuss key issues in project cycle management, during a workshop facilitated by Misean Cara Development Mentor Michael Nkrumah. Photo: Misean Cara.