• Written by Ethel Mendez Castillo
    5 April 2017

Lea este caso de estudio en español aqui.

HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is a Swiss development organization that works to create a just world in which all human beings can live a life in dignity and security, exercising self-determination, making sustainable use of natural resources and conserving the environment.

Above (left to right): Isabel Ventura, Sanitation Facilitator, SAHTOSO; Silvia Castillo, Project Coordinator, WIP; Marcelo García, Project Coordinator, FORJA; Julio Boj, Integrity Advisor, WIP. Tejutla, San Marcos, Guatemala. 15 February 2017. Photo by J. Andrés Gálvez-Sobral.

The Helvetas Guatemala program started its work there in 1972 with the aim of contributing to social and economic development, motivated by solidarity among citizenry and guided by the principle that development should not benefit just a few. Its work focuses on strengthening capacities and empowering local, regional, and national stakeholders using a participatory methodology, with equity and cultural relevance, for the benefit of disadvantaged groups. The program’s efforts are channeled into four closely related areas:

  1. the rural economy
  2. natural resources and climate change
  3. water, sanitation, and hygiene
  4. governance and peace.

Helvetas Guatemala’s staff is divided into teams that implement various projects in the departments of San Marcos, Totonicapán, Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, and Quiché. 

Left to right: Silvia Castillo, Project Coordinator, WIP; Julio Boj, Integrity Advisor, WIP; Isabel Ventura, Sanitation Facilitator, SAHTOSO. Sibinal, San Marcos, Guatemala. 15 February 2017. Photo by J. Andrés Gálvez-Sobral.

In early 2016, Helvetas Guatemala embarked on a process to strengthen, from a results-based perspective, the monitoring, evaluation and learning within their projects. The results-based approach emphasizes the effects projects have on the target populations, such as improvements in health and education. This contrasts with the implementation-based approach, which emphasizes tracking performance of activities, such as installing water pumps. It is under this framework that the Akvo team accompanied the Helvetas Guatemala team in a process that consisted of:

  1. Reviewing project planning documents as well as the monitoring and evaluation processes.
  2. Training staff in monitoring, evaluation, and learning from a results-based perspective.
  3. Integrating into their program innovative technologies to capture data online (such as Akvo Flow).

Review of planning documents using the results perspective
The staff of the project Integrity in the Water and Sanitation Sector Development, known as Project WIP, were the first to engage in the review of the project’s planning documents and results framework. During the review week, which was facilitated by Akvo, the project team made explicit the theory of change on which the project is based. Then, in accordance with that theory, they adjusted the results and indicators proposed in the initial results framework. This exercise gave team members a clearer understanding of how their day-to-day activities contribute to improving access to water and sanitation services for the population, and to the quality and good use of those services. In other words, emphasis was placed on the connection between the activities and the impact sought to be attained by the project.

A similar process took place months later with the staff of the Territorial Rural Economic Development Project, known as PRODERT. This time, the workshop’s aim was to review the results framework of the project’s second phase in order to set the ground for establishing the baseline, which would be collected using Akvo Flow.

In addition to adjusting the projects’ planning documents, these two processes aimed at strengthening the teams’ capacities by allowing them to put into practice within their own projects the principles of results-based planning, monitoring and evaluation.

Left to right: Silvia Castillo, Project Coordinator, WIP; Marcelo García, Project Coordinator, FORJA; Isabel Ventura, Sanitation Facilitator, SAHTOSO; Julio Boj, Integrity Advisor, WIP; Tejutla, San Marcos, Guatemala. 15 February 2017. Photo by J. Andrés Gálvez-Sobral.

Training on monitoring, evaluation, and learning
The results of the WIP and PRODERT review workshops provided input for developing a more general training workshop on monitoring, evaluation, and learning with the staff of the other Helvetas Guatemala projects. This third workshop was organized and facilitated by Akvo with personnel from the HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation main office in Switzerland and the leadership team of the program in Guatemala. During the five-day workshop, participants learned about different approaches for monitoring, evaluation, and learning (i.e. results vs implementation based), and their role in the project cycle. The workshop also covered tools and approaches for designing projects, the framework for results and indicators, data collection and data use methods, and knowledge management.

Above: The Helvetas Guatemala teams attend monitoring and evaluation training. Xela, Guatemala. June 2016.

Facilitating data collection with Akvo Flow
Strengthening the teams’ capacities for the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of projects has gone hand-in-hand with the use of Akvo Flow to expedite data collection in the field. The activities in the Young Agro-Entrepreneurs Development project, FORJA, are especially noteworthy. This project’s objective is to train young farmers in business skills, as well as gender equity and social and environmental responsibility in order to contribute to improving their income and quality of life, with the goal of contributing to sustainable local economic development. The first phase of the project started in 2006 and a decade later, in 2016, the team conducted a tracer study using Akvo Flow to identify the project´s long-term effects on youth who had completed the program.

Today, the team continues to work using a results-based approach and Akvo Flow in their projects. Recently, they applied the Theory of Change methodology for planning the new Total and Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene Project, known as SAHTOSO. Akvo also facilitated this process and is involved in developing surveys for setting the baseline on sanitation and hygiene behaviors. SAHTOSO joins WIP, PRODERT and FORJA in the list of Helvetas Guatemala’s projects that collected (or will soon be collecting) indicator data using Akvo Flow.

These activities are evidence of Helvetas Guatemala’s commitment to continue growing into an organization that learns and seeks to be ever more effective in its work. Moreover, Helvetas Guatemala recognizes that as its team´s capacities become strengthened with new tools and know-how, they are able to innovate, do a better job, and attain better results.

Ethel Méndez Castillo is a monitoring and evaluation specialist, with a particular focus on the US and Latin America. Follow her @ethelnmc.

Read more stories in the Akvo partner heroes series