It’s not that bad…

CICED is currently running eight projects with six partners in five countries on three continents. We do our best to share stories from the efforts with our members and readers of CICED NYT. All in all, it’s going very well. Of course, there are bumps in the road, but so far we haven’t run into any serious faults or defects. And we can certainly say that.

But we’re not alone in this claim. Within the last month, we have received CISU’s assessment on two so-called final project reports. We thought it would be a good opportunity to share with our members and readers what happens when a project is completed and reported to those who granted the money, namely CISU. And at the end of the day, it’s taxpayers’ money, which means CICED members and readers of CICED NYT.

Formalities can quickly become boring reading, so we’ve turned the process on its head, starting with the not-so-subtle CISU feedback on the final reports of two projects: The Everest Network in Nepal and Quality Education for Indigenous Peoples in the Potosí region of Bolivia. We end the article with a fact box on the process from application to final report. Then you can just read the cheerful part.

Bolivia – Quality education for poor children and youth in the Potosí region

The project ran for just over 3 years with a focus on providing children and young people with linguistic, cultural and vocational skills to enable them to break out of poverty and participate in social life as active and equal citizens in Bolivia.

The target group was children and young people from the indigenous Quechua people living in villages in four municipalities in the Potosí region, one of the poorest regions in the Bolivian highlands. The effort focused on three areas: improving the quality of bilingual education – Quechua and Spanish; supporting socio-productive agricultural projects; and initiatives to keep young people in education.

The socio-productive agricultural projects, which are part of Bolivia’s education law, should support children, young people and their families to achieve sustainable lifestyles. The involvement of agricultural efforts was largely provoked by climate change in the region, which requires the introduction of new crops and/or innovative cultivation methods.

Educational programs for the youth included vocational guidance and rights education, with a special focus on how to properly respect girls’ rights.

Working with the youth and local communities, the project aimed to run accommodation facilities in the larger villages to provide opportunities for youth, especially girls, from the smaller villages to attend secondary school.

CISU acknowledges the final report with the following:

It’s an informative report with great reflections on achievements and challenges. CISU recognizes that it has been a great loss to the project that the original project coordinator died unexpectedly after the first year of the project. The report gives the impression that a lot of effort has been put into keeping the project running afterwards. It’s great that the project was successfully completed with great results despite challenges with both COVID-19 and fatalities.

The revised report provides a good insight into the achievement of the set indicators and the 3 project goals.

Objective 1: The report gives the impression that a solid collaboration between municipalities, education authorities and local school leaders has been established. It is positive that teachers’ competencies in teaching has been strengthened, and it’s great that you were able to switch to online teacher training when COVID-19 hit. In particular, it is positive that the teachers’ new appreciative approach to teaching multilingual students has impacted the children’s well-being and professional development at school.

Goal 2: It is positive that the project has contributed to children and young people at the affected schools having a more varied and healthy diet and a greater desire to go to school.

Goal 3: It is positive how the project has supported the formation of student councils at all schools and that children/young people are actively involved in decisions about the development of the school homes. It’s great that the student councils have also acted as a channel for including children/young people in decisions about the project, for example by being able to suggest changes to the project’s activities.

For future project applications, it is recommended that you carefully consider the number of indicators per project objective. Often 2-3 good indicators per goal will suffice. This can make monitoring more manageable without having to deal with, for example, 27 indicators, as has been the case for the current project.

Nepal – The Everest Network

To effectively adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, those with lived experience must be consulted. Much research suggests that one of the greatest assets after a disaster is the people who experience them, but this asset is hugely underutilized. People often experience increased community cohesion after a disaster, and this cohesion is greatest in the immediate aftermath of a disaster”.

With these words, we opened the application for funding to create The Everest Network. A mere DKK 99,000 project with a duration of just 10 months and inspired by lessons learned from the major earthquake back in 2015, the Helambu floods in 2022 and the ubiquitous climate change that increases the risk of mudslides, floods, crop failures and more.

The project was launched with these objectives in mind:

  • To inspire and leverage each other’s resources to better meet the challenges of climate change.
  • To better understand how they can support their respective communities in adapting to the growing uncertainty of climate change and ensure preparedness to reduce the impact of natural and climate-related disasters.
  • Empowering local communities to play a central role in the design, planning and implementation of adaptation and preparedness interventions, including
  • Shifting disaster response and funding from a reactive to a proactive model.

There were 10 organizations involved from the start. Today, The Everest Network counts 17 active community-based organizations.

CISU acknowledges the final report with the following:

It is an informative and well-written report that gives the impression that the project has more than met its goals and objectives. There are several key achievements, for example, it’s impressive how the network has managed to create a culture of support and solidarity among network members.

It is positive (and very impressive given the limited budget) that all network members have gained new climate skills, have designed individual climate organization strategies and are all in the process of integrating climate adaptation into their work.

It seems to be a wise strategy to keep the network informal, which has had several positive effects in terms of collective responsibility and power sharing.

Finally, the website seems very relevant, updated and professional! And it sounds interesting that the network has expanded its collaboration to include experience sharing with Kenyan CBOs.

From application to approval of final report

CISU’s grant system is quite solid and efficient. We say this even though we sometimes get rejected for an application that we think is great. But it always turns out that there’s room for improvement once other eyes have taken a look.

Once an application is submitted, CISU’s grant committee starts the assessment process. Applications under DKK 500,000 can be submitted on a rolling basis, while applications over half a million are submitted for two annual assessment rounds – March and September.

The CISU Grants Committee consists of eight members appointed by CISU member organizations. The members have different organizational backgrounds, but are all experienced project makers. Members are paid DKK 60,000 per year for around 300-400 hours of work.

The work of the grants committee is supported by five highly experienced consultants who are paid to prepare the grant notes that form the basis of the grants committee’s decisions and recommendations. Small applications up to DKK 200,000 are read and assessed by one member of the committee, while larger applications are read and assessed by two members, after which the entire grants committee decides whether an application should be approved or not.

In this way, the appropriations committee works a bit like a city council: it is the ‘elected representatives’ who democratically make the decisions, which are qualified by presentations/notes from management/experts.

If an application is deemed ‘eligible’, CISU enters into a contract with the applicant and the project can begin. If the application is rejected as ‘ineligible’, the applicant will have to go back to the committee with improvements, which can be guided by the memo that follows all committee decisions and is sent to the applicant.

Once an application is approved by the grant committee, the committee has nothing more to do with the application. After that, project implementation, monitoring and reporting is a matter between the applicant and CISU’s management. CISU’s consultants can provide guidance in the preparation of applications, but have nothing to do with the actual grant procedure. There are watertight barriers between the grant system and management.

Thus, it is also CISU’s professional consultants who assess the final project reporting, just as it is CISU’s management that assesses the final accounts.

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