What was done?
The SHARP programme invested heavily in its partners, MSM CBOs. Beyond providing technical support and funds for programmatic activities, SHARP also made significant contributions to staff and core costs. As many of the CBOs were handling much larger budgets than ever before, the programme invested heavily in building the financial and reporting capacity of the CBOs.
In addition there was a strong focus in building Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) capacity and a software tool called SyrEx was rolled out by the Alliance Technical Support Hub based in Kenya to all the programmes partners.
Alliance Linking Organisations and regional experts were used to develop policies and systems of CBOs addressing areas such as governance, human resources, procurement policies and resource mobilisation plans. Support was also provided to increase technical capacity for community mobilisation, service delivery, best practice and latest guidelines and frameworks.
Strengthening community systems is part of the Alliance’s core business. In SHARP, the focus was on structural and sustainable improvements to the capacities of MSM CBOs. This would enable them to better implement programmes, accurately report their achievements and use data to inform programme management and advocacy.
Since the Alliance was founded in 1993, we have taken a long-term view of tackling the HIV epidemic by championing community-led programming and South-to-South cooperation. Strengthening the capacity of partners in SHARP was both a direct objective in itself and also key in achieving all four programme objectives of SHARP.
During the lifetime of the programme, SHARP has supported cross-country (and within country) learning, and strengthened the partners by continuing to build their capacity in areas identified during initial organisational assessments.
Challenges faced and limitations of our approach
While all SHARP partners had previous experience of implementing programmes, few had robust financial, reporting and other organisational systems in place. Due to the scale of investment in the partners this presented a significant level of risk. Yet it also required solutions that took into account the challenging environments in which the partners operate and the size and organisations’ stage of development.
Three key areas of focus for SHARP were:
1. Building organisational and financial management capacity
All SHARP partners received support in the development, use and maintenance of appropriate policies, systems and practices to ensure rigorous financial accountability and transparent procedures.
2. Strengthened monitoring and evaluation (M&E)
A significant achievement of SHARP was the rollout and use of SyrEX by all partners. SyrEX is a data collection tool that enabled the programme to use unique identifier codes (UIC) to identify individual clients. SyrEX allows the CBOs to accurately record their unique clients’ details and services received and to really own their data. They also have a better understanding of who their clients are and how they are reaching them beyond the lifespan of the programme. They will be able to use the data to inform programming and policy.
3. Learning and Sharing
SHARP organised a number of technical meetings to provide programme partners with opportunities to share and learn from one another’s experience and expertise. This included reflecting and learning about the implementation of workplan activities, as well as ways of working in individual organisations and with each other. The meetings were also used to document the successes, challenges and good practices that developed from the programme and to encourage increased South-South and country-country collaboration and partnerships.
In addition, field visits helped partners to see interventions and approaches first hand and allowing them to contextualise aspects of best practices around programming that were discussed during meetings and trainings. After these visits some of the learning was replicated in other countries.
- Investing in community systems requires building capacity in community organisations
- Capacity building needs to be appropriate and preferably transferable between programmes
- There is a correlation in the level of organisational investment and programmatic capacity
- Capacity building is multi-directional; for example, the Alliance had its capacity built on safety and security