PHB Academy: Translating lessons into action

Final Learning Event for CARE POWER Africa

24-26 April 2018, Kigali, Rwanda

What did we learn? How did we learn? What do we do now? These were the central questions of the final learning event that PHB Academy facilitated for CARE POWER Africa, a 5-year project to promote Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). PHB Academy’s Pete Sparreboom (below in the photo, standing) designed the event in close collaboration with the project’s regional team and used her expertise in process facilitation to help project staff find answers.

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Financial services for the poorest

POWER Africa, implemented by CARE International between 2014 and 2018 with the support of the Mastercard Foundation, helped 750,000 food-insecure households in Burundi, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire and Rwanda increase their financial literacy, develop income-generating activities, get access to formal financial services, and reduce gender gaps through VSLAs (see left for more details).

Translating Lessons into actions
Translating Lessons into actions

Ms Silvia Grande, CARE Canada’s Senior Advisor Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning said, “The workshop was aimed first of all at better understanding what POWER Africa had accomplished, and what lessons had been learned in the process.”

Lessons learned

The point of this end-of-project workshop was not to train project staff on the basis of VSLAs – after all, they were the experts! Instead, the purpose was to help them draw more advanced lessons from their experience, document these lessons, and use them in the design of new projects as well as personal action plans.

Some of the project activities and lessons learned that were discussed during the event:

  • Efficient models for bringing VSLAs to scale: Instead of engaging with local NGOs, it may be better to engage individual members as Village Agents and support the development of an independent Village Agent Network (Rwanda and Burundi).
  • Linking VSLA members to formal financial service providers: While banks and mobile network operators may initially hesitate to develop appropriate products for VSLAs, once they see the business case they will invest (Rwanda and Cote d’Ivoire).
  • Decreasing gender gaps through VSLAs: Groups of girls-only adolescents can result in jealousy, and in violence by boys; engaging “male role models” in awareness-raising can help overcome that problem (Burundi and Cote d’Ivoire).
  • VSLAs as a source of resilience: Access to savings, credit and advice from peers through VSLAs can help members cope with climate change and drought without selling livestock (Ethiopia), and with political instability (Burundi).

Investment in knowledge generation

One of the reasons why the project achieved much more than it initially set out to do is that the Mastercard Foundation made available a budget for monitoring, evaluation and learning that was much larger than usual in projects of this nature. It also encouraged staff to submit evidence-based proposals for changes to activities and budgets and approved many. Ms Silvia Grande said, “PHB helped us see how we had applied action learning in the different countries, and how we could apply action learning even better in the future.”

The value of facilitated peer learning

Ms Grande continued, “We were happy to have an external facilitator like Pete to structure our experience and help us realise how we could carry forward our learning. Besides, her technical knowledge of financial inclusion and VSLAs was very useful, with good examples to share from experience.”

Pete Sparreboom, in turn, was pleased to be able to assist CARE staff in strengthening their skills in participatory action learning and adaptive management, in translating lessons into concrete projects and action plans, and in embedding continuous learning and improvement even deeper into CARE’s practice.

For more information about the CARE POWER Africa project, visit: https://care.ca/power-africa

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