The Research and Evaluation, Forum Loop

This innovative model for strengthening research and evaluation capacities furnishes the collaborating partners -- and in turn local, less-resourced and less-experienced NGOs in the eastern and southern Africa region -- with the relevant theoretical and methodological evidence to strengthen program development planning processes. In turn, lessons learned by AMREF-Kenya through this collaboration stimulate the creation of a dynamic model for information sharing within northern research institutions, a process in which problem-solving and the exchange of experiences between the North and the South are conducted in an egalitarian manner. At AMREF-Canada, lessons learned are disseminated through health and development fora involving local/regional health NGOs, in a context of participatory learning for shared and mutual benefit.

The Research and Evaluation, Forum Loop


Ongoing, dynamically-linked health and development fora are central to the Research and Evaluation, Forum Loop. These fora are designed to legitimize critical scientific discussions on specific priority health and development concerns, involve a cross-section of participants and stakeholders (representing government, NGOs, communities, universities, business and corporate communities), transcend disciplines and knowledge systems in ameliorating critical health and development concerns (merging scientific and indigenous knowledge systems; evidence and experience; theory and method), and are linked in such a way that knowledge learned in one setting (eg., AMREF-Kenya) is efficiently communicated to other individuals and institutions in the Research and Evaluation, Forum Loop. In fact, the process for enhancing research and evaluation skills requires an integrative process of communication, debate, negotiation, and planning. Problem areas, research concerns, ideas, evidence, experience, or lessons learned can enter the Research and Evaluation, Forum Loop at any of the entry points. For example, evidence identified by McMaster University researchers can be communicated directly to AMREF-Kenya, or for that matter, AMREF-Canada (for purposes of development education); experiential evidence garnered through AMREF-Kenya can simultaneously be shared with local, indigenous NGOs, other country offices in the AMREF family of NGOs, and northern research institutions.

In more concrete terms, how might this innovative model work in addressing a particular priority health and development concern in Kenya?

An Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Scenario:

Stage l:

An indigenous NGO (eg., The Young Women's Christian Association of Kenya, YWCA) is concerned about the risk for STDs, and especially, HIV/AIDS amongst adolescent girls. Uncertain of what has been tried before, or for that matter, what might be the most appropriate primary prevention strategy to introduce for adolescent girls, it approaches AMREF-Kenya for advice and assistance. AMREF-Kenya invites members of YWCA to attend one of it's fora, in this instance, a forum on "designing, disseminating, and evaluating an HIV/AIDS educational intervention for adolescents." YWCA program officers are told that they will have the opportunity to present their concerns; in the forum, they are introduced to those persons at AMREF-Kenya working on these issues. What results is a collaborative project between AMREF-Kenya and YWCA. The YWCA has a receptive research and intervention population; AMREF-Kenya provides technical support in developing an intervention appropriate to this group, but in partnership with YWCA.

Stage 2:

While a relationship has been established between AMREF-Kenya and the YWCA in Kenya, both organizations come to realize that other NGOs in the region are struggling with the same issues. By now, they are communicating regularly -- through fora and a list-serve created on the topic through electronic mail and the internet -- and over time, there emerges a discourse on the subject of adolescent sexual and reproductive health concerns (the question they are all asking is: what are the appropriate interventions for this age group?). Having tried a number of things, they realize that they could do better. They have more questions than answers, and real concerns about the nature and efficacy of the interventions they have tried. Could they be doing something better? Are there examples of interventions -- in other parts of Africa -- where there are successes (eg., in peer education, support, and counselling for adolescents at risk for HIV/AIDS)? Have any of these programs been systematically evaluated? Is there ongoing research on the subject that might inform and influence the program planning process?

Stage 3:

At this stage, AMREF-Kenya invites McMaster University researchers to enter the discussion. Can they help in identifying lessons learned, research and evaluation theories and methodologies that might be useful in these deliberations in Kenya? They agree to generate evidence sets for these deliberations, and in addition, agree to participate in one of the AMREF-Kenya fora on the subject. In addition, they are asked to introduce how appropriate research and evaluation techniques could be incorporated in program planning processes. They meet, and together, generate a strategy for program planning processes that builds on health and development experiences (in the area of adolescent sexual and reproductive health concerns), and existing as well as emerging scientific evidence. The resulting project team may be comprised of researchers from McMaster University, research and evaluation program officers from AMREF-Kenya, health educators from the YWCA in Kenya, and adolescent girls from Kenya who participate as key communicators on what, in this instance, emerges as a participatory action research (PAR) project.

 Research & Evaluation Needs

Project Goals, Objectives & Activities

Benefits to the Partners

Priority Health Concerns at AMREF-Kenya

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