Research and Evaluation Needs at AMREF-Kenya


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are increasingly under pressure to make program planning and resource allocation decisions based on the best available evidence. AMREF-Kenya, for example, has the benefit of years of experience working with communities in addressing health and development concerns. While the research evidence accumulated over time by AMREF-Kenya personnel has been useful and appropriate in program development (an indication of experience-based decision-making), program planning and the decision-making required to address present and future priority health concerns require that it systematically incorporate scientific evidence as well in the program planning process (eg., use of epidemiological, clinical, and social-scientific evidence). Evidence-based decision-making, complementing experience-based decision-making requires that there is a viable research and evaluation capacity to catalyze the program planning process.

Why would AMREF-Kenya, an NGO committed to research and evaluation as a means to influence program planning processes, seemingly fall short in this endeavour? There are several reasons.

For NGOs, the methodologies associated with research and evaluation are not user-friendly. There are gaps in knowledge; research and evaluation is mystified; and there are few examples of health and development collaboration across sectors (i.e., NGO, university, government, and community). NGO and government personnel feel that research and evaluation is too rigorous and too difficult; as a result, there are psychological barriers against research and evaluation that would strengthen health and development programming. Evaluation, in particular, has been viewed as "northerners" criticizing "southerners." Typically, these exercises annoy and frustrate rather than support and facilitate. All of this has created an ethos of "research and evaluation inertia" amongst AMREF-Kenya and other related NGO personnel.

Also contributing to this inertia is the fact that many program success stories are hidden in "grey literatures" and are only available to those interested in searching out the evidence written in unpublished reports, manuscripts, and newsletters. Most of the "lessons learned" by AMREF-Kenya in health and development programming are not in published form. In fact, there are a mere handful of scientific publications that document success stories, research experiences, and outcomes of AMREF-Kenya's accomplishments in health and development.

What is needed is a new culture for research and evaluation in health and development which focuses on the four areas depicted below.


Four Components Required to Strengthen Capacity for Research and Evaluation at AMREF- Kenya

 

AMREF-Kenya, AMREF-Canada, the Father Sean O'Sullivan Research Centre and Salama Shield Foundation are collaborating in the development of appropriate, grounded, and participatory methodologies for research and evaluation of health and development programs. This collaboration will enhance the research and evaluation capacities of AMREF-Kenya and other regional health and development NGOs through the implementation of a Research and Evaluation, Forum Loop.

 Project Goals, Objectives & Activities

 Benefits to the Partners

 The Research and Evaluation, Forum Loop

 Priority Health Concerns at AMREF-Kenya

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