The challenge of sustaining change in a volatile policy environment

I've been talking this morning with a friend in Pakistan. A very wise woman, the national director for the country-branch of an international development organisation.

We talked about change. The pace of change. The depth of change. The sustainability of change. And the risk to change - in communities and organisations - in the absence of genuine policy change by organisations.

Marguerite's thought was that 'if people change - really change - organisations change as well. And if the way of working by organisations should go back to default businnes as usual, those people will continue to act and change.'

I wondered what our AIDS-Competence community would think of that. I know what I would hope for. But is my hope a lofty ideal?

Let's assume an organisation whose senior leadership endorse programme action that stimulates, supports and learns from local response. Organisational morale soars, local response increases and expands, donors are challenged but satisfied by results that exceed expectation. But what if that organisation fails to internalise that direction? It is simply good practise, not safe-guarded by policy and vulnerable. What if a change of leadership takes place - a personality with different preferences for different approaches? What if a facilitative approach reverts to an interventionist approach? What if process gives way to more mechanical programmes and short-term projects? What if there is less priority given to accompaniment of local action?

Can change be sustained in the absence of policy reform?

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Very interesting question Ricardo. The last months, the CFT is thinking of possible 'business models' to spread (AIDS) Competence at scale. One of the preferred models is certainly to establish a strong National Facilitation Team or a member organization (RDCCompetence, BelCompetence, Kenya Competence etc) that would drive the facilitation of local responses nationally together with committed organizations.

At the same time, Phil just came back from Togo where the Red Cross implemented Malaria Competence to reach over 2 million people and train 15,000 Red Cross volunteers. An incredible achievement. Is this not a preferred business model? Why not choose relevant organizations that have the complete infrastructure and build their capacity on the Competence approach? It seems to work, at least in the short term. Phil shared his experience from the private sector: "This can go well for a couple of years, but leadership can change and champions (like Blaise Sedoh in Togo) can leave and then what? What happens if those 'changed people' Marguerite is talking about leave that organization, which happens a lot in the development sector. The organization can change their direction drastically and local responses can loose its priority.

This is one of the main arguments to establish some kind of member organization (with as little bureaucracy as possible), but whose charter, mission and vision are build upon the foundation of local responses. This can ideally run parallel to other models where indeed internalization is something to strive for.



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