In December, the Atlas Alliance had the pleasure of hosting an in-person workshop on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) for local partners in the Together for Inclusion (TOFI) project in Oslo.
TOFI (Together for Inclusion) is a groundbreaking partnership where Norwegian DPOs and NGOs work side by side with local partners to create inclusive programs that center the lived experiences of persons with disabilities. In Norway, the partnership is led by the Atlas Alliance. The six workshop participants, hailing from Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Uganda, were gathered in Oslo to evaluate the current M&E system and make recommendations for improvements.
A challenging start
Through the TOFI project, the Norwegian organizations, as well as their local partner organizations, have utilized new M&E systems and tools. While there are clear advantages to using standardized tools across countries and programs, there have also been difficulties.
These challenges were exacerbated by most, if not all, courses and guides being conducted online. As the TOFI project commenced in 2019-2020, so did the global pandemic, effectively limiting the opportunities for in-person training. Therefore, the Atlas secretariat and the participants were understandably excited about this highly awaited occasion.
Sandra Asizu, M&E manager for NUDIPU, the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda, states that “[h]aving this in-person experience has been, I think, the biggest highlight for me, [h]aving to interact with the real developers, asking them questions here and there and trying to figure it out together was just really awesome.”
«We are not alone”
As the participants gathered in the meeting room, which became their second home throughout the week, there was ample time to raise questions on behalf of local TOFI partners. While some concerns were unique and required country-specific answers, other questions received nods of familiarity.
Not only was this a valuable experience for the participants, but the workshop also provided them with the resources to support their local partners.
Zerithun Kassahun, program director for Natanim, an Ethiopian organization working with mental health and providing psychosocial support, explains that this can increase the quality of reporting, adding that “[w]hen we go back, hopefully, we can answer the questions that have been raised [by the other organizations] almost for these two years.”
While there are contextual differences between the countries, the added value of working together was much appreciated, with one participant summarizing succinctly that the workshop provided the feeling that “we are not alone.”
The same tools in different contexts
This week’s many exercises and activities have provided the participants, both from the Atlas Secretariat and the local partners, with invaluable insight into how the system works on the ground.
“The beauty with the TOFI program is [that] we are using the same tools. […] Of course, the activities may differ, the context may differ, but the overall vision or goal of the program is the same,” Oliva Nalwadda from NAD Uganda explains.
According to Karianne Bye, Senior Adviser M&E, the purpose of the week was to provide training in using the M&E system and to encourage unfiltered feedback.
“The common goal is to co-create a system of tools that work in the different contexts it is being used in. The Atlas Alliance is grateful for the participants sharing their knowledge about the challenges and pitfalls of the system. We also look forward to implementing the suggestions and recommendations that the participants have brought forward,” says Bye.
When asked about her experiences this week, Martha Alemayehu Mamo, from SOS Children’s Villages in Ethiopia, explains that “[t]he experience has been like a solution because we have been facing challenges for the past three years. […] This week we have been part of the solution. We have made recommendations, and it has been a really good experience.”