After a brief look at three of the crises currently facing African nations in which Newfrontiers churches are working, Guinea, Kenya and Zimbabwe, we shall now return to the Key Indicators which should typically characterise well-executed ministries with the Poor.
During the first weeks in September we looked at Key Indicators which were peculiar to Christian ministries. Since then our focus has been on Indicators of ‘good practice’ which could apply to any relief and development work, although our approach has been to look at these from a Christian and Biblical perspective, as appropriate.
When any ministry is planned, clear goals and expectations need to be defined (see Project Cycle Management - see Sept 22). Although the processes of monitoring and evaluation are distinct, both reveal whether the ministry is accomplishing the goals which were identified at the start and whether the intended impact is being achieved for the beneficiaries. In order to be certain this is the case it is necessary to define at the outset what measurements will be used to determine ‘success’. Subjective evaluation, important as it is, must never be the only basis for assessing success. There must be objectivity.
Monitoring is an on-going process. It is like checking the route during a journey to ensure that you are not off-course so that any correction can be introduced before it is too late.
Evaluation, in contrast, is what takes place on arrival. Did we choose the best route? Would we go a different way next time? Evaluation is used to look back and assess the effectiveness of the overall project. It seeks to define with critical assessment any ways in which improvements can be made on future occasions.
Since there is little point in continuing a ministry if the intended goals are not being accomplished it is vital that the monitoring and evaluation processes are carried out rigorously and with intellectual honesty. We all want to be successful and it is very easy to interpret what we see through the eyes of hope. However, this is both bad science and bad practice!
Liaising with other groups can significantly increase the effectiveness of the ministry either through active partnership or through networking. Too often people work in isolation and deny themselves much good experience that others have acquired. It is both discouraging and inefficient to ‘reinvent the wheel’!
Partnership implies a working relationship either in the ministry or through funding. To be successful there must be clearly stated goals and mutually agreed expectations, and regular communication between all the interested parties or ‘stake-holders’ is vital.
Networks tend to be more informal than partnerships, although some clarity of definition and expectations can be beneficial. Their success depends on the willingness of all parties to share knowledge and to support one another as may be appropriate. For instance, dissemination of successes and failures is a powerful learning tool for others, even cross-sectorally. (Sectors are categories of relief and development work e.g. health, education, agriculture.)
However, a more formally defined network can be valuable for providing a resource of knowledge and experience to others who may be considering setting up an equivalent ministry or be in need of assistance. Examples of these which are used regularly by churches in the Newfrontiers family would be:
CareConfidential, which networks Centres that provide free confidential help to those facing an unplanned pregnancy or who have post-abortion concerns
Community Money Advice, which assists churches and other community organisations in setting up debt advice centres in their local community