For many, the idea of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) sounds as exciting as preparing your tax return. But for participants at a recent convening on documenting and learning from experiences of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), co-organized by IWHC and CREA and hosted by the Greentree Foundation, M&E was explored through a dynamic and distinctly feminist lens.
As advocates who work closely with young people, we know that well-designed CSE programs not only improve health outcomes, but also build self-confidence and critical thinking skills among adolescents, especially girls. Yet, measuring the impact of these programs can be tricky. How can we as feminist organizations demonstrate to governments and donors the value of CSE so that these programs can be implemented on a larger scale?
Too often, the international development sector adheres to the traditional hierarchy of data applied to clinical research, whether it’s a good fit or not. These types of impact evaluations are extremely difficult to conduct in most settings, and even more so under difficult conditions and with resource constraints. Moreover, these traditional models of cause and effect do not fully capture the nuance and complexity of CSE programs that seek to instill behavior and attitude change in learners. While focus groups and interviews have their place in documenting these activities, how can we move beyond typical research methods to better grasp the complexity of CSE?
Participants at the convening—representing 26 organizations and 15 countries—shared best practices for capturing data through innovative, participatory, and accessible tools and technology, such as mobile phones, interactive games, photography, and art. This shift away from traditional to non-traditional M&E enables young CSE learners to shape the evaluations that ultimately affect them, rather than being passive subjects of research.
Save the Children presented findings from a unique evaluation of Choices, a program in Nepal designed to promote positive gender norms among adolescents, that used card games, “pile sorting,” and vignettes to collect quantitative data on behavior change. To collect qualitative data, the program used a tool called Photo Voice and gave participants disposable cameras to take photos that illustrated “What is life like for boys and girls in your community?” Participants exposed to the Choices program were nearly half as likely as their non-Choices peers to capture images depicting traditional gender norms such as women cooking and cleaning and men working (45 percent compared to 85 percent).
Anuradha Rajan, an independent consultant from India, presented an interactive monitoring tool that was used to enable young girls to map where they felt safest in their communities. This process, called “Mobility Mapping,” utilized art and drawing to map out safe zones and “no-go” zones in communities, which enabled CSE program managers to adjust program sites accordingly, and raised awareness of vulnerabilities facing girls in their communities.
Eva Roca, a researcher at New York University, held a workshop on leveraging your mobile phone for the purposes of M&E based on her experiences with mobile data collection in Sudan. By using a cell phone, a readily available resource in many settings around the world, you can collect data through interactive tools such as surveys and mapping exercises. This type of data collection helps program implementers quickly recognize who is in their coverage area, who they are reaching (or not reaching), and who can access CSE programs. Utilizing a handheld device like a phone lends itself to being more engaging, more participatory, and less intimidating. Mobile data collection technology such as Formhub and Magpi allow for tools such as surveys, maps, and photographs to be used to collect data. These platforms are just two examples of software currently available to assist NGOs and researchers in conducting evaluations and monitoring activities.
The innovative examples and lively discussion presented at the convening suggest a powerful and interesting trend within the women’s movement to better capture the impact of our efforts. Finding new and creative ways to monitor and evaluate CSE will hopefully lead to more responsive, participatory programs that respond to and meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable: children and adolescents.