Rising voices: Celebrating successes, embracing mistakes, and discovering new perspectives
by Alex Loer and Peris Kariuki, Roving Monitoring and Evaluation Officers for Asia and Africa
Voice stands steadfast in its mission to contribute to an inclusive world where empowered rightsholders can express their views and demand their rights for responsive and inclusive societies. As we journeyed through the revelations of the recent final evaluation report, we embraced the ride and found growth in the process. We invite you to join us on this reflective journey. Each revelation becomes a stepping stone to move us toward a future where the voices of rightsholders not only echo but resonate with unparalleled strength. The narrative unfolds as Voice celebrates its successes, confronts its challenges, and learns the lessons that can guide its ongoing pursuit of social change.
Celebrating successes: Triumphs unveiled
The evaluation report showcases notable successes, each a testament to the unwavering commitment of grantee partners – and Voice as a programme – to empowering rightsholders. It unveils a story of adaptability and resilience, showing how Voice embraced change as the wind beneath its wings. This adaptability not only ensured continuity in the face of unprecedented challenges, it also emerged as a cornerstone for success. Each of the grantee partners’ wins is a source of inspiration that is propelling Voice forward.
How adaptability became the grantee partners’ and Voice’s superpower
The report highlights the continued relevance of the work of grantee partners in the face of shrinking civic spaces and fundamental rights challenges. Moreover, in the unpredictable storm that was 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Voice was able to keep its rhythm. Throughout the implementation period, it embraced change and let it be the wind beneath its wings to rise above unprecedented challenges. Voice was able to adapt to diverse contexts and challenges, turning obstacles into stepping stones. This adaptability not only ensured continuity but became a cornerstone for success.
Rightsholders’ voices shine amidst the challenges
Despite a myriad of challenges, rightsholders remained steadfast in the pursuit of their rights, they geared on towards the dream they have for a better future. The report showcases the tangible impact on the ground, with grantee partners and rightsholders gaining significant recognition and credibility in advancing human rights.
“We are not yet where we want to be. Definitely, we are not where we used to be.”
– Grantee Partner from Tanzania
A symphony of change with the magic of Linking and Learning
Voice’s emphasis on Linking and Learning has proven transformative, fostering collaboration and networking opportunities among grantee partners and rightsholders. The creation of a supportive community has empowered them to collectively address challenges and seize advocacy opportunities, exemplifying the strength of peer-to-peer learning. The report unveiled the magic of Linking and Learning, as it continues to magnify impact and turn isolated efforts into a symphony of change.
Embracing mistakes: Innovation opportunities
While there are lots of wins and successes to be proud of, there are also challenges that have served as a source of learning and reflection for Voice. The programme chose to embrace its challenges as much as its wins and successes, because they have shaped what Voice is and what it can become.
The granting mechanism’s accessibility
Despite Voice’s commitment to inclusivity, the report points out challenges in the granting mechanism’s accessibility. Some grantee partners faced difficulties due to strict requirements. The report candidly discusses the complexities of our granting processes but does not stop there. It provides a call to action, an acknowledgment of the need to simplify processes and enhance inclusivity and flexibility to empower a more diverse group of rightsholders. For Voice, challenges are opportunities to innovate, and acknowledging them is the first step to overcoming them.
Flexibility of the Pathways of Change
The report likened our Pathways of Change to a complex dance, which while well-understood, is considered rigid. Because projects often span multiple areas simultaneously, the report nudges us to move gracefully to the ever-changing rhythm of social dynamics. It was a reminder to pursue avenues that will facilitate a more flexible approach that aligns with the complex and diverse nature of social change.
Sustaining impact beyond lifespans and barriers
While the programme has achieved commendable impact, the challenge lies in ensuring sustainability beyond project lifespans. The report urges a critical examination of management capacities, risk management and addressing potential barriers at local and global levels to ensure lasting results. Sustainability requires patience, flexibility and a commitment by all stakeholders even beyond Voice. We also must realise that this might look differently to different people. As such, we are committed to listen, learn and act where necessary.
Discovering new perspectives: Lessons learned
Throughout Voice’s journey, we have encountered triumphs, challenges and moments of reflection. As we sift through the insights gleaned from our recent evaluation report, this section focuses on the lessons learned. Here, we unravel the essential takeaways from both successes and hurdles, reflecting on potential paths ahead.
A dynamic Theory of Change
Taking into account the dynamic nature of social change and contextual developments, the report recommends the development of a more dynamic Theory of Change (ToC) that reflects real-world experiences. Actively involving grantees and rightsholders in the ToC development can ensure a more inclusive and effective roadmap for the program, promoting local ownership, and skill-building strategies. This is a reminder to involve grantee partners even more in ToC reviews and updates while making them resonate with the real-world experiences of those Voice supports. Additionally, it reminded us to view the review and update process as a living collaboration, ensuring our journey aligns with the voices we amplify.
A Knowledge Repository for continuous learning
To capitalise on lessons learned, the establishment of a Knowledge Repository is recommended. This repository, accessible to all partners, will serve as a continuously updated resource, ensuring that new practices are included, and obsolete ones are excluded. As such, we have embarked on a journey to feed into the repository even as we prepare for the programme’s closeout.
Leveraging the strength of communities for sustainable solutions
Community-based approaches, as highlighted in the report, emerge as a model practice for overcoming operational challenges or risks to grantee partners arising from the complex contexts they are navigating. By leveraging the insights of grantee partners and tapping into the insights of their communities through collaboration with local actors, strategic partnerships can be sustained, inclusivity can be enhanced and voices of rightsholders amplified.
Redefining boundaries: From successes and mistakes to blueprints for change
Voice has made big strides in establishing itself as a rightsholder-centred grantmaking facility in the development sector. It has been amplifying rightsholder voices through various channels and supported grassroots organisations in positioning themselves for influencing and adaptability. However, staying relevant necessitates the ability to adapt to the evolving situation. Voice’s commitment to inclusivity, adaptability and collaborative learning will undoubtedly shape the next chapter of its journey as it strives to create a lasting impact and elevate the voices of rightsholders.
In the spirit of continuous improvement, this evaluation serves not only as a reflection on grantee partners’ and Voice’s past work but also as a roadmap for future interventions. As we embrace the successes, tackle the challenges head-on and internalise the lessons learned, we are determined to turn challenges into stepping stones, victories into inspirations and lessons into blueprints for a future where change knows no bounds.