Written by Marinke van Riet, Global Programme Manager & Inez Hackenberg, Global Linking and Learning Coordinator
We're halfway there!
And no, we are not referring to the song of Bon Jovi here (for those old enough to know: Livin' on a Prayer), but rather to the journey Voice has undertaken thus far. In October 2018 Voice is exactly half-way into our five year programme lifecycle and ready to receive a team from MDF to undertake the Voice Mid-Term Review.
A good moment to reflect. An even better moment to learn.
While we already know that we are not able to do justice to the 30-month rollercoaster ride, we will attempt to touch upon the key particles which make us proud on the one hand and…. prickly on the other.
Picking up the pace
Up until early June 2018, we and other key stakeholders were concerned about the low level of grant allocations Voice had made. In 2017 Voice managed to allocate Euro 9.9 million and up until June there was a little over Euro 5.5 million in additional funding commitments. However, in the last couple of months there has been an amazing acceleration of grantee contracts. We are currently at Euro 18.8 million having hence already doubled the allocations of 2017 with still four months to go. And we are expecting at least another Euro 1 million in allocations in the coming weeks bringing us close to the Euro 20 million target.
Reflecting upon this, it has taken potential grantees as well as the Voice country and coordination teams a year to get into the rhythm of knowing and understanding Voice, submitting a good proposal, selection and contracting (the so-called ping-pong process). Considering the complexity of the groups, the various grant types, the limited human resources at country level and a rapidly changing external environment perhaps this is remarkable and something everyone should be proud off. Or, were we needlessly concerned?
One thing Voice is proud of is the diversity in, inclusive practices and presentation of our grantees. In the online overview and related stories, publications and/or news items, we are able to track the money flows from each Call for Proposal, grant type, the target groups and impact themes. We have a complete commitment to transparency unless personal safety risks demand confidentiality. The portfolio is also meant as a means to amplify the existing projects as well as inspire future grantees and others to learn.
Nothing About Us, Without Us is the leading principle within Voice and grantees demonstrate this through either their way of working, values, their staffing and/or governance structure. While the principle is no rocket science in theory it has been remarkable to witness how challenging it can be. Still, Voice believes it is high time that the right voices are at the table rather than on the menu as was mentioned during an outreach session in Kenya.
Finally the portfolio is also prosperous because of the richness and diversity of the Linking and Learning Facilitators which facilitate the linking and learning at national level. We have amazing partners covering specialities like participatory video making, co-creating, fail fairs, storytelling etc. This extended community of linkers, learners and shapers promote connections and collaboration within and across the Voice focus groups, grantees and other stakeholders.
Voice(s) come with people and people come with Voice(s). The results Voice has seen thus far is because of the people behind it, at all levels. It is primarily because of the passionate people behind the grants but also because of the country teams and the coordination team. But at the same time, passionate people has also brought its own set of challenges; the high turnover within the Voice country and (to a lesser extent coordination) team has meant a loss of institutional memory and human potential during the early phases of Voice. There is also a great variety in how the Voice Programme Officer is titled and positioned within the ten focus countries: from a grant specialist within Oxfam in Cambodia to a project manager in the Hivos regional office in Indonesia and Philippines. The Mid-Term Review offers a great reflection and learning opportunity on the responsibilities, role, seniority as well as positioning of the Voice programme officer and country team.
Within Voice we have the unique opportunity to create a different way of grant-making particularly for new groups. For empowerment grants, for example, we allow applications and reporting by audio and video, something Pamflet has done through a series of vlogs. We also have launched Calls for Proposals using videos and/or radio such as in Laos and Nigeria respectively. We also introduced the eligibility test a fun tool to guide potential grantees through a series of threshold questions to assess eligibility before submitting a proposal.
Obviously we need to balance increased access with carrying out due diligence processes to assess financial and absorption capacity. This happens during the final stages of the three-step selection process where we do the donor reference check, address any capacity gaps that have been identified by both grantee and/or Voice as well as the contract negotiation process (ping-pong).
We also make sure our communications and MEL needs are addressed through the Milestone Light and Milestone Plus reporting processes whereby we for example identify stories of change!
Overall all of the above has led to:
Precious Proud Progress!