Enhancing the Capacity for Inclusive Local Governance through Synergies and Sustainable Linkages between Communities and Government in North Afghanistan
Enhancing the Capacity for Inclusive Local Governance in Northern Afghanistan was generally effective as a training project, but its overall design was not well-aligned with the overall objectives specified. The project made a difference for the trainees who benefited from the course provided, but did not contribute much to the institutional results linked to enhancing inclusive local governance.
The grantee was a well-known international NGO. This was strength in some ways, but may have been a weakness in others. The project design had a “generic” quality to it, suggesting a lack of attention to the specific needs in the project sites that were addressed. Further, the lack of engagement with the project by ACTED Kabul at a management level, along with the absence of decentralization of decision-making to the local level, undermined project effectiveness.
Lessons from Project
While the project may have helped to encourage informal linkages across the three sets of stakeholders listed, there is little evidence of “enhanced mechanisms” or the ability of the project to “enable synergies”. Further, the activities designed to bring the stakeholders together after training was completed, the forums, seemed to add no significant value to the project, although, as suggested in the Final Report, they may have helped to build connections, and to bring new initiatives proposed at community and district levels to the attention of government officials in Afghanistan.
The provincial/district forums in Afghanistan at the close of the project did not build effectively on the training, and, in any case, most trainees did not take part. The weakness of many training projects is the failure to reinforce through practice what is learned in courses and workshops, thus increasing the likelihood that what has been learned will be retained and applied.
What is required is a very long-term engagement to build the necessary capacities. For efforts to support democratic development and an active and dynamic civil society in Afghanistan, prospects of sustainability are yet more limited.
A major deficiency in overall management rested with the centralization of decision-making by ACTED Kabul. The project design had a “generic” quality to it, and it is apparent that operations managers in the field had no input into decision-making, including work and expenditure planning. The weakness of two-way communications at this level reduced the opportunity for the project to learn from experience and adapt operational plans accordingly.
A minority of as many as 25-30 per cent of the beneficiaries in the project in Afghanistan, were thought by project managers to be friends or relatives of those who nominated them, and had little interest in proceedings, being motivated by the travel expenses and food provided.
The needs of female trainees would have been better-served had ACTED proved able to recruit at least a few female trainers in Afghanistan ; none was hired.
Failure to translate learning materials form Dari to Pashto, and recruit a cadre of trainers capable of operating in the Pashto language in Afghanistan.
The institutional impact of the project at district or provincial level in Afghanistan is difficult to judge, but unlikely to be significant. However, at community level, it may well be that the enhancement of organizational/managerial and advocacy skills will have made a difference to the energy and effectiveness of governance processes. The experience of participating together in the workshops may also have resulted in new possibilities for cooperation across stakeholder groups.
The local background of the project’s trainers, and their understanding of traditional Afghan customs and perspectives, appears to have been a great asset in their approach to working with members of local communities.
Other risks identified related to the attitude of local leaders, who might object to the focus of training on gender issues, and limited cooperation on the part of Afghan government at provincial and district level. Strong and effective preparatory work by the project and thorough advance consultations enabled the grantee to overcome these potential problems. It might be noted that early consultations included a meeting with other international non-governmental organizations and donor agencies active in the region, to allow the grantee to brief its peers on the project and its contents, and to avoid duplication. This also reduced the risk to project effectiveness and impact.
Project strategy for training was well-prepared, taking account of the needs and characteristics of potential trainees in the area. The training-of-trainers course, training curriculum and methodology, all designed by a contracted provider, appear to have been well-done, and matched appropriately to trainee learning needs and capabilities of the beneficiaries in Afghanistan.
The grantee had offices and active projects in the three target provinces in Afghanistan, and recruited its staff from the region. Drawing on its experience, the grantee began the project with careful and thorough consultations with major stakeholders. This enabled the project to obtain strong local buy-in and support for its activities in all its target districts, as well as in the three provincial capitals.