Sunday, 13 May 2012

Institutional Strengthening

Sadly no photos in this post - just some interesting information about a new programme taking place at my work.

A bit of background.  My organisation currently receives most of our funding from the US government, however we do not at present directly receive funding from the US government (USAID).  Our funding comes from American agencies and organisations (such as Centre for Disease Control, Walter Reed, Family Health Initiative) who receive funding from the US government to implement programmes in developing countries which they do through subcontracted organisations, such as mine.

USAID (United States Agency for International Development) has recently had a significant policy shift away from funding international bodies to implement programmes in developing countries, and to directly funding domestic organisations.  These are not small grants we're talking about.  When USAID provides direct funding it is in the millions of dollars and intended that the recipient organisation is not using all that money themselves - but is subcontracting out elements of the grant to smaller organisations.

There is a problem with this.  Currently in the health sector USAID directly funds around 30 organisations in Kenya to deliver health services, however only 4 of those are Kenyan.  The solution is not as simple as just stopping funds to non-Kenyan organisations and starting to fund Kenyan organisations directly - the problem is there aren't any other Kenyan organisations who have the capacity to receive such large and complicated grants from USAID.

But a clever solution was devised. USAID recognised that to achieve their goal of providing funds directly to Kenyan NGOs, they would need to spend time capacity building a few organisations first. 

Last October I Choose Life applied to be part of this capacity building programme, called FANIKISHA (which means "accomplished" in Swahili).  In December we made it through to Stage 2 (which involved piles of paper work, auditors coming into the organisation for 2 days to assess capacity of every department, and several interviews), and the end of March we learned we were one of 6 organisations selected.

The programme is 5 years.  This first year will focus solely on institutional strengthening in 6 key areas: Leadership and Governance, Organisational Planning and Resource Mobilisation, Human Resources, Monitoring and Evaluation, Finance and Administration, and Management.  The FANIKISHA team have been working with us on developing our plans for the year (which total at last count 107 pages).  The plans involve key milestones as well as how we will be mentored to accomplish those milestones (mentoring will include support from FANIKISHA as well as use of funds to employ USAID pre-approved consultants).  

In my role, I will be working on the Resource Mobilisation plans, which are very similar to the work plan I had already developed for VSO placement, which is great as I now have additional funds as my disposal for trainings and workshops.  I was also delighted to have been asked by the Chief Executive and Head to HR to lead the work on the Organsiational Planning, which will involve working over the next year to facilitate the development of a new strategic plan for the organisation. 

Those of you who have worked with me will know that while I understand and am quite capable at fundraising, strategic planning is what really gets me going!  I really look forward to the unexpected opportunity to use those skills and experience, as well as employ some new techniques learned from my studies at Cass last year.  I will not be working alone in the strategic planning at all - we are a large national organisation which needs a strategic plan which will need to balance the personality and character of I Choose Life with needing to intentionally evolve into something much bigger in 5 years.  For that reason and that the strategic plan will be largely health focussed, the scope of the work is a bit outside of my experience and knowledge and so we will be recruiting a consultant to work with me in facilitating the process.

After this first year (July 2012 - June 2013), FANIKISHA will begin to work with the 6 organisations on setting up systems to distribute funds to other organisations, something none of us has done before in a formal capacity.  In years 3 and 4, USAID will provide "mentored grants" to the organisations to distribute, meaning we will receive funds to commission out to smaller organisations, including application process, finance procedures and monitoring and evaluation.  But during this time, FANIKISHA will be holding our hand and supporting us as we learn and perfect how to become grant makers.  Along with distributing grants to other organisations we will be required to support them in their institutional strengthening - helping them build robust internal system.

It is not promised that by the end of the 5 years I Choose Life will automatically receive funds directly from USAID - we will still need to apply, but we are being given the support to grow into the kind of organisation that can deliver national health programmes.

On a final note, I was at a conference this last week for the launch of FANIKISHA and the press was there.   In the matatu on the way home there was a 5 minute segment on the radio about FANIKISHA with interviews from the conference about how important it is to Kenya for Kenyan organisations to have the capacity be able to deliver services.  I was thrilled to hear that the programme had made national news and that I would be participating in one of the 6 organisations "the country has hope in".