There is much talk in development circles of partnership building, but the reality is, in many cases, disparate partners come together around a funding opportunity and such relationships are challenged by the competition for limited resources. The issue is whether individual partners can find a collective vision and a unifying purpose, which transforms such competition into collaboration.
VIPP methods have a proven record in enhancing the effectiveness of participatory events. This case study looks at the use of VIPP over a longer period, working with a group of NGOs through a project cycle. It then considers how VIPP contributed to the process of partnership building. Over the four years of collaboration, these six partners developed a high level of trust and co-operation, which has continued beyond the funding period as a mature and genuine partnership.
The six NGOs* came together to work on an initiative to research and develop Child Centred Approaches to HIV and AIDS (CCATH): two partners each from Kenya, Uganda and the United Kingdom. The use of VIPP methods was a constant feature of the various workshops and meetings, as the partners worked through the project cycle.
Needs assessment: The partners work in a range of urban and rural communities in Kenya and
Uganda. After conducting
needs assessments in their own communities, they came together to share their findings. Key points were put on VIPP cards and then clustered, providing a visual image of the commonalities between all communities affected by HIV and AIDS.
Analysis: Using the needs assessment findings visible on one wall, the partners then worked on analysing the data and building up a framework to plan interventions by identifying the risk and protective factors which influence the psycho-social well-being of children in communities affected by HIV and AIDS. The use of VIPP cards in building these frameworks enabled all the participants to contribute to the analysis. Through this process, the team articulated the key behaviours, risk factors and protective factors for a baseline survey.
Planning: With the above information visible, the participants worked on plans for their individual organisations. Working again with VIPP cards, the participants were able to look at and learn from each other's ideas. This promoted a sense of transparency and equality.
Review and reflection: VIPP processes were used at all meetings and workshops throughout the four year cycle to synthesise learning between the partners and to enable deeper reflection on strengths, challenges and solutions.
Monitoring and evaluation: At mid-term and final stages in the CCATH initiative, the partners visited each other's sites for peer monitoring. The evaluation framework had been developed through VIPP processes and then the findings were again synthesised using VIPP. The findings of the participatory evaluation were also cross checked with the findings of an external evaluation – again using VIPP, so that the learning could be owned and internalised.
Envisioning the future: At the end of this phase of the initiative, the partners used VIPP to envision the future and how they might continue to develop and promote child-centred approaches to HIV and AIDS. Although the funding for this particular partnership has ended, the organisations all continue to link with and support each other, sharing a profound common vision.
Conclusion: VIPP provided a method for synthesising the research and experiences of the various partners in a powerful, visual way. Learning was then collectively owned. Together the partners were able to formulate key questions and used VIPP techniques to work jointly in answering them. It encouraged a genuine openness and confidence to share problems with the group and seek answers as they exchanged strategies.
The various CCATH partners brought different areas of expertise, some working at the national level on policy and networking issues, some providing training, evaluation and planning support, others working principally at the community and school levels with in-depth experience of the realities of families affected by HIV and AIDS. Each partner, therefore, brought unique insights to the partnership. Each had skills to offer and to learn. VIPP methods
to happen in a way that was democratic and trust-building.
In the final evaluation, partners observed that the partnership process, in which VIPP had played a crucial part, had: