Mid-Term Evaluation of the Kenya Civil Society Strengthening Program
Development and Training Services, Inc. (dTS) was contracted to conduct a mid-term evaluation of the Kenya Civil Society Strengthening Program (KCSSP). This grant-making and capacity-building program was designed to address the fragmentation, fractionalization and low constituent credibility constraining Kenya civil society from effectively playing its role in promoting political reforms and keeping government accountable to the citizens of Kenya. The program was originally a 3-year project focused on Democracy and Governance (D&G) and Natural Resource Management (NRM). Following the post-election violence (PEV) of the Kenya presidential election in 2007, the Conflict Management and Peace Building (CM) portion of the D&G portfolio was expanded into a separate technical component with additional funding. KCSSP has been extended three times, currently expected to end in October 2012, following the presidential elections that year.
In the four years of program implementation, there have been tangible outcomes directly attributable to the grants to implementing partners and the accompanying capacity building assistance they have received. The Constitution, Political Parties bill, Land Policy and Wildlife Policy have been adopted. The Peace Policy has been tabled in the Cabinet. All show significant influence in both language and political pressure from subgrantees.
Partners are showing increased understanding and skills in lobbying and preparing policy papers as strategies for policy change. These approaches have moved civil society beyond street demonstrations, previously the most common approach in Kenya. Communities have developed mechanisms for managing conflict peacefully and for reaping economic benefits from their natural resources. The program has supported marked progress in the organizational capabilities of partners through stronger monitoring systems, human resource policies, and programming and fundraising strategies.
Internally, KCSSP has demonstrated its sound management and technical effectiveness. Grants are managed fairly and professionally. Training programs are of high quality. Staff is competent and diligent in carrying out their responsibilities. Both discussions with and a survey of representatives of partner organizations were overwhelmingly supportive of KCSSP. Smaller organizations in particular report significant progress in organizational maturity because of the assistance and accompaniment they have received. Larger organizations appreciate the space and funding provided through grant support which enabled them to strengthen their capabilities and further advance their work.
KCSSP could make an even greater impact on sub-grantees by allowing more customized capacity building assistance for its more mature partners and enhancing the interaction and networking among all sub-grantees.
Additionally, bottlenecks in grant approval and fund disbursement procedures require immediate attention to better facilitate positive outcomes of the work being done. These obstacles are created primarily through KCSSP’s close adherence to compliance standards and its diligent focus on achieving results. While this is admirable for a project, it has caused the project to become overly cautious in its implementation, concentrating more on the pieces than on the big picture of what will enable the effectiveness and sustainability of the Kenya civil society sector.
More broadly, KCSSP has been hindered by the current dynamic socio-political environment in Kenya, as well as the significant need of Kenya civil society to respond to the shifts and opportunities it faces. The post-election violence (PEV) of 2007-08 threw the project into a reactive position to end the violence and prevent further outbreaks. This short-term need compromised the program’s longer-term clarity and strategic focus, making it more three projects under one implementation structure than one project with three integrated components. Additionally, the need for funding and capacity building assistance to all CSOs in Kenya, at both national and regional levels, put pressure on the project to try to meet too many objectives and satisfy too many needs, diminishing its ability to fulfill its original mandate, more narrowly defined.
As KCSSP moves into its final 18 months of implementation, the evaluation team offers a set of recommendations to help the program meet its maximum impact. They are as follows:
- Relieve grant bottlenecks.
- Simplify and refocus the PMP.
- Make stronger linkages between the three technical component areas.
- Keep focus of grants on the implementation of newly revised laws and policies, emphasizing the vertical and horizontal integration of efforts that relate those changes at the national level with constituent engagement at the district level.
- Focus on consolidation of ongoing NBEs so that they are left in a solid position to continue.
- Build the capacity of CSOs to begin the deeper work of peacebuilding in Kenya.
- Facilitate greater networking and interaction among sub-grantee to encourage issue-based alliances.
- Strengthen the capacity of KCSSP sub-grantees and their beneficiaries in the areas of evidence-based research for policy implementation and monitoring.
- Develop communication strategies to increase reporting on success stories and achievements of KCSSP for USAID and beneficiaries.
- Develop strategy and/or event to cull, report on and discuss replication of lessons learned and best practices of the KCSSP.
As USAID formulates its assistance to Kenya civil society beyond KCSSP, it may wish to consider the following:
- Consider building on the successes in the areas of CSO OD strengthening, advocacy and monitoring and bringing this experience to the district level.
- Explore using longer term grants for future CS strengthening programs.
- Separate D&G, Conflict, and NRM programs so that USAID-funded programs can be more focused.
- Focus programming on decentralization and devolution, investing in community structures and their role in local governance.
- Use an integrated approach in the planning of NRM-based activities identified as community income generation and conservation and management of natural/ecological resources.
- Re-assess the Conflict Management/Peacebuilding conceptual framework to make it proactive, longterm and responsive to new dynamics.