October 26, 2012

What our new case studies on the Istanbul Principles tell us about development

This week, CCIC published to its web site 24 case studies profiling best and innovative practice among Canada’s development and humanitarian sector – relating this practice to each of the eight Istanbul Principles for CSO DevelopmentEffectiveness.
It is a process that has been nine months in the making, but I think well worth the wait.
When CCIC conducted a series of workshops on the Istanbul Principles out West in the winter, one message was clear: while everyone was enthusiastic about the Principles, it all felt just a little too abstract. What was needed, we kept hearing, was a series of case studies that would help organizations better see how the Istanbul Principles could be translated into practice.
And so CCIC kick-started a process, working in collaboration with some of our members, the Provincial and Regional Councils and their members, to pull together more than 30 different case studies (some are still forthcoming) with at least two or three on every Principle.
Each case study speaks volumes about the incredible work that organizations across the country are already doing.
But having been intimately involved in helping to bring these all together, there are eight reflections that I wanted to share from reading the case studies as a collection. They are all obvious, but still worth mentioning since I think we often neglect them in the stories we tell our supporters about development.
1.      Best practices are rooted in diversity. No organization has a monopoly on best practices. The case studies are drawn from across the country, from Antigonish to Vancouver, from small groups like Women’s Empowerment International Foundation to big ones like Oxfam Québec.
2.      The Istanbul Principles are complementary and interrelated. To some degree, the Principle under which some of the case studies fall is somewhat arbitrary. KAIROS’s “Womenof Courage” tour is as much about human rights and empowerment as it is about gender equality. Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s “Conservation Agriculture” is as much about the promoting environmental sustainability and realizing positive sustainable change, as it is about creating and sharing knowledge.
3.      Learning is invaluable and needs to be integrated as a core component into our work. The Humanitarian Coalition, from the outset, invests in evaluations of its interventions in Pakistan, Haiti and the Western Sahel. Oxfam Canada engaged in a process of blind evaluation by its partners, to see what they really thought of Oxfam. Inter Pares set out to document the connection between its recognized program results and its feminist values and approach. In each case, organizations found the resources in their budget to learn and to improve their practice.
4.      Long term outcomes require long-term investments. For groups like CAUSE and EQUITAS, working with human rights defenders in countries with a long history of violence and conflict, change is slow – but when it comes, also deeply rewarding.
5.      Sustainable Projects mean people are the subjects of development, not objects. The Agha Khan Foundation’s Community Development Councils, World Vision’s Child Health Now Program, Change For Children’s “Community Water Committees”, and Save the Children’s “As We learn, We Grow” (forthcoming) all put men, women and children in the drivers’ seat, not as passengers, of development.
6.     Civil society is incredibly innovative and resourceful.  CARE Canada has developed a toolkit for practitioners to help them better integrate climate adaptation issues into their development programs, making them more resilient and sustainable. Light Up The World is working to equip remote communities with renewable sources of energy and the knowledge to be able to maintain the equipment. Engineers Without Borders work on transparency has translated into both an advocacy campaign to make the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) more transparent, and measures to placed their own organization under the same set of standards they were demanding of CIDA.
7.      Sustainable change is key. CAWST has set up Water Expertise and Training (WET) Centres in the areas where it work to provide education, training, and consulting services on water, sanitation and hygiene so that this knowledge stays in the community. Christian Children’s Fund has made building the skills, capacity and professionalism of its partners a key pillar of programming, not just an afterthought.  CODE’s approach to education goes beyond the students, to enhancing the professional development of teachers, the community, government officials and national teaching standards. While enhancing the literacy of marginalized women and children in India is primary focus of the programs that World Literacy Canada runs, WLC is also slowly creating space for women in the political life of their villages. 
8.      Development is an iterative process. This is true of all the case studies. Good development identifies a challenge, proposes a solution, and then adapts and readapts until the program has a life of its own within the community of country.
Finally thanks to all of the organizations who have put in a huge amount of time and energy (and probably, some blood, sweat and tears), to help us pull this off. It was certainly worth it!
To read these and other case studies, go to http://www.ccic.ca/IP-case-studies.php
This blog was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst (Aid), CCIC. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

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