MDF collects stories of change for the Down to Zero programme and Solidaridad

MDF Training & Consultancy share their experiences with Sprockler

MDF Training & Consultancy is in constant search for innovative solutions to ensure rigorous, utilization-focused, and learning-centred monitoring and evaluation of development programmes. From 2018, we started to increasingly use Sprockler in designing and carrying out evaluations.

One of the first projects was the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the programme of the Down to Zero Alliance, a joint partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Terre des Hommes Netherlands, Plan International Netherlands, Defence for Children-ECPAT, Free a Girl, and ICCO Cooperation. The alliance programme aspires to eradicate commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in 11 countries.

MDF used Sprockler to generate insights into the achievement of intermediate results, which are organised by the programme in four pathways of change:

  • Children and youth protecting themselves and standing up for their rights,
  • Communities protecting their children better against commercial sexual exploitation,
  • Governments executing relevant policies and laws in eleven countries, and
  • The private sector preventing and addressing CSEC.

The respondents were project partners and they were asked, in a workshop setting, to describe the most significant stories of change related to CSEC that they witnessed, and to qualify them with various questions such as:

  • Which key actors contributed to these changes,
  • Which pathways and pre-defined intermediate outcome each story was related to,
  • On what level the change took place, etc.

As a result, stories in English, Spanish, and Bahasa Indonesia were collected whereby the Sprockler inquiry allowed analysing them per country, per key actor, per change, and per intermediate outcome. Moreover, for the first time, the cross-pathway results could be looked into, including contributions from not just a single actor, but from multiple key actors.

Another occasion in 2018 when MDF used Sprockler was the MTR of Solidaridad's Practice for Change and Advocacy for Change Programmes. These programmes are both global in scope and focused on creating sustainable value chains “from farm to fork”. While the Practice for Change programme has an emphasis on improving farming practices, the Advocacy for Change programme seeks to take these improved practices to the next level, by developing business cases and embedding scaled up practices in an improved policy environment.

Here, too, Sprockler survey was designed to collect and analyse stories of change that implementing partner/stakeholder/beneficiaries have witnessed or were part of. The way in which Sprockler displays survey results, made it possible to almost immediately see what the stories, in entirety, show in terms of:

  • Whether the changes are mostly positive or negative,
  • Whether they are at household, organisational, or sector level,
  • Which sector shows most/least progress in changing,
  • Which actors are most/least affected,
  • How the strength of Solidaridad's advocacy is distributed over power to influence/power to represent/credibility,
  • and so on.
"Furthermore, by applying different lenses, e.g. looking at only at the stories on ‘power to represent’, we could analyse deeper what the stories revealed about a type of change, type of actors involved, depth of change, etc."

To collect stories for MTR of Solidaridad's Practice for Change and Advocacy for Change Programmes, we applied the technique of cross interviewing workshop participants. This more or less worked, although some groups needed more guidance, especially with the intuitive scales and the tripoles. Also, making sense from visual summaries of stories, especially immediately after they were told and filled in, presented a challenge for participants. The reason, in our view, is that workshop participants, i.e. programme stakeholders who have been discussing programme content in depth, found it hard to move in a short time to a more conceptual level of what groups of/all stories together could tell.

Macaque in the trees
A visual, showing progress in behavioural changes of communities in Down to Zero Programme

Based on our experience, we find the main advantage of using Sprockler is that it allows a different way of having a systematic overview of narratives representing complex and diverse change stories, which is at heart of the programmes as well as present them in a visually attractive way that aids joint sense-making. Lessons learned are to invest more in preparation guidance of respondents, keep the questionnaire short and simple as well as using the language that resonates with each of the participating groups (which implies separate questionnaires for each stakeholder group), and adding time and techniques for joint sense-making to move from a story to a more abstract/conceptual level.

With these lessons, MDF continues to utilize the power of Sprockler and combine it with other methods and techniques to ensure the best learning journey for development programmes.”

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