A guide to review progress
By Hafeni Mthoko, Project Strategist and Evaluator
As part of any Digital Citizen Engagement initiative, continuous learning is key throughout its life cycle. Now that MobiSAM is in full implementation mode it is time to take a step back and start planning the evaluation process on how we have been operating thus far.
Having done a Baseline Study, an assessment of citizen engagement needs and strategized on ways in which MobiSAM should function, there is now the need to look at how the project is implementing its intended activities. This is important not only for the team to have a birds eye view on what is happening, but also to learn from our experiences for future improvement. What then could one consider when evaluating the implementation and operation of MobiSAM? Well, there are three possible areas to look into and contextualize to suit MobiSAM. These areas form part of what is termed a Process Assessment as discussed by Osah (2014); namely:
The use of MobiSAM services by beneficiaries – taking into account sustainable use.
- Identifying who has been participating in the project. This includes identifying those beneficiaries and other stakeholders that have been excluded and why. For example, who has been able to lodge complaints via the website or the other platforms? What has been hindering those that have not been participating? Therefore, this requires looking at who makes use of the technology such as the website, the Facebook page, the blog and understanding which categories of stakeholders participate more than others.
- Identifying the extent beneficiaries took part in the training that has taken place thus far.
- Assessing the information quality, service quality, the systems quality and the perceived usefulness of MobiSAM by its users. This includes taking a look at the technology itself and how well the technology is operating to manage the engagement process.
- Identifying the presence or absence of practices that influence/suggest continuous use of MobiSAM services.
The management of MobiSAM and its use of resources to accomplish important tasks.
- Contrasting the actual training delivered with the MobiSAM plans.
- Understanding how the various services are being provided.
- Understanding how various support functions in place, such as fundraising, capacity building and awareness building are or not coordinated.
- Understanding how flexible MobiSAM is in adapting to the changing environment and needs of project beneficiaries.
The effect of external factors that are beyond the project teams control
- Understanding influence of the social, political and economic landscape on project implementation.
- Understanding the level of support provided by local institutions/partners during the implementation.
The above points are all centered on the management and use of project services and form a useful springboard for the upcoming evaluation plans within MobiSAM. Often the implementation phase of Digital Citizen Engagement initiatives is prone to neglect when one thinks of evaluation. However, with the above points one can start to see the relevance of asking such questions. Given that the implementation phase is the link between the project goals and project impacts, the above points are a window to understanding whether MobiSAM is indeed on the right path to achieving its desired impacts. Therefore, you as the citizen have a role to play in providing us with feedback on the use of MobiSAM and ways in which our service provision can be improved.