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8 weeks to go…….

A third month into my placement and a third Country Director! To say the VSO Malawi office is in a state of flux would be understatement! In addition to Program Office staff leaving at a steady rate to pursue other avenues, the interim country Director who arrived in August is being sent to South Sudan. There is also the upcoming office move as VSO Malawi needs to be out of their current office by the end of this year! Things do not stay the same for very long, which is stressful for my colleagues at the VSO Malawi office, who have had their impending restructuring delayed yet again – there was me thinking GSK was at the forefront of constant change!

As things currently stand, a new interim Country Director arrived in late September and is here until mid-November….bringing a different set of priorities, and a different perspective on how things should be carried out. This constant continuum in the office makes suggesting change highly sensitive and implementing any systems very difficult, as well as trivial because there is little or no capacity for any members of staff to participate and take on the work in order to make it sustainable. This constant change has made it difficult for my original project to progress and the plan for the intranet site as an online learning platform has also been put on hold. The IT systems in country offices are slowly being upgraded and they may be getting Sharepoint early next year, so fingers crossed, the plan we prepared for the online learning platform will still be used and implemented by the office next year. I am glad that I have been involved in helping to design and explore the concept at this program office.

I have been successful in generating some Monitoring & Evaluation tools for the office here in Malawi and I have been working to standardise the quarterly volunteer report formats for all 4 programmes (Education, Secure Livelihoods, Health and HIV/AIDS). The first drafts have been sent out to volunteers in the field for feedback, and the engagement of the volunteers and the program managers has been very encouraging! I have received feedback from volunteers across all programs, so hopefully these reporting formats can be finalised in the coming weeks before they are officially rolled out in November as an essential M&E tool. In addition, I have been supporting the VSO program managers to plan their Annual Partnership Reviews (APRs) which are another key M&E tool, carried out annually and allow VSO to focus on progress made against the partnership plans and objectives. I had the opportunity to present and highlight the importance of needing this information to VSO partnering organizations at a proposal development workshop last week; and highlight the need for partner involvement and the importance of reporting. Unfortunately none of the photographs came out very well, so you’re just going to have to trust me! 🙂

The plan for the next 8 weeks is to try and use the Annual Partnership Reviews that are being conducted between now and February to help initiate a baseline for the M&E system. Although a simplistic approach, it will be a good starting point to ensure that VSO can work towards measuring its impact in Malawi as soon as possible. To help sustain this approach, we are looking to recruit a permanent M&E officer in Malawi, to enable the work to continue after my placement has finished. I am also hoping to meet the new VSO Regional M&E Manager for Southern Africa before I leave, to try and ensure VSO Malawi are supported in their efforts to have a fully functional M&E system that can support all programs.

Fingers crossed keeping it simple is the key!

Summer is officially here and it is HOT! There is a long weekend coming up, and I am looking forward to a weekend of enjoying the sun and preparing plans for my next set of visitors who arrive in a couple of weeks! Very exciting! 🙂