Catch-up from Cambodia

 Over halfway through my six months, and we’ve reached a mini-milestone in the work I’ve been contributing to, namely the presentation of the global advocacy plans to the VSO Global Leadership Team (GLT) for approval….which fortunately they did!   The scope of the strategy is very ambitious considering VSO’s limited and very stretched resources, so it was good to hear the GLT agree with our assertion that the quality of the campaigns and other advocacy work shouldn’t be compromised if timelines get crunched, as that could backfire badly, risking an ineffective campaign and a potentially negative impact on VSO’s credibility.

A fair amount of my focus (and I’m sure this won’t surprise many of my chums at GSK!) continues to be developing more rigorous ways of defining and managing VSO’s advocacy work as a portfolio of projects, and to improve the ways in which advocacy tools, knowledge and learning are shared (and to check out how these approaches might be applied to all of VSO’s other programme work). This includes trying to work out some short and longer term changes to its information systems to support this, but as always, the challenges are as much about people’s ways of working as systems.

One other thing I’ve been trying to do is reach out to my GSK colleagues where some knowledge-sharing might be beneficial.  I set up and joined a really interesting and helpful discussion between Andrew, the head of Monitoring and Evaluation here at VSO and Dominic, from the ViiV Positive Action team, which supports a range of projects to support vulnerable communities affected by HIV/AIDs.  The discussion was about approaches and best practices in measuring the impact of development work, a targeted improvement area for VSO.  It was really impressive to hear a GSK/ViiV employee speaking the lingo of international development impact measurement methodology with such knowledge and fluency, but when you read about the range of projects that ViiV is supporting through Positive Action, you understand the basis of that knowledge – it made me very proud – thanks Dominic!.  It was also good to hear that ViiV is sensitive to the challenges of balancing the need for robust impact measurement methods with the often high cost and complexity of data collection in development work….i.e. making sure that measuring the impact of an intervention doesn’t end up costing more than the intervention itself!

This blog is a bit of a catch-up on the past few weeks; I’m actually tapping it out from my room in a guest house in the centre of Phnom Penh, Cambodia – and hoping that writing it will take my mind off the rather large spider in the bathroom next door!  I’ve just arrived here after a week in Bangkok, where we’ve been running an advocacy training workshop.  Next week will be spent meeting with VSO Cambodia office staff, volunteers and the partner organisations they work with here, to observe advocacy work in action.  All very exciting stuff, and I promise more about it all in my next blog …..if I survive the spider!