Enabling civil society to play a greater role in advancing socio-economic rights of vulnerable populations

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Evaluation Plan:
2016-2020, Azerbaijan
Evaluation Type:
Final Project
Planned End Date:
03/2018
Completion Date:
03/2018
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
25,000

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Title Enabling civil society to play a greater role in advancing socio-economic rights of vulnerable populations
Atlas Project Number: 93393
Evaluation Plan: 2016-2020, Azerbaijan
Evaluation Type: Final Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 03/2018
Planned End Date: 03/2018
Management Response: Yes
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 1.1.2 Marginalised groups, particularly the poor, women, people with disabilities and displaced are empowered to gain universal access to basic services and financial and non-financial assets to build productive capacities and benefit from sustainable livelihoods and jobs
Evaluation Budget(US $): 25,000
Source of Funding: Project budget
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 26,180
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Dr. Michael Hopkins Evaluator jdhopkins@mhcinternational.com
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders: Cabinet of Ministers
Countries: AZERBAIJAN
Lessons
Findings
Recommendations
1

1. UNDP is a very helpful ally to the EU and the Government of Azerbaijan in working on complex development projects and related activity.  As such the UNDP should be first choice in future development projects that have a strong human development and rights flavor.

In 2015 the Government made certain changes in the grant registration by the NGOs. Due to events outside the control of UNDP leading to a radical change in Government strategy the activities of most NGOs were scaled down since 2015. UNDP inherited a EU funded project originally aimed at NGOs to improve the human rights of vulnerable groups with a project valued, originally, at approx. 6 million Euro. After the 2015 changes, the EU funded a number of projects for a third the latter amount via UNDP so as to preserve the human capital built up in CSOs over the decades. The Evaluator’s overall conclusion is that UNDP rose to the challenge extremely well supported by the excellent staff of the UNDP from its senior management and right across the organization.

 

 

2

2. The evaluation methodology could be sharply revised and reduced. Some suggestions to do this through adopting a 3M approach (Macro, Meso, Micro).

The evaluation methodology is complex and highly procedural. Readers will also see it is not that easy to actually find out the strengths and weaknesses of the project when confronted with so many tables, methodologies and annexes. The 3M approach can simplify the evaluation methodology and easy to read.

1. The macro level asks the questions: Did Government policy change? Were new laws enacted?

2.The meso level asks such questions as: Was capacity development carried out? Was sustainability included? Was the project efficient? Was the modality of execution appropriate? Was a participatory approach adopted? How many people were trained? Could the project be replicated across the country?

3.The micro level asks specific questions such as: How many children now in school compared with start of programme? How many new jobs created? Need to apply a living standards questionnaire to assess impact at micro level that would then be applied at the beginning and end of programme and also to a control group.

 

3

3. Even if not fully utilized, the concept behind what the project is trying to do should be clearly specified as far as is possible.

Because of the sensitivity of the issue of Human Rights in Azerbaijan, as in many other countries since its application is a process as well as highly politically sensitive, the full application of human rights was neither defined in detail in the project nor applied fully. The notion of socio-economic rights was therefore the choice made but not fully spelled out, however.

 

4

4. Projects, in general, should be composed of a mixed strategy of cost recovery (through social enterprise) and grants to people who cannot help themselves.

Perhaps the most important conclusion emanating from the evaluation – is the issue of ‘sustainability’ and the link to ‘social enterprise’.  In that connection it is worth quoting the following “The reality is that the old NGO model simply cannot be sustained in a time of shrinking government funding and increased calls for efficiency and impact in international development. It is time to realize that NGOs need to become more independent from governments, financially resilient and accountable for their activities.” [Chris Meyer zu Natrup, “From NGO to social business[1]”, Devex, September 2, 2014]

Many, but not all, of the project interventions could be made more sustainable by including a cost recovery component. In fact, this is the current vogue through creating social enterprises. UNDP in this case, will gain some revenue to re-use to invest in new job creating activities or even help people who cannot help themselves. These latter are beneficiaries such as those in prison or those severely handicapped. 

 


[1] https://www.devex.com/news/from-ngo-to-social-business-why-and-how-84259

 

 

5

5. The UNDP, together with the Azerbaijani Government, should be encouraged to investigate how best to shift their grant giving projects to those involving, at least in part, a cost recovery component through the practice of social enterprise methodology.

Most CSOs have three huge problems:

1.   They are partial in that their activities generally only cover a part of the larger problems they tackle (e.g. education, health, agriculture, energy, etc). They are either confined to a limited geographic area or only part of the larger issues (e.g. females in primary education). Often NGOs simply do the work that governments either neglect or can’t afford to do. 

2.   Their mind set is largely people focused but doesn’t normally include business skills and tends to be more outward than inward focused regarding sustainable funding.

3.   At the end of every project cycle they look for funding in grant form and may spend as much as half their time looking for potential new donors.

Many, if not most, NGOs are supported by external funds and basically decline or even collapse once their funds dry up. But external donor aid is starting to dry up as growing ‘populism’ and ‘illiberalism’ make people and even countries more inward looking. Even philanthropists are starting to examine socially responsible investments. Therefore, an investment in a socially responsible activity could lead to modest returns and help preserve one’s capital. Clearly, an alternative that leads to sustainability through money earning activities that generate some profit is highly attractive. That is why the notion of a Sustainable Social Enterprise has risen so quickly and is becoming popular around the world.

6

6. The 3-M methodology should be an essential part of most if not all UNDP projects.

Many of the 12 CSOs focused upon service delivery more than policy dialogue or capacity development. Given the EU and UNDP understandable concern both with improving policy and capacity development, it is suggested that projects / programmes in general should always have three components - 3-M (Macro /Meso/Micro) approach. 

7

7. In line with the SDGs the UNDP should make even more efforts, than now, to involve the private sector in their work. In particular the CEOs of the richest companies who, as will be discovered, are very keen to leave a legacy more than merely a great company but a legacy that contributes to the building of their nation i.e. development.

8

8. Never forget that people are important for the future socio-economic development of their country and international organizations such as the EU and UNDP should continue their efforts to promote and help talented people as much as they can to create human rights, peace and development.

It is thus worth noting that structures and systems are important but, in the end, it is talented people who drive major change. The experience of the Evaluator was of surprise that most, if not all of the CSOs involved had creative, dynamic, eloquent and highly talented individuals both at their helm and in their organisations. The Evaluator was struck by the deep commitment of so many talented individuals who combined grace and hard work with an invaluable characteristic – humour. Such people provide great hope for the future of Azerbaijan.

 

1. Recommendation:

1. UNDP is a very helpful ally to the EU and the Government of Azerbaijan in working on complex development projects and related activity.  As such the UNDP should be first choice in future development projects that have a strong human development and rights flavor.

In 2015 the Government made certain changes in the grant registration by the NGOs. Due to events outside the control of UNDP leading to a radical change in Government strategy the activities of most NGOs were scaled down since 2015. UNDP inherited a EU funded project originally aimed at NGOs to improve the human rights of vulnerable groups with a project valued, originally, at approx. 6 million Euro. After the 2015 changes, the EU funded a number of projects for a third the latter amount via UNDP so as to preserve the human capital built up in CSOs over the decades. The Evaluator’s overall conclusion is that UNDP rose to the challenge extremely well supported by the excellent staff of the UNDP from its senior management and right across the organization.

 

 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/07/25]

Agree.

UNDP has managed the EU-funded project successfully partnering with 12 CSOs working with women, children, persons with disabilities, imprisoned and socially vulnerable people, etc. The project’s financial efficiency availed allocation of additional funding to the CSOs activities that secured sustainability of the originally implemented activities focusing on the social-economic rights of vulnerable groups. Building on the successful partnership in support of CSOs, in December 2017 EU and UNDP signed a two-year project “Promote the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation”. The project will establish the platform for dialogue between the government and CSOs, enhance understanding and knowledge of SDGs among the civil society and support the individual CSO initiatives to implement the SDG related activities from gender lens. By this, the project will contribute to advancing the ‘human rights’ concept by addressing the challenges of communities and target groups in the framework of SDGs platform. 

 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.1 Analyse the project final and evaluation reports (findings, good lessons) to be considered during the design and implementation of the individual CSO initiatives supported by the grant allocation.
[Added: 2018/07/25]
Inclusive growth and sustainable development Unit Programme Specialist Project Manager 2020/03 Initiated History
1.2 Analyse the best and most optimal ways and modalities for the procurement of the CSO projects.
[Added: 2018/07/25]
Inclusive growth and sustainable development Unit Programme Specialist Project Manager 2020/03 Not Initiated History
2. Recommendation:

2. The evaluation methodology could be sharply revised and reduced. Some suggestions to do this through adopting a 3M approach (Macro, Meso, Micro).

The evaluation methodology is complex and highly procedural. Readers will also see it is not that easy to actually find out the strengths and weaknesses of the project when confronted with so many tables, methodologies and annexes. The 3M approach can simplify the evaluation methodology and easy to read.

1. The macro level asks the questions: Did Government policy change? Were new laws enacted?

2.The meso level asks such questions as: Was capacity development carried out? Was sustainability included? Was the project efficient? Was the modality of execution appropriate? Was a participatory approach adopted? How many people were trained? Could the project be replicated across the country?

3.The micro level asks specific questions such as: How many children now in school compared with start of programme? How many new jobs created? Need to apply a living standards questionnaire to assess impact at micro level that would then be applied at the beginning and end of programme and also to a control group.

 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/07/25]

Partly agree

UNDP followed the corporate project evaluation template and matrix for the evaluation to assess the progress towards achievement of project objectives and outcomes as specified in the project document, and assess the relevance and sustainability of outputs.

For the future projects UNDP will consider this recommendation in the project design and evaluation stages.

 

 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Analyse the 3 M approach and consider this in the project design and evaluation stages of the individual grant-supported CSO initiatives.
[Added: 2018/07/25] [Last Updated: 2018/12/10]
Programme Specialist Project team 2018/11 Completed History
3. Recommendation:

3. Even if not fully utilized, the concept behind what the project is trying to do should be clearly specified as far as is possible.

Because of the sensitivity of the issue of Human Rights in Azerbaijan, as in many other countries since its application is a process as well as highly politically sensitive, the full application of human rights was neither defined in detail in the project nor applied fully. The notion of socio-economic rights was therefore the choice made but not fully spelled out, however.

 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/07/25]

Partly agree

The project’s overall objective was to advance the socio-economic rights of vulnerable population. The broader “human rights” promotion was not a direct focus of the project. UNDP, recognizing the human rights as a focus of programme development and implementation, organised a training on “Human rights based approach” for the CSOs, so that they enhance their understanding and knowledge on mainstreaming of human rights in their activities and services to the target groups.

UNDP will consider this recommendation for the individual CSO initiatives at the design and implementation stages in the project “Promoting the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation”.

 

 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
A “human rights approach” will be followed during the grant announcement for CSOs and evaluation of the CSO initiatives.
[Added: 2018/07/25] [Last Updated: 2018/12/10]
Programme Specialist Project team 2018/11 Completed History
4. Recommendation:

4. Projects, in general, should be composed of a mixed strategy of cost recovery (through social enterprise) and grants to people who cannot help themselves.

Perhaps the most important conclusion emanating from the evaluation – is the issue of ‘sustainability’ and the link to ‘social enterprise’.  In that connection it is worth quoting the following “The reality is that the old NGO model simply cannot be sustained in a time of shrinking government funding and increased calls for efficiency and impact in international development. It is time to realize that NGOs need to become more independent from governments, financially resilient and accountable for their activities.” [Chris Meyer zu Natrup, “From NGO to social business[1]”, Devex, September 2, 2014]

Many, but not all, of the project interventions could be made more sustainable by including a cost recovery component. In fact, this is the current vogue through creating social enterprises. UNDP in this case, will gain some revenue to re-use to invest in new job creating activities or even help people who cannot help themselves. These latter are beneficiaries such as those in prison or those severely handicapped. 

 


[1] https://www.devex.com/news/from-ngo-to-social-business-why-and-how-84259

 

 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/07/25]

Agree

The project and CSOs initiated discussions on the alternative ways of financing the community projects, specifically, considering the potential for social entrepreneurship / social enterprise in Azerbaijan. The project organised the training for CSOs in 24-25 May 2018 run by the international experts - innovation specialist from UNDP Regional Hub in Istanbul, Coordinator of UrbanSpace Ukraine (best practice in the region) and social enterprise expert from the Western Balkans. The training discussed the international experience, legislative, financial and other administrative issues related to establishment of ‘social enterprise’. The training also created a framework for the participants to develop the hypothesis of their social enterprise initiatives.

CSO/NGOs can offer the paid services to their target groups and others interested. UNDP has been encouraging the CSOs to include the training knowledge and educational materials to their services to the target groups, which may generate income for their operational and programme activities.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1. “Social Enterprise” concept will be further discussed with EU.
[Added: 2018/07/25] [Last Updated: 2019/04/15]
Inclusive growth and sustainable development unit Programme Specialist Project team 2019/12 Initiated The discussion of the possible future concept with EU is at idea stage. Hopefully progress will be made by the end of 2019. History
2. CSOs will be encouraged to consider the possibilities of establishing a social enterprise in future follow up projects.
[Added: 2018/07/25]
Inclusive growth and sustainable development unit Programme Specialist Project team 2020/03 Not Initiated
5. Recommendation:

5. The UNDP, together with the Azerbaijani Government, should be encouraged to investigate how best to shift their grant giving projects to those involving, at least in part, a cost recovery component through the practice of social enterprise methodology.

Most CSOs have three huge problems:

1.   They are partial in that their activities generally only cover a part of the larger problems they tackle (e.g. education, health, agriculture, energy, etc). They are either confined to a limited geographic area or only part of the larger issues (e.g. females in primary education). Often NGOs simply do the work that governments either neglect or can’t afford to do. 

2.   Their mind set is largely people focused but doesn’t normally include business skills and tends to be more outward than inward focused regarding sustainable funding.

3.   At the end of every project cycle they look for funding in grant form and may spend as much as half their time looking for potential new donors.

Many, if not most, NGOs are supported by external funds and basically decline or even collapse once their funds dry up. But external donor aid is starting to dry up as growing ‘populism’ and ‘illiberalism’ make people and even countries more inward looking. Even philanthropists are starting to examine socially responsible investments. Therefore, an investment in a socially responsible activity could lead to modest returns and help preserve one’s capital. Clearly, an alternative that leads to sustainability through money earning activities that generate some profit is highly attractive. That is why the notion of a Sustainable Social Enterprise has risen so quickly and is becoming popular around the world.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/07/25]

Agree

The EU-UNDP project “Promoting the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation” will create a platform of dialogue and collaboration between the CSOs, and government, specifically, the National Coordination Council on Sustainable Development and State Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs through the consultative meetings, trainings and discussions; the grant support will be provided for the individual CSOs initiatives to be implemented in different regions of the country. The implementation of CSO initiatives will also involve the central and local governments.

UNDP will continue enhancing the idea of “a social enterprise” and discuss the grant registration procedures with the Government of Azerbaijan and seek the best feasible solutions to improve the current challenges. 

 

 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The consultations will be initiated with the Government of Azerbaijan when the Grant support is announced in the framework of the project “Promoting the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation”.
[Added: 2018/07/25] [Last Updated: 2019/01/02]
Inclusive growth and sustainable development unit Programme Specialist Project Manager 2018/12 Completed History
6. Recommendation:

6. The 3-M methodology should be an essential part of most if not all UNDP projects.

Many of the 12 CSOs focused upon service delivery more than policy dialogue or capacity development. Given the EU and UNDP understandable concern both with improving policy and capacity development, it is suggested that projects / programmes in general should always have three components - 3-M (Macro /Meso/Micro) approach. 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/07/25]

Agree.

UNDP’s strategic approach is based on the “upstream”/“downstream” interventions to address the development challenges and needs at the national/policy, institution and community/individual levels. The recommended approach constitutes the core activities that UNDP implements with the counterparts. 

 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
To consider this recommendation in the design and implementation of the CSO individual projects in the framework of the project “Promoting the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation”.
[Added: 2018/07/25] [Last Updated: 2018/12/10]
Programme Specialist Project Manager 2018/11 Completed History
7. Recommendation:

7. In line with the SDGs the UNDP should make even more efforts, than now, to involve the private sector in their work. In particular the CEOs of the richest companies who, as will be discovered, are very keen to leave a legacy more than merely a great company but a legacy that contributes to the building of their nation i.e. development.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/07/25]

Agree

UNDP inherited 12 CSO projects from EU in 2015. Many of the project documents mention MDGs. UNDP conducted the capacity needs assessment of these CSOs and included the SDG-related question to find out about the SDGs knowledge among them.

The new EU-UNDP project “Promoting the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation” will organise several activities and trainings to enhance the understanding and knowledge on SDGs among the civil society players.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1. The knowledge and understanding of global and national SDGs including the gender indicators among the CSOs will be enhanced through a series of trainings and joint activities with the government.
[Added: 2018/07/25] [Last Updated: 2019/01/02]
Programme Specialist Project manager 2018/12 Completed History
2. CSOs will be guided in advocacy and implementation of the gender-sensitive SDGs during the project period.
[Added: 2018/07/25]
Programme Specialist Project manager 2020/03 Not Initiated
8. Recommendation:

8. Never forget that people are important for the future socio-economic development of their country and international organizations such as the EU and UNDP should continue their efforts to promote and help talented people as much as they can to create human rights, peace and development.

It is thus worth noting that structures and systems are important but, in the end, it is talented people who drive major change. The experience of the Evaluator was of surprise that most, if not all of the CSOs involved had creative, dynamic, eloquent and highly talented individuals both at their helm and in their organisations. The Evaluator was struck by the deep commitment of so many talented individuals who combined grace and hard work with an invaluable characteristic – humour. Such people provide great hope for the future of Azerbaijan.

 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/07/25]

Agree

Human capital development and capacity enhancement are among the key and strategic focus areas of UNDP. This was highly demonstrated in the project evaluated, through a series of capacity development trainings that UNDP organised for the partner CSOs. The topics covered such areas as human rights approach and gender-lens of SDGs, monitoring and evaluation, communication and advocacy, organisational development and social entrepreneurship. The knowledge and skills received by the trainings will contribute to the human capital as well as the operational capacities of the civil society as a whole. The trainings organised by the project will be further expanded by the CSOs as a part of services to their target groups (there are already a few examples).

 

The new project “Promoting the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation” will have a considerable set of capacity building and mentoring activities which will create a platform for the CSOs’ development and partnership building with the government.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1. Two series of the capacity building trainings on the global and national SDGs and related gender indicators will be held in September 2018 in the project “Promoting the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation”
[Added: 2018/07/25] [Last Updated: 2018/10/31]
UNDP CSOs 2018/10 Completed History
2. The training of trainers will be held for the civil activists in the project “Promoting the role of civil society in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation” to develop the master trainers’ services to develop the capacities and human capital of the civil society sector.
[Added: 2018/07/25] [Last Updated: 2019/04/15]
UNDP CSOs 2019/03 Completed The training was conducted on 11-13 March 2019 with participation of 10 selected local non-governmental organizations History
3. The mentoring and coaching will be provided for the CSOs in gender-sensitive SDGs implementation, advocacy and reporting.
[Added: 2018/07/25]
UNDP CSOs 2020/03 Not Initiated

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