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Spotlight on Sarah Murungi

Sarah Murungi has been a part of Initiatives’ family since 2009 when she joined our team on the CDC-funded TA-NPI (2009- 2012) capacity building project. Honing her capacity development skills, Sarah rejoined Initiatives in 2014 as the Senior Organizational Capacity Development Specialist on the Advocacy for Better Health (ABH) project. ABH is primarily an advocacy project, but organizations need strong systems to be sustainable. As a subcontractor on ABH, Initiatives is responsible for strengthening the institutional capacity of 20 civil society organizations (CSOs) and supporting at least four to meet the requirements of being a prime recipient.

Sarah’s knowledge and skill in organizational development (OD) has made her a respected member of the Senior Management Team. Under her previous Initiatives project she conducted 15 OCAs; at ABH she helped adapt the Organizational Advocacy and Capacity Assessment (OACA) tool, trained staff in using the tool and has led nine OACAs. She ensures that the OACA action plans are reviewed and discussed and targeted technical support is provided to strengthen areas of weakness. She also reaches beyond her OD role to support the wider project in advocacy training and planning.

An excellent trainer, Sarah has developed and facilitated training in human resource management, resource mobilization and fixed amount awards. She has also provided technical assistance on compliance requirements for grantees. In governance she has supported board and management to clarify their roles, select appropriate board members, address performance management and leadership succession as well as the role of policies in governance and management.

Sarah supported organizations to prepare for and develop strategic plans, using an appreciative inquiry approach to focus on their strengths. A careful review helped CSOs think through their mission and vision statements, define key stakeholders, resources and funding strategies. The process enables CSOs to prepare advocacy and development strategies, HR requirements, organograms, and monitoring processes.

An innovative and supportive leader, Sarah mentors her staff so they can grow into their positions. She uses the same technique when she trains on supportive supervision. She analyzes system and process gaps to help CSOs learn about and practice supportive supervision. Sarah provides guidance and tools, including supervision plans, checklists and standards. She also supported resource mobilization training and developed role playing exercises to support staff to improve quality of actions and program implementation. Sarah was instrumental in helping to design and implement the first Grants Management Collaborative, which brings representatives from the 20 CSOs together to share learning and use data to show progress.

Sarah is also leading the effort to develop a longitudinal case study to tell the story of ABH’s approach to strengthening CSO performance and sustainability and organizing a fellowship program to enable OD and Advocacy staff to provide Uganda with skilled resources for the future. Initiatives is pleased to recognize Sarah’s contribution to organizational development and honored to have her on our team.

Leadership, Development and Sustaining Organizational Performance

By: Rebecca Furth, Senior Technical Advisor, Initiatives Inc.

Initiatives Inc. provides organizational development assistance to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We initiated this work in 2011 under the USAID-funded TB TO 2015 project, led by PATH. The follow-on project, Challenge TB, launched in DRC in 2014 under the leadership of The International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union). The Union asked Initiatives to continue its support to two NGOs and expand support to two additional organizations. All four organizations are involved in community-based TB control activities. Returning to work with the organizations after an 18 month hiatus provided Initiatives an opportunity to learn what developments “stuck,” whether organizations were able to advance further without assistance, and what challenges still needed to be addressed. Initiatives conducted organizational capacity assessments with three of the four organizations in May 2015. We learned a lot in this process, but here we present just a few key takeaways from our organizational development work in DRC.

  1. 1. Organizations with strong leadership sustain good management practices. In 2013, the two organizations we worked with had similar scores on their final OCAs, but the picture was quite different in 2015. One organization sustained its performance and even improved a bit; the other saw its performance decline. Both organizations experienced a significant decrease in funding at the end of the TB TO 2015 project, so what made the difference? Leadership. The organization with strong and consistent leadership was able to sustain its performance, despite funding challenges.
  2. 2. The development community giveth and taketh away. There is a large and well-justified push among the international development community to expand funding to local organizations, but the approach may set local NGOs up for failure. One organization saw a rapid influx of millions of dollars between 2006 and 2009. Today, its budget is less than $100,000. The organization didn’t do anything wrong, but donor priorities shifted faster than it could adjust. Over the next year, we will work with this organization to develop a new strategic plan that will hopefully help it better navigate the ebbs and flows of donor funding and prepare to mobilize resources from more diverse sources in an effort to nurture sustainability.
  3. 3. Participatory approaches to organizational development build demand. One of the more remarkable aspects of our work in DRC with the Challenge TB project is that the organizations requested Initiatives’ services. Having worked through our participatory approach under TB TO 2015, they knew how far they had come, but also what more they wanted to achieve and they wanted more support to help them obtain their goals. The participatory approach we use did what it was supposed to: empowered our partners to take charge of their development.

Organizational Advocacy and Capacity Assessments define Action Plans for Civil Society Organizations in Uganda

Posted: April 15, 2015

By: Sarah Murungi, Senior Organizational Capacity Development Specialist, ABH Project

How can we help civil society organizations (CSOs) in Uganda to more effectively advocate for improved community health services? The USAID Advocacy for Better Health (ABH) project (2014-2019) is designed to do just that – empower communities, advocate for better services, and strengthen civil society capacity to provide quality services. Twenty-one civil society organizations, four national and seventeen district level, have received grants from ABH to implement the project.

As a partner to PATH, Initiatives is responsible for capacity development. Initiatives designed its first Organizational Capacity Assessment in 2006 and has, over time, tailored it to the needs of new projects. For ABH, Initiatives worked with PATH to create the Organizational Advocacy and Capacity Assessment (OACA). Supporting the two main themes of the project, the OACA helps CSOs identify and address gaps in management systems and advocacy strategies. The combination strengthens CSOs’ overall ability to meet community health and social service needs.

Initial assessments were facilitated by a team of staff and consultants trained on the OACA process and tools. Each assessment lasted four days; to date, 18 assessments have been conducted. The assessments resulted in action plans to guide CSOs to prioritize actions toward improvement, with clear timelines and assigned responsibility. To review progress and new challenges, OACAs are conducted annually over the life of the five-year project.

The OACA was a great experience for facilitators, CSO staff, and board members. It was the first time many were exposed to the participatory process and tools, and able to discuss in a multi-disciplinary setting their current strengths and areas of weakness. Their own rankings helped CSOs develop strategies for improvement. “Loved how thorough and transparent the process was. The OACA really helped us reflect on our strengths and weaknesses as an entire organization.” – ACODEV

Many CSOs found the process very detailed and appreciated its participatory nature, including the ability to facilitate objective scoring. “Enables open discussion sessions where each member’s ideas were considered.” – JIACOFE

Others found it to be a helpful team-building exercise. “I appreciated the willingness of staff to participate and build consensus during the assessment.” – CEHURD

The project is currently supporting CSOs to address their prioritized areas identified in their action plans.

Initiatives’ Support to the USAID Malaria Vaccine Development Program (MVDP)

Posted: December 15, 2014

Initiatives has been supporting the USAID Malaria Vaccine Development Program (MVDP) since 2004 via task order contracts, first under the TASC2 Global Health indefinite quantity contract (IQC) from 2004 to 2009, and then under the TASC3 IQC mechanism from 2009 to 2014. The MVDP is devoted to developing vaccines to decrease illness and death due to malaria in endemic areas. The program works closely with academia, the commercial sector, the Department of Defense and other government agencies, and international organizations to fill gaps in the global malaria vaccine development effort by focusing on promising new technologies and developing vaccines that will protect residents in malaria-endemic areas.

Initiatives’ role under the MVDP has included:

Guiding a Hospital through Transformation: Tanzania

Posted: October 15, 2014

Under the majestic shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro lies Kibong’oto Infectious Disease Hospital (KIDH), the leading multi-drug resistant tuberculosis hospital in Tanzania. In 2012, KIDH was called the Kibong’oto National Tuberculosis Hospital; but the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) and hospital leaders wanted to turn the TB specialty hospital into a parastatal institution to lead training and to help KIDH provide regional services for infectious diseases. USAID was also interested in funding the hospital directly for its TB diagnostic and treatment services, but wanted to KIDH to have systems strong enough to manage United States Government funds.

Through the TB TO 2015 Project, led by PATH, USAID supported KIDH to strengthen its service delivery, diagnostic and training systems. As a partner to PATH, Initiatives Inc. helped build KIDH’s organizational capacity to help the hospital in its transition and strengthen its systems to meet the requirements for receiving direct funding from USAID.

KIDH’s capacity building process began with a participatory assessment. Together, Initiatives and KIDH personnel applied Initiatives’ organizational capacity assessment (OCA) and action planning process to assess the hospital’s capacity development needs and document a road map for strengthening systems. Following the initial OCA, Initiatives provided technical support to address the identified gaps including a guiding the development of a new strategic plan; documentation of KIDH finance, administration, and human resources policies and procedures; training KIDH leaders in resource mobilization; orienting staff on establishing quality improvement; and training senior KIDH staff in leadership and management.

The involvement of KIDH staff in the hospital’s capacity assessment increased their commitment to make improvements. Follow-up OCAs showed growth, but it is KIDH’s successes in the last year that speak loudest to how far it has come. The KIDH strategic plan was approved by the MOHSW. The KIDH resource mobilization team is in place and successfully obtained additional resources to establish new training programs. Despite a major leadership change, KIDH was able to stay on track with its mission and strategic objectives. The hospital staff and leadership also established quality improvement (QI) teams and began instituting QI processes. The hospital also established nursing process standards and is now rolling out training on the standards to all nurses in all departments. Finally, a strong impact was made on leadership and decision making. A new organogram and relevant job descriptions were developed, training on supervision provided, improved communication systems put in place and strategies for improving the working environment for all staff established.

Spotlight on: Irene Biraro-Seguya, Human Resources Technical Advisor, USAID/SUSTAIN Project

Posted: October 1, 2014

The USAID/SUSTAIN Project which began in June 2010, works to improve HIV/AIDS service delivery in 19 government hospitals. The project assists the MOH with the integration of HIV and AIDS services into the general health services at the hospitals. In her role as the Human Resources (HR) Technical Advisor, Irene provides technical leadership for SUSTAIN’s HR interventions at the supported hospitals. Her work has included appraising the health workforce situation at SUSTAIN-supported facilities, enhancing human resource planning, assessing and implementing strategies to improve employee engagement and strengthening partnerships and coordinating with key stakeholders.

Ms. Biraro-Seguya also led the USAID/SUSTAIN projects’ Human Resource Performance Improvement (HRPI) activity. This sought to improve the hospitals’ HR management practices in utilizing quality improvement approaches to increase the uptake HIV of counseling and testing (HTC) services. This was done by strengthening staff role definition and providing clear task assignments, peer support and team-based feedback and information sharing on indicators, targets and progress.

The HRPI resulted in successes. Mubende and Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospitals (RRHs) improved their achievement of HCT targets from just over 50% to 100% or beyond in just five months. Overall, the HRPI demonstrated that integrating HR improvement strategies QI interventions can assist hospitals to reach performance targets. To read a summary report of the HRPI activities, click here and see Figure 4 below from the report.

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