The New Concept - Redefine: Amit Phull and Rajiv Nagpal

We will have to find out solutions wherein we reduce social gatherings and at the same time ensure active engagement with our stakeholders write Amit Phull and Rajiv Nagpal, Partners at Think through Consulting.

Amit Phull and Rajiv Nagpal

We are living in times with unprecedented uncertainties. Covid-19 is bound to have far-reaching impact on our personal and professional lives. We believe that BC (before Covid-19) & AC (after Covid-19) era will be different in many ways. We already have experienced some of the changes during the lockdown period but there is much more yet to be discovered.

The social development sector is also expected to get redefined. There will be major impact on the way we conceive our programmes and implement them on the ground. The whole concept of resilient communities, ownership and participation which is a core of any development program shall be examined differently. We may not afford losing the core of our programs but the strategies will have to be suitability improvised, to avoid causing a threat to our stakeholders. We will have to find out solutions wherein we maintain physical distance and reduce social gatherings; and at the same time ensure active engagement with our stakeholders.

The conventional and effective ways of Capacity Building, Behaviour Change Communication, Advocacies wherein one to one contact was the core and the human touch was essential might not be feasible till the time we have discovered a cure for COVID-19. On the other hand, the current social issues will manifest into a severe version of themselves due to increased vulnerability of the communities, farms, health services, and schools etc. The issues that will start unfolding in the AC era will be fatalities, large-scale unemployment, increased cases of gender-based violence, discrimination, undernutrition, and inaccessibility of educational and recreational facilities.

Given the context, once the lockdown is eased off, it will be imperative for investors or donors to undertake a rapid assessment of their ongoing programs/projects to re-validate the rationale of the project and if needed redefine their activities. The next step would be to re-align the budget for the upcoming quarters/financial years in such a way that it encompasses post COVID-19 social & work environment. A possible approach to undertake the same is indicated below briefly:

· Stocktaking of financial year closure processes (particularly during March 2020):

o List the activities and corresponding budgets which could not be achieved during the last quarter of the financial year;

o Check if those pending activities would be relevant whenever the operations start. Can the activities be continued in original form or they require some improvisation?

o If those activities are not relevant and cannot be completed due to various factors, what is to be done with available resources?

o What is the status of compliances and FY closure process and what support do they would require to ensure that all compliances are adhered to within the stipulated timeline.

o Check if the program is still relevant. If not, possible solutions could be to design an intermediate bridge program or suspend it temporarily. Discontinuation of the program and realignment of resources may be advised if the relevance is entirely lost. Alternatively, the same program can be redesigned and strategized to capture the new context.

· How to measure/monitor the activities completed till 31 March 2020

o Donors will have to redefine monitoring of the program/projects as it may not be feasible to undertake the field visits in near future. Impetus will be on the documented reports shared by the NGOs, which could not be validated during current scenario. Therefore, support of an experienced team, well versed with thematic and program management along with implementation experience will be able to gauge the information/reports shared by implementation partners.

o Innovative and technology driven monitoring solutions, which are effective, efficient and require no or minimal interactions with larger stakeholders need to be thought through.

· Sector trends and good practices/what peers are doing?

o It is always good to refer to the experiences of others and take decision best suited to your own interest and explore what all like-minded organizations are doing.

o In case of multi-donor supported projects, it will be important to understand what other co-donors are doing. Are they still continuing with the project? What changes have they proposed in their activities & budgets? What is the impact of their changes on the set of activities and expected outcomes?

o In case an implementing partner is executing program/project from various funding partners, it will be good to connect with the funders to check how they are managing the crisis. A collective decision would always be beneficial. It will be all the more important how implementing partner are sharing information and negotiating

New Commitment post COVID-19:

o Take a pause and rethink if this is a right time to go ahead with the pre-designed program/project or would it require improvement

o Even if the program/project is still relevant; rationalise the activities and budget

o Work out the project staff requirements, new organogram & reporting structure f, staff capacity building requirements, use of technology in periodic discussions, and

participation of field staff to ensure pulses from the field are being recorded and discussed

o Develop specific M&E framework, risk assessment and mitigation plan for ensuring that the program/project is well thought of and mindful of the challenges; and to the extent possible has strategy to counter such challenges

o Finally, develop the internal monitoring mechanism, which is lesser dependent on field visits, yet is effective

The show must go on, so as our efforts to make a positive change in the lives of millions of people. We should learn from the past, assess current strength and develop forward looking plan to achieve sustainable development.

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