4 lessons for adapting evidence-based programmes: An example from a social norm change project in Rwanda

by 08th Jun 2017
Ntibimenya Hassan and Mukakimonyo Hassina have taken part in the Journeys of Transformation programme in Rwanda Ntibimenya Hassan and Mukakimonyo Hassina have taken part in the Journeys of Transformation programme in Rwanda

Preventing intimate partner violence (IPV) won’t happen overnight. It requires a lengthy process of social change, and achieving that requires both time and funding investment.

In 2014, DFID funded an innovative gender-based violence prevention programme in Rwanda called ‘Indashyikirwa’ aimed at changing social norms that condone gender-based violence. Indashyikirwa is the result of thorough adaptation of key evidence-based prevention and response programmes. It is being delivered by a CARE led consortium made up of Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC), Rwanda Women Network (RWN) and What Works to prevent violence against women and girls (WW).

So what have we achieved, and what have we learned, so far?

The adaptation process which took one year generated valuable lessons. Erin Stern – Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for WW – explains in detail the learning coming out of the Indashyikirwa adaption process in a presentation delivered at the STRIVE learning lab.

I am highlighting below the four main learnings from Indashyikirwa adaption process so far, while emphasising the added value of working with a research partner.

1. Adaptation requires time.

Indashyikirwa benefited from a full year of inception phase allowing partners to work together in refining the programme’s Theory of Change and design that was being informed by the learning from evidence-based models. Those included (i) RWN Polyclinics of Hope programme which is mainly a response model for GBV survivors, (ii) the Journey of Transformation which is an interactive couples’ curriculum, and (iii) SASA which is an activism model using power language and community activism as an approach to change social norms. The inception phase provided an opportunity to build on technical inputs from WW researchers, partners and GBV experts and to come up with a streamlined and much more focused intervention model. Working with a research team has also required programming adjustments to adapt to the requirements of a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) impact evaluation and operational research.

2. Make it relevant and appropriate to your context.

It is crucial to consider the normative system in place in the context where the IPV prevention model is to be adapted. As Erin explains, this requires thorough analysis to understand what is acceptable by community members in terms of violence, how community members react to violence or what common behaviours exist around gender rules. It is also important to identify the social norms that support gender equality and could be used for positive messaging. In addition, in depth understanding of norms and beliefs, and the policy and legal framework as it relates to gender and GBV, needs to be analysed and understood appropriately.

3. Pre-test adapted curriculums and/or programme components.

There is a need to pre-test before any adapted curriculum and/or programme component is fully implemented. This is a step that is often over- looked by NGOS mainly due to the cost and the time involved. There is a lot to gain from investing those extra resources in ensuring that adapted material is pre-tested in the context where it will be implemented. The two months pre-testing of the interactive curriculums of Indashyikirwa led to a number of valuable adjustments to the content of the curriculums and in the way the curriculums were to be facilitated during the implementation phase. Changes had budget implications that in this case could be strongly backed up by tangible evidence collected during the pre-testing phase. (One of the key changes, for example, was the need to hire two facilitators instead of one to roll out the curriculum training with couples, or the need to equip staff with basic skills on counselling.)

4. Work with research partners to monitor, learn and evaluate.

Work with research partners to thoroughly monitor, learn and evaluate adaptation throughout the implementation process. The research component of the programme provides timely and context-specific data and analysis that complement the traditional M&E system of a project. For example, in the case of Indashyikirwa, the research on social norms underlying IPV provided valuable and detailed data that refined the adaptation of the key messages on power, violence and gender equality. It elevates the understanding of the impact of the project delivery by combining qualitative and quantitative data, while improving the overall responsiveness of the programme to challenges experienced on the ground. One factor that might have enabled this success is a research capacity embedded in the programme from the beginning. This has been possible through the presence of a WW researcher based in Kigali – Erin Stern – who has been working closely with the consortium partners. For example, data collected by the research team is systematically presented and jointly analysed with the Indashyikirwa programme team. This has allowed partners to own the data, make sense of it and most importantly use it to adjust project delivery as needed. This process has also simultaneously enriched the validity and interpretation of the ongoing programmatic research.

Next steps for the Indashyirkiwa programme

Indashyikirwa is now entering a new phase of adaptation which should further enrich the learning documented so far on adapting successful models. The programme will be fully evaluated by early next year. There has been on-going engagement with the government of Rwanda – specifically the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion – and DFID Rwanda to ensure ownership of the programme and explore opportunities to replicate and/or scale up the programme. How to effectively manage a process of scaling up social change programming will present another set of questions to be learned from Indashyirkiwa.

Sonia Martins

Sonia provides strategic support to CARE country offices and manages a portfolio of projects mainly on gender-based violence and governance themes. Sonia has also been supporting gender mainstreaming across CARE since 2011 and is currently co-chairing the CARE gender network.

Sonia has a Masters degree in development and governance from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and has over 10 years' experience in programme management, especially in Latin America and Africa.

Email: Martins@careinternational.org