Next week, as I take time off from work, I will start working on a series of free ebooks for Rotarians and others interested in service work. The ebooks will be released in coming months. If you have ideas or know of projects that I should cover in this new series, please let me know by commenting on this post or sending me an email.
A first set of ebooks will be about Rotary and ways to strengthen the organization. Let me give three examples.
First, I will provide estimates of the footprint of Rotary, starting with data from the United States. For example, Rotarians know about the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. But they often do not know about the richness of the activities implemented by club foundations and how much Rotary as a whole contributes to “serving humanity”, the theme for this Rotary year. I will provide estimates of our total contribution – which is large. My hope is that these estimates can then be used to better tell our story.
Second, I will advocate for the need to invest more in partnerships, innovation, and evaluation in Rotary. I will argue for such investments, and share examples of great projects that have achieved impact in each of the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation as well as polio through partnerships, innovation, and evaluation.
Third, I will share experiences of successful Rotary clubs, starting with my own and how we succeeded in doubling our membership in six months since July thanks in part to changes adopted at the beginning of the Rotary year. I will share lessons learned that I hope will be useful to other clubs.
Project Design in Areas of Focus
In addition, ahead of the Atlanta Rotary International convention, I will prepare a series of short ebooks providing basic facts as well as good practice advise and great project stories about our areas of focus for service work (fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and promoting peace).
The hope is that these ebooks will help Rotary clubs and districts as well as other organizations choose and prepare great projects by building on the experience accumulated not only by Rotary (including Rotarian Action Groups) but also by other organizations.
Let Me Know Your Ideas
If you know of specific projects that I should cover in this new series of free ebooks, or more broadly of successful initiatives taken by clubs or districts that I should be aware of, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
You can do so by sharing a comment on this post or by contacting me by email if you prefer (through the Contact Me page of this blog).
New cases of polio have emerged in Nigeria. Ahead of World Polio Day, readers of this blog should know that Rotary and other international organizations are stepping up to the plate. In September 2016, Rotary committed an additional $35 million to end polio, bringing its contribution to $105 million in 2016. Two months earlier, the World Bank approved in June 2016 $575 million in additional IDA financing for Nigeria to scale up support for the North-East of the country. This includes $125 million for polio eradication over three years (2017-2019).
The World Bank program document for the additional polio financing notes that multiple obstacles remain to eradicating polio in Nigeria due to a lack of accessibility of some communities in the Northern States. This has led to special measures being introduced, including “(a) ‘hit and run’ interventions where vaccinators use any opportunity to go to difficult areas with the military and leave as soon as all children have been reached; (b)‘fire-walling’ that is, ensuring immunity in areas surrounding inaccessible villages; (c) using local people as vaccinators who can operate without drawing attention; (d) including IPV (Inactivated Polio Vaccine) in routine immunizations activities; (e) having transit bus-stop and market vaccination teams; and (f) ensuring that all internally displaced people residing in camps are covered.”
Despite these efforts, immunization coverage for polio and other vaccines in the North-East still lags far behind the national average. The $125 million additional financing for polio has two components.
The first component provides $60 million for Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and other operational requirements of polio eradication activities. UNICEF will receive $50 million to procure OPV. The additional US$10 million will be used by UNICEF or WHO for a range of activities where funding gaps may be identified, including activities for Immunization Plus Days.
The second component ($65 million) will help finance routine immunization. The inclusion of a component on routine immunization stems from the fact that it has been shown to be essential for interrupting the transmission of wild polio and thereby completing polio eradication, while also being a critical aspect of improving child and maternal health.
The program document for the additional polio financing is available here.
The difficulties in eradicating polio in the North-East are related in part to insecurity and a broader lack of services and development opportunities. The Boko Haram insurgency has deeply affected the states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi and Gombe, with negative impacts on an estimated 15 million people.
As per the press release for the additional financing package for the North-East, the other components of the package include:
$75 million for the Nigeria Community and Social DevelopmentProject which provides immediate basic social infrastructure and psychosocial support to communities most affected by displacement;
$100 million for the Youth Employment and Social Support Operation to provide youth, women and the unemployed (especially internally displaced persons, returnees and persons with disabilities resulting from the crisis) with labor-intensive work and skills development opportunities. Cash transfers will also be provided to displaced families and individuals as they return voluntarily and safely to and settle in their old or new communities.
$50 million for the Third Fadama Development Project that addresses the emergency needs of farmers by improving access to irrigation and drainage services, delivery of agricultural inputs, and contributing to the restoration of livelihoods in conflict-affected households with a focus on women and youth.
$100 million for the State Education Program Investment Project thatsupports the return to teaching and learning through financial incentives for teachers who have completed psycho-social training, and provide grants to schools to address their needs as identified by school-based management committees.
$125 million for the National State Health Investment Project (plus $20 million from the Global Financing Facility) thatwill help to reestablish health services with a focus on maternal, newborn and child health, nutrition, psycho-social support and mental health. In communities in which health facilities have been destroyed, mobile clinics will be deployed to provide care.
As Rachid Benmessaoud, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria explained it, “The needs are staggering. Millions of people have lost their livelihoods, schools and health facilities have been destroyed, and the psychosocial impact of the crisis must also be addressed. To help create economic opportunities for the most vulnerable, we have identified a set of initiatives that will have a quick and tangible impact on the population in four priority areas: agriculture, education, health and social protection.”
The World Bank press release on which this blog post is based is available here together with links to other related resources.
A few months ago, I shared news through this blog about the approval of a new World Bank project for routine immunizations in Pakistan which included a component on polio. Rotarian friends mentioned to me at the time that my blog post did not mention Rotary. The reason was that the project included partnerships with organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but not Rotary International. This was because the project did not focus solely on polio even though it included a component about polio, and Rotary (legitimately) targets its limited financial resources to projects focusing on polio only. Beyond Pakistan, quite a bit is being done in developing countries on polio through routine immunizations. As Rotarians we should be aware of this.
Yesterday I came across a story about another World Bank project that included a polio component in Yemen. As this may be of interest to some Rotarians, let me share this hopeful story below, which includes links to the project appraisal document (for those who like details, this document explains how the project works). A key message from the story is that by partnering with UNICEF and WHO, the World Bank was able to maintain disbursements for this project despite the conflict situation in the country. As a result, the project has provided critical support for the national polio campaign which has managed to vaccinate 1.5 million Yemeni children despite the conflict.
“This is so critical to us. We cannot afford to lose another child!” With these words, Ashwak Althabibi, a 36-year-old mother of six children, shared the story of losing her daughter Nora last year.
“We couldn’t get her to the hospital soon enough, and by the time we found a transportation and reached the hospital, Nora was gone,” Althabibi added with tearful eyes. She composed herself to say “I just want to thank the vaccination team for their perseverance. They come on a regular basis and vaccinate all my children. It’s a great consolation for us to feel such care.”
“No transportation can get there and it is the team’s responsibility to reach this population and to make sure all their children get vaccinated during this hard time,” commented Hana Ali Nagi, a 19-year-old health volunteer in the vaccination campaign.
Since the start of the current conflict, Yemen suffered massive damage to infrastructure, such as hospitals and clinics, and the interruption of medical supplies. Many foreign health personnel have left, and even the most basic needs for a healthy existence—access to water, sanitation, and food—have become, for most Yemenis, a daunting, daily task.
Gone too are the days when the victims of war were mostly soldiers: the Yemeni conflict has been unfair to women and children, which means the most vulnerable Yemenis are bearing the brunt of the conflict.
Thousands of Yemeni children have been killed and injured in the war, and hundreds of thousands put at more risk of death from disease or malnutrition. The UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 320,000 children now face severe malnutrition, while 2.2 million need humanitarian aid urgently to prevent their nutritional status from deteriorating.
The last two decades have been a prolonged period of political instability and economic fragility in Yemen, a country with both limited natural resources and an underdeveloped institutional capacity for project implementation.
But one lesson from previous World Bank Group experience in the health sector is that government ownership, simple project design, and donor coordination should come top of the list of the ways to make things work.
Yemen’s Health and Population Project (HPP) has a simple, evidence-based outreach delivery model for health services in coordination with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), in order to procure some of the essential medications and medical supplies needed for the outreach campaigns.
This has enabled the Bank to continue its support to the project, when the war escalated and the Bank’s whole portfolio in Yemen was suspended, through channeling grants from the International Development Association (IDA – the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries) directly to UNICEF and WHO to deliver vaccinations and basic health services such as nutrition and reproductive health to children and women, respectively.
Since the project’s activities resumed in January 2016, around 1.5 million Yemeni children under five years old were reached by the national polio campaigns supported by the project, which represents about 30 percent of the whole target population nationwide.
“Conflict can have devastating, multi-generational impacts, but by leveraging our partnerships in Yemen we are able to continue investing in children’s health, which is a vital investment in the country’s future,” said Asad Alam, World Bank country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.
The outreach model aims to reach children in the places where they are living, often in remote areas that are hard to get to. It will continue to operate like this until the foundations of the country’s public health system are back in place. Simple, ready-to-go interventions are what Yemenis want to see as a practical response to their desperate need for basic health care. Health workers use different ways to deliver those services in such remote areas where camels, donkeys, or mountain climbing are usual means of transportation.
More outreach rounds for basic health services are planned, although the security situation prevents access to children in some areas. But overall, because of the problems of damaged infrastructure, fuel shortages, displacement and increased poverty, the simple outreach model of delivering basic health services is best suited to Yemen’s present situation. A door-to-door health round gives children the chance of getting vaccinated at home, with health professionals and volunteers spreading out across the country, mobilizing communities and vaccinating children.
Hopefully, soon peace will mark a new chapter, both in rebuilding Yemen and its health system, and improving the lives of all Yemenis and particularly its future, the children.
Thanks go to UNICEF for sharing real stories and photos from the field.
This story is reproduced from the World Bank website.
Polio remains endemic in only two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apart from polio campaigns, broader support for immunization is essential to eradicate polio. Two weeks ago (on April 21, 2016), the World Bank approved an International Development Association (IDA) credit of $50 million to increase the availability of vaccines for infectious diseases, including polio, for children under two years of age in Pakistan. Additional funding to the amount of $80 million is provided by a World Bank administered multi-donor trust fund, Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance, and the United States Agency for International Development. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also participates through a buy-down mechanism (on what a buy-down amounts to, click here). Below is information on the project reproduced from the World Bank’s website (the original link for the information is here).
The National Immunization Support Project (NISP) is supporting the country’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) that aims to immunize all children against eight vaccine preventable diseases: tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), and measles. Strengthening EPI will also support Pakistan’s access to newer vaccines which are either in the process of roll out (pneumococcal vaccine) or under planning (rotavirus vaccine).
The Project is also receiving additional support of $80 million grant from a World Bank administered multi-donor trust fund, Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance, and the United States Agency for International Development. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also supporting the project through an innovative partial conversion of the IDA credit into a grant upon successful achievement of project objectives.
“Pakistan is grappling with the public health emergency of polio virus transmission.Ensuring strong routine immunization services is the first essential pillar in polio eradication”, says Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “The World Bank and other development partners are working with the Government of Pakistan to strengthen routine immunization services at the critical endgame stage of polio eradication, particularly as Pakistan introduces injectable polio vaccine into its routine schedule”.
The project will incentivize provincial government capacity for rigorous monitoring and effective implementation of its program, including strengthened vaccine logistics, and deploying and expanding qualified technical and managerial personnel.
“Pakistan’s performance in maternal and child health remains weak and inadequate immunization coverage is a major challenge. Childhood immunization against vaccine preventable diseases can help in significant reductions in disability and death”, says Robert Oelrichs, World Bank Task Team Leader of the Project. “The project will establish linkages of the federal and provincial EPI cells with private sector health providers and health-related civil society organizations (CSOs) working in low coverage catchment areas – especially urban slums.”
Children under two years of age in Pakistan are the main beneficiaries of NISP – particularly children belonging to the poorest households in which immunization coverage is lowest. In addition, all children will benefit from strengthened polio and measles interventions.
The credit is financed by IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the poor, with a maturity of 25 years, including a grace period of 5 years.
Good health is fundamental for development. This post, the third in a series on open access World Bank publications, provides easy access to a selection of more than 50 books and reports published since 2010 by the World Bank on health, nutrition, and population. The publications were compiled as a resource for participants at the 2016 Rotary Presidential Conference on Disease Prevention and Treatment in Cannes, France. The list of publications is available here.
Rotary International has long recognized the importance of health. PolioPlus, the first global campaign aiming to eradicate polio through mass vaccination of children, was launched in 1985 by Rotary. In 1988 Rotary became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership in which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and a number of national governments are also engaged and contributing.
In addition, disease prevention and treatment, and saving the lives of mothers and children, are two of the six areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation with large funding commitments, and many Rotary clubs and districts around the world implementing projects.
How can clubs and districts contribute to efforts to improve health, nutrition, and population outcomes worldwide? These are some of the questions that will be discussed at the Cannes conference, one of five flagship conferences organized by Rotary International in 2015-16. The other conferences are on peace and conflict resolution in California, economic development in Cape Town, literacy and WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) in schools in Kolkata, and WASH in schools in Manila.
The compilation of recent World Bank publications on health, nutrition, and population made available here is provided as a service to Rotarians and others working on those areas without any endorsement of the World Bank as to which publications should be featured. Access is provided through the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository. In order to keep the list manageable, the focus is on books and reports published since 2010 as opposed to other publications. Only publications from the World Bank are listed simply because covering (many) other organizations would be a rather complex task. At the same time, focusing on World Bank has the advantage of being able to go global with a single organization.
The hope is that the publications listed, and more generally the World Bank’s open access knowledge resources, will be useful to conference participants and others working on health, nutrition, and population.
This post is the first in a series on open access resources from the World Bank that could be useful to Rotarians as well as others involved in service work and development projects around the world. Probably more than any other development organization, the World Bank is making available a wealth of resources on topics related to development, including a large number of books and reports. The focus of most World Bank open access knowledge resources is on developing countries, but data and publications are also available for developed countries, and often lessons learned from the developing world have implications for service projects and social policy in developed countries as well.
In coming weeks, this blog will feature selections of recently published World Bank books and reports by topic, considering in priority the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation (TRF), namely promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, and growing local economies apart from eradicating polio. The hope is that the featured publications will be beneficial not only to researchers, but also to practitioners and policy makers.
Why a Focus on Open Access Resources?
The inspiration for this series of posts on open access resources came in part from the fact that Rotary is organizing between January and March 2016 five conferences on the core areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation. The first will be the Rotary Presidential Conference on Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution or “World Peace Conference” to be held in January 2016 in Ontario, California. The other conferences are on disease prevention and treatment in Cannes, economic development in Cape Town, literacy and WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) in schools in Kolkata, and WASH in schools in Manila. The dates of the five conferences are listed in the table below together with their websites.
The conferences are sponsored jointly by Rotary International President K.R. Ravindran and TRF Trustee Chair Ray Klinginsmith. Each conference will be led by local Rotary districts and are open to all, whether Rotarians or not. The conferences will feature plenary sessions with world class speakers as well as parallel sessions on topics of interest and hands-on workshops.
The hope for this series of posts on open access resources is that selecting relevant publications on the topics to be discussed at the above five conferences could be useful not only to conference participants, but also to many others working or implementing service projects in those fields.
Why Focusing on World Bank Resources?
Only resources available from the World Bank will be included in this series even though many other organizations provide highly valuable open access resources. Restricting the focus on resources provided by the World Bank is driven by practicality. Including other organizations would yield a rather unwieldy list of relevant publications due to the scope of what would need to be included. At the same time, focusing on the World Bank has the advantage of being able to go global with a single organization, since the World Bank is engaged with the developing world as a whole. By contrast, many other organizations, including regional development banks, tend to have more of a regional focus.
In order to keep the list of publications and other resources highlighted through this series manageable, the focus in most cases will be on open access books and reports as opposed to other publications such as working papers, articles, and briefs. Even when restricting resources to books, a large number of World Bank publications directly relevant to the topics of the five Rotary conferences can be listed. In the case of the first conference on promoting peace for example, several dozen recent books and reports published since 2010 that relate closely to the topics of the conference can be listed.
Topics for Consideration
To keep things simple, the series of posts will consider in priority the six areas of focus of TRF, which also correspond to the topics selected for the five Rotary Presidential conferences (to a large extent, the conference on disease prevention and treatment also implicitly covers the area of focus of TRF devoted to saving mothers and children).
But the series will also feature a few cross-sectoral topics that are highly relevant to multiple areas of focus of TRF. One example is that of early childhood development, for which interventions are needed from virtually all six areas of focus of TRF. The series could also cover some topics in more depth than others, for example allocating more than one post to a single area of focus of TRF if this appears to be warranted.
So please, do not hesitate to share your views as to what should be covered by providing a comment on this post, so that your views can inform the final selection of topics and open access resources to be provided.
This post is the last in a series of nine posts on partnerships, innovation, and evaluation in Rotary. The rationale for the series was my conviction that if Rotary is to have a larger impact globally, it must rely more than has been the case so far on partnerships, innovation, and evaluation (and in some areas advocacy, as has been the case with polio). Seven different projects or investments that have relied on partnerships, were innovative, and were evaluated at least in some way, were showcased. A compilation of the case studies together with a brief introduction is available here. Separate briefs are also available for each of the projects here.
As I mentioned it in the introduction to the series, partnerships help to implement larger projects and benefit from the expertise of organizations that are among the best in their field. Rotary’s Foundation was created almost 100 years ago (the Centennial is next year) and it has about $1 billion in assets. This is respectable, but in the world of development projects, which is in practice where Rotary is investing most of its funds, this remains small. Without innovation, the contribution of Rotary is an important drop, but still a drop in the development assistance bucket.
By contrast, if Rotary clubs and district innovate, successful pilots can then be scaled up by other organizations with deeper pockets, thereby potentially achieving much larger impact. However, for innovative projects to be recognized as such, proper evaluations are needed. We must be able to demonstrate the impact of pilot projects. Innovation and evaluation are like twins: they work best in pairs. Together, partnerships, innovation, and evaluation are the key to larger impact.
To encourage clubs and districts to think bigger and more strategically, stories of great projects were shared: an innovative financing mechanism for polio eradication; an award winning project fighting malaria and Ebola in Mali; a teacher training program that is transforming teaching and learning in Nepali classrooms; a project on obstetric fistula saving the lives of mothers and children in Nigeria; a program to invest in the writing skills of disadvantaged youth in the United States; a project to improve access to water and sanitation in Uganda; and a global network of Peace Centers and Peace Fellows to help promote peace.
Some of these programs and projects are large. Others are small. Most were implemented through global grants, but one was implemented through a district grant. All these projects have been in one way or another innovative. They have all leveraged partnerships not only to crowd in financial resources, but also – and even more importantly – to build on great expertise. And they have all relied on monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess their impact, at least partially.
Putting together great projects requires work. Fundraising is often time consuming in Rotary given the funding model of the Rotary Foundation that requires raising funds from many clubs and districts first before getting a match from the Foundation. Planning, implementing, and in addition evaluating projects also takes time, especially when one tries to do this in a professional way. Finally, in order to be innovative, Rotarians leading projects need to be aware of where the frontier is in their field, and what could be innovative. This also takes some time.
There is nothing wrong with clubs and districts funding and implementing traditional Rotary projects. Most projects will continue to be fairly simple, with funds provided to worthy charitable causes. These projects, as well as the volunteer time often contributed by Rotarians when implementing them, serve an important purpose. The beneficiaries of these projects are better off thanks to them. These projects help communities, and they also benefit Rotary through the goodwill that the projects create.
But if we want to raise the bar and achieve larger impact, we also need to do more innovative projects. Rotary needs to be bolder, more ambitious. It needs to better learn from its projects, both the great and not so great ones, and make sure that lessons learned are shared broadly, well beyond the Rotary family. The launch of the Future Vision model, despite some challenges, was a step in the right direction. As we celebrate the Centennial of the Rotary Foundation next year, let’s make sure that we have the right vision for what Rotary and its Foundation could accomplish in the next 100 years.
By partnering with the World Bank in an innovative way, Rotary has successfully leveraged its funding for polio eradication, contributing to success towards one year without polio in Nigeria and in Africa. This post, the second in a series on partnerships, innovation, and evaluation, explains how the innovative polio buy-down mechanism has worked.
Last month, Africa achieved a key milestone towards polio eradication, with no case of polio observed for a full year. It will still take a few weeks for the World Health Organization to officially certify this milestone, and for the region to be declared polio-free, no polio cases should be observed for a period of three years. Still, tremendous progress towards polio eradication has been accomplished. Just a few years ago, hundreds of cases of polio were observed annually in Nigeria. The country achieved its first full year without polio on July 24, 2015. This will leave only Afghanistan and Pakistan on the list of polio-endemic countries.
As noted in a recent post on the World Bank health blog, achieving one year without polio in Nigeria required persistence and courage. In some areas, professionals and volunteers who led the polio campaigns risked their life: Boko Haram assassinated nine polio vaccinators two years ago in the north of the country. Vaccinators had to rely on “hit and run” tactics to reduce exposure to risk, vaccinating children quickly in the morning and leaving the area by the afternoon. (For an understanding of the role of a wide range of people at the heart of polio eradication (in the case of Afghanistan), see the great slide show provided by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.)
The polio campaigns also required great effort and creativity from multiple agencies, including through an innovative buy-down mechanism implemented by the World Bank and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control via the U.N. Foundation. (The Gates Foundation and Rotary International are the two largest donors worldwide towards polio eradication over the last 30 years.) Partnership with the government of Nigeria, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF, among others, was also crucial to the success of the campaigns.
How did the polio buy-down mechanism work? The basic idea was for the World Bank to fund polio eradication projects through concessional IDA (International Development Association) loans. In the case of Nigeria, two projects worth $285 million, including additional financing, were implemented over the last dozen years. The projects included clauses that allowed loans to Nigeria to become grants if the country achieved a high level of polio immunization coverage. In other words, if the immunization targets indicated in the loans were achieved and verified independently through in-depth audits, the government would receive grant funding for polio eradication without the need to repay the loans.
For the government of Nigeria, this was potentially a great deal. And for the Gates Foundation and the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, this was also a pretty good investment. In general, investments towards polio eradication have been shown to be fairly cost-effective. But with the buy-down mechanism, these investments were especially cost-effective.
Due to the concessional nature of IDA loans (long-term zero or low-interest loans which grace repayment periods), for every dollar contributed to the buy-down, the actual amount of resources that could be transferred to the government for the polio campaigns was two times larger. The buy-down funds were transferred by the Gates Foundation and Rotary International (in the case of Rotary in partnership with the United Nations Foundation) to the World Bank at the start of the project, and used to repay the loan at the end of the project if the target immunization rates had been achieved.
Through this buy-down mechanism, the Gates Foundation and Rotary International were able to offset all future loan repayment obligations with a much smaller amount of funding to pay back IDA than the face value of the loans granted to Nigeria. Again, one dollar invested by these private donors generated about $2 for polio eradication in Nigeria, with a similar mechanism in place for Pakistan. The mechanism also had built-in incentives to encourage strong implementation performance by the government of Nigeria since the loans would be transformed into grants only if the specific immunization targets were to be achieved.
At the time of the first buy-down mechanism for polio, then-World Bank President James. D. Wolfensohn stated, “The partnership to buy-down loans to grants on the basis of good performance is an example of the innovative thinking occurring in the private sector and the World Bank about how to increase finances for the fight against global diseases. This financial innovation is bringing the goal of a polio-free world one large step closer to becoming reality.”
Could similar buy-down mechanisms be applied in other areas? That was probably the hope when this innovative mechanism was created for polio a dozen years ago. It seems however that with few exceptions the idea has not yet been replicated much in other development areas, even if it has been mentioned in a number of reports, including in a Results for Development report on education.
A number of conditions have to be met for this type of buy-down mechanism to be successful. But in the case of polio, it has been successful, enabling the Gates Foundations, individual Rotarian donors through the Rotary Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, and the World Bank to achieve higher impact towards polio eradication than would have been the case otherwise.
A brief on polio in Africa and the buy-down mechanism is available here.
This post is reproduced with minor changes from a post published by the author on September 2, 2015 on the World Bank’s Financing for Development blog at http://www.fin4dev.org/.
This post is the first in a series on increasing the impact of Rotary. The series will feature case studies of great service projects that have achieved larger impact through partnerships, innovation, and evaluation. The hope is that the case studies will encourage clubs and districts to think bigger in their service work. The series will cover each of the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation, as well as polio.
Service work through volunteering or projects is at the heart of what Rotary is all about. Membership surveys suggest that the main reason why members join and remain in Rotary is the opportunity to serve (see my recent book on Rotary). Fellowship and networking are also very important, but service is first.
Rotary is a fairly decentralized organization with at its core the Rotary club. Rotarians come in many shapes and forms, beliefs and passions. There is amazing diversity in the types of service work that Rotarians engage in. This is a strength as members choose to contribute to the causes they are most passionate about.
Most of the service work that Rotarians engage in is done through volunteering, not through service projects that benefit from financial support from the Rotary Foundation (TRF). In adition, many projects implemented with TRF support are small and based on local opportunities identified by clubs. These projects may not rely on partnerships, they may not be especially innovative, and they may not be evaluated in depth. As long as it is clear to clubs and local communities that the projects are helpful, a lack of partnership, innovation or evaluation is not necessarily a major drawback. One straitjacket does not fit all in Rotary.
At the same time however, if Rotary is to have a larger impact globally, there is also a need to put together more and larger projects that do rely on partnerships, are innovative, and are monitored and evaluated properly.
Partnerships help to implement larger projects and benefit from the expertise of organizations that are among the best in their field. Partnerships may also generate visibility and media coverage for Rotary (polio is the best example). Partnerships have a cost since effort is required for collaborations to work. But if partnerships deliver scale, expertise, or visibility, gains outweigh the costs.
Innovation is even more important than partnerships to achieve larger impact and discover better ways to serve communities. Without innovation, the contribution of TRF is a drop in the development assistance bucket. TRF does have a respectable size, but in comparison to development funding, it is very small.
Total annual giving by the foundation represents less than half a percent of what the World Bank provides in development assistance every year, and this is just one of a number of development agencies. But if Rotary experiments and innovates, pilots that prove successful can be scaled up by other organizations with deeper pockets, thereby achieving larger impact.
Without serious monitoring and evaluation, innovation does not help much because impact on the ground must first be demonstrated at the pilot stage for a promising intervention to be scaled up. Innovation and evaluation are like twins: they work best as a pair. Evaluation is also needed for Rotary to learn internally from both successes and mistakes.
All three ingredients ̶ partnerships, innovation, and evaluation, can help increase the impact of Rotary’s service work. In order to encourage clubs and districts to move in that direction, this series will show how partnerships, innovation, and evaluation can be harnessed to serve Rotary’s mission of service above self.
The series will tell the story of projects in each of the areas of focus of TRF: promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and eradicating polio.
You will learn about an innovative financing mechanism for polio eradication; an award winning project reducing under five mortality in Mali; a program that is transforming teaching and learning in Nepali classrooms; a project to save the life of mothers and children in Nigeria; a program to invest in the writing skills of disadvantaged youth in the United States; projects and initiatives to improve access to water and sanitation in Uganda; and the work done by Rotary with Peace Centers.
All these projects are in one way or another innovative. They all leverage partnerships. And virtually all build on solid monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Hopefully, the series will give you additional insights into some of the great projects that clubs and districts are implementing around the world.
Please do not hesitate to send me an email through the Contact Me page of this blog if you believe other projects should be featured (perhaps in another series), and feel free to post comments on the projects that you find particularly inspiring.
This last post in a series of three on The Rotary Foundation (TRF) looks at what is great about the foundation, and what could probably be improved. TRF support for Rotary projects is first discussed, based on my own perceptions and those of a few fellow Rotarians to whom I talked before writing this post. Ratings received by the foundation as a charity are then briefly reviewed.
TRF Support for Rotary Projects
On the plus side, TRF support for polio has been instrumental in the near eradication of the disease, as mentioned in the previous post in this series. The focus on polio has also helped Rotary in getting a seat at the table with major partners such as the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Even more importantly for Rotarians involved in service projects, the matching system whereby TRF co-funds grants is well appreciated. Both district and global grants benefit from TRF support, but I will focus in this post on global grants.
TRF provides up to $200,000 in matching funds for global grants, with the minimum match being $15,000. This is for projects that reach a minimum size of $30,000 in overall cost/funding. The system for global grants has been fundamentally revised in recent years in order to have fewer but larger grants, which should help in ensuring that projects have a bigger impact on the ground and are well managed. Six areas of focus have been selected for the grants, which is also positive to narrow down a bit the scope of what is funded (even if this scope remains fairly broad). The rules of the game for putting together global grants are clear, which also helps.
In terms of potential areas for improvement, the Grants Online System may not be as friendly as it could be, given today’s technology. Several Rotarians mentioned to me that there may also be at times issues with the grant review process. Hopefully reviewers are as objective and qualified as they should be, but this is something that could be assessed. In addition, despite efforts to help Rotarians put together great global grants, more could be done in terms of e-learning resources and other tools to help the membership develop impactful projects beyond the management and processing aspects of grants.
Many global grants are complex and require substantial expertise. It is not always clear that project teams have enough expertise. The system relies largely on volunteer hours to prepare and implement grants. This helps not only for cost savings but also for getting Rotarians’ hands dirty. Personal experiences gained through hands-on work are invaluable, especially when working directly with project beneficiaries. But it may be useful in some cases to rely more on external paid expertise, especially for large grants. In principle Rotarians can get help from Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs) for the design and implementation of projects. These are great resources, but it is not fully clear how active and effective some of the RAGs are.
One area of concern is the ability of TRF to respond to crises, with the most recent case being Ebola in West Africa. There are two issues here. One issue is fundraising. TRF does not seem to have a good system to provide incentives (read matching funds) for individual Rotarians to donate in times of crisis. Many Rotarians donate when a major crisis hits, but they often do so through other organizations because TRF does not have a good system to attract these donations. If TRF could set aside funds to match individual donations by Rotarians for major crises, this could help the foundation raise more funds. It would also help TRF gain in visibility as a humanitarian organization. The other issue is about the allocation of the funds that could be raised. Part of the funds could be allocated to Rotary clubs in affected countries for their projects to respond to crises with some type of fast track approval. Part of the funds could also be transferred to well established national and international NGOs active on the ground in responding to crises. Overall, setting up a stronger crisis response mechanism within TRF could strengthen the Rotary brand while providing much needed rapid support to vulnerable groups in countries affected by major crises.
Finally, more expertise and commitment from TRF is needed for proper monitoring and evaluation of global grants, and for disseminating the results of such evaluations. My perception is that few projects are evaluated in-depth with baseline and endline data collection to assess impact. Impact evaluation can be expensive, so not all projects should be evaluated in that way. But more should be done in this area, including in partnership with some of the NGOs implementing TRF projects. If TRF could fund more innovative projects that would be evaluated seriously, it could have a larger impact because other organizations with more resources could then bring successful TRF pilots to scale.
Ratings for TRF as a Charity
The comments above point to some great features of TRF, but also some potential areas for improvement. One should not forget however that overall TRF is very well rated as a charity. Given that many of the followers of this blog are new, let me repeat here what I mentioned on TRF ratings a few months ago on this blog as well as in another post for Rotary Voices.
In the US, Charity Navigator provides ratings for charities. Three ratings are available for financial performance, accountability and transparency, and a combination of both. Charities can get one to four stars overall. TRF has the highest possible rating (four stars). The yellow dot in the Figure below shows exactly how the foundation is rated – it has a rating of 89.8 out of a maximum of 100 for financial performance, and 97.0 on accountability and transparency, which yields a four stars rating overall.
Overall, TRF helps fund great projects on the ground, and it is also well rated as a charity. The reform of the global grants model of the last few years to define areas of focus and implement fewer but larger grants was smart. But as for any other organization, there are also areas where TRF could probably do better, especially in terms of the friendliness of the Grants Online System, the need to ensure that project teams have the expertise they need, the ability to respond to humanitarian crises, and the need to better evaluate the impact of projects that appear especially innovative. What do you think?