Does your program align with the national strategy?

Ever since the Paris Declaration in 2005 “aligning with the national strategy” has become an important focus of international development / aid. There are many benefits to supporting the national strategy – it means that everyone is working towards the same goal (endorsed by the government), using similar activities, and avoiding duplication and parallel systems.

In some cases there can also be downsides. The national strategy may not be the most effective strategy, following it rigidly may dissuade people from innovating, or there may be no national strategy for the topic you are working on (in which case you might want to advocate for one).

Most donor proposals now require you to explain how your program aligns with the national strategy. It’s easy to treat this as just another paragraph to be filled with meaningless buzzwords. But if you really want to answer it truthfully, then ask yourself the following three questions.

An answer of A means you are not aligned with the national strategy, B and C mean your are only superficially aligned, and D means you are fully aligned.

1. Do the goals and activities match the national strategy?

A. Not at all.

Example: Your goal is to increase the number of farmers using genetically modified crops, and this is not mentioned anywhere in the Ministry of Agriculture strategy.

B. The goal is the same as the national goal or Millennium Development Goal, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Example: Your goal is to improve maternal health. This is the same as Millennium Development Goal 5 and the national health strategy. You plan to achieve this by giving a free baby package to pregnant women who show up for all antenatal visits, but this activity is not listed anywhere in the national strategy.

C. The goal is the same as the national goal and the activities are similar to things in the national strategy.

Example: Your goal is to increase the number of girls attending secondary school, which is also a goal in the national strategy. You plan to achieve this by running education sessions for parents on gender equality. Promoting gender equality is part of the national strategy, but it does not specifically mention education sessions for parents.

D. The goal is the same as the national goal and the activities are the same as the national strategy.

Example: Your goal is to increase the number of households with a pit latrine. This is the same goal as the national strategy. You plan to achieve this using the Community Let Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, which is the same approach used by government health workers in the national strategy.

2. Who are the activities implemented by?

A. Your own staff or volunteers.

Example: You hire your own community health workers to distribute drugs to sick children under 5 years old.

B. Your own staff or volunteers who have been trained or supervised by government.

Example: You hire your own agricultural extension workers to promote sustainable farming practices, but they are trained and supervised by someone from the Ministry of Agriculture.

C. Government staff who have been paid an incentive / per-diem / allowance do the activities.

Example: You ask government teachers to run extra classes for low literacy students using the materials you have developed. You pay them an allowance for doing this.

D. Government staff as part of their regular job.

Example: You work with the Ministry of Health to develop a new protocol for midwives to follow. The midwives implement this new protocol as part of their regular duties, without requiring any additional allowances.

How are the results measured?

A. Using your own indicators and your own staff.

Example: You measure the overall success of your small business program using the indicator “percentage of small businesses still running after 2 years”. However, in the national strategy on economic development overall success is measured using a poverty indicator. You do a small business survey using your own survey questionnaire, administered by your own staff.

B. Using the indicators from the national strategy, but your own staff.

Example: You measure the success of your child health program using the infant mortality rate. This indicator is also in the national strategy. You measure the infant mortality rate using a household survey administered by your own staff.

C. Using your own indicators, but government staff who receive incentives / per-diems / allowances

Example: You measure the success of your agriculture program using a farmer survey tool tool that you developed yourself. It is administered by government extension workers who send the results back to you. You give the government staff a cash allowance for each day that they do the survey.

D. Using the national indicators and government staff as part of their regular job.

Example: You measure the success of your literacy program using the national reading assessment tool. It is administered by teachers as part of their regular duties at the end of each school term. The teachers do not receive any incentives, per-diems or allowances for this. The results are sent to the Ministry of Education, and from there they share the relevant data with you.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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About Piroska Bisits Bullen

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Piroska has worked on a range of international development programs involving local NGOs, international NGOs, UN agencies and government. She holds a Ph.D. in public health, has published articles in several journals, and was a speaker at TEDx Phnom Penh. Piroska is passionate about using scientific evidence and creativity to design programs that work.
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