We recently talked to Heather Hill, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at World Hope International (WHI), a Christian relief and development organization working with vulnerable communities to alleviate poverty and injustice, about the organization’s experience with stakeholder engagement and strong partnerships for CSO effectiveness. The Global Standard for CSO Accountability recognizes stakeholder engagement and partnerships as two of its ten commitments for CSO accountability and impactful work.
GS: How do external stakeholders get engaged in the operations and work of World Hope International?
HH: World Hope International (WHI) seeks to engage our stakeholders in all the projects implemented throughout its various stages, as it is crucial to understand their local contexts. So, we engage with local communities where projects operate, as well as with government authorities in those countries. In this way, we ensure that the solutions proposed by a project are in sync with the priorities and context of those communities and, thus, enhance project sustainability.
A few of WHI-managed projects particularly promote community-driven development approaches by establishing a community group that identifies and assesses local challenges. A plan and a budget get developed through a bottom-up approach and community members also participate in the project implementation as well as its monitoring.
This approach was undertaken in the Konsae pilot project on improved access to quality, basic education for the Bunong ethnic children in the Mondulkiri Province in Cambodia, where the enhancement of community involvement for improved school performance and standards monitoring was emphasized. Through this project, a School Support Committee was created where parents started to participate in decision-making regarding school activities.
Whenever possible, we also seek to align all our projects to governments’ strategies in those countries in which we operate. As part of a partnership between the government of the USA and the Philippines to combat cyber-crime, WHI implemented the PAVE project which seeks to protect at-risk children who are vulnerable to online sexual exploitation in the Philippines. This project provided comprehensive support to child victims by working with social workers, while engaging with church leaders to identify survivors in need of care and to prevent exploitation of children. The upcoming PAVE II project will develop and strengthen systems for comprehensive care for child survivors of sexual abuse in focused regions of the Philippines.
GS: How does evidence inform decisions in WHI operations?
Evidence is an important element of our operations. We conduct research and collect data which inform our decisions. This data is also shared with various stakeholders and the public where the projects are located.
In a few projects, we also support specific research work. For instance, in Sierra Leone, we partnered with Emory University, the Gates Foundation, the Center for Disease Control and Sierra Leone’s Bomabli Shebora Chiefdom to implement the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) project to understand the causes of child mortality. Through this project, our role included organizing a reporting structure, training of community and facility reporters, and reviewing all clinical records, and developing an improved data collection system. Standardized data is then shared with partners and stakeholders to analyze and track the preventable causes of child mortality. This data is essential to develop policies and programs based on evidence
Feedback is a very important source of evidence. We usually conduct a baseline survey during the beginning of a project, as well as an end-of project evaluation. In some cases, we also conduct a mid-term review of a project. Thus, feedback contributes to our learning process, as we learn from communities as well as from our own staff.
In Sierra Leone, WHI has supported a project for children living with disabilities, called Enable the Children (ETC), by providing physical therapy services -including sports therapy-, while sensitizing the communities due to the prevailing associated stigma. For this project, we conducted a satisfaction survey among the participating families, which received high rates of satisfaction. We also received inputs which helped improve project implementation.
GS: How does World Hope determine partnerships with other organizations and stakeholders?
HH: When cooperating with other organizations, it is important that people understand and agree with our policies. For instance, we take our child protection policy seriously, so it is important that anyone who works with us, such as partners and contractors comply with it. When we enter into a formal partnership, we sign a Memorandum of Understanding, where we emphasize the importance of transparency of information and of accountability in the use of the resources and the results achieved. In some occasions, we have promoted informal alliances, where we work alongside other organizations -both international and local CSOs-, for instance, around human trafficking. In the case of informal coalitions, transparency and accountability are equally important yet may become more challenging due to the informal nature of our cooperation.