Friday, January 5, 2018
Last December I attended a workshop on Outcome Harvesting in Nairobi with our Somali partners. Due to recent attacks by Al Shabaab and the general safety -or rather unsafety- of the country, we decided to host the workshop in Nairobi rather than in Somalia. Now, you may wonder why a director of Free Press Unlimited would join a workshop at all, let alone one about Outcome Harvesting. It may sound boring and not within the scope of a directors line of duty?

The answer, however, is simple. I believe that monitoring and evaluation (Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, PME) in our field of work is very important. How else can you know that what you do is effective and has an impact? Outcome Harvesting is not a list of activities or output; it's a method to measure changes in behavior that have occurred. It's about gathering qualitative information about the projects we implement additionally to the quantitative information. You start with these simple questions: Who has changed? What do they do differently now? Since when has this happened? And where did this happen?

These questions may look simple, but I can tell you out of experience that it's not so easy to answer them. You really have to dig into the questions to get the right answers. And it's very helpful if there's also someone around who is not involved in the project (like me) who can ask more and perhaps obvious questions. The outcomes can be wonderful, and make you feel very proud: wow, did we really achieve that?

Although I was a bit skeptical (3 days to solely focus on Outcome Harvesting, really?) to me it was an eye opener. I'm especially proud of our Somali partners. Somalia is not an easy country to live in, but life is even harder for journalists. In fact, Somalia scores very low on the press freedom index; nr. 170. 22 Journalists were killed over the last six years, only for doing their job and numerous journalists are harassed or arrested arbitrarily. Taking money in exchange for writing a positive article ('brown envelope' or sharur) is more rule than exception. And most of our partners receive threats on a daily basis. Even during the workshop, four journalists in Puntland, Somalia, were arrested but thanks to the support and pressure of our partners they were released after a couple of hours. Of course it took a lot of telephone calls, but they managed -even remotely- to get them released.

This is the daily reality for our partners and yet, without any exception, they were all very committed to the workshop and we all got a lot of energy from realising that despite the situation, together we can make a difference; a change in society. All together we'd gathered over 30 outcomes from five partners! This was far more than we expected, so really impressive. And although all of them are worthwhile to mention, I will only highlight one to give you an example of what can be achieved, even in a context like Somalia.

In our project to professionalize journalists in Somalia with our partner Media Ink, we paid special attention to female journalists. Within the context of Somalia, women don't always work or are not even educated, so this was quite a challenge. Somali women frequently face violence, early marriage and genital mutilation. This is common and shows the challenge of our partner to attract women to the training.

Media Ink started by stating to all media that if they wanted to participate in the training offered, they had to send at least one female journalist. This in itself took some convincing power. Editors in Chiefs tended to only send male journalists to the training, some didn't even have female journalists working in the newsroom. However, due to this requirement they were forced to also select female journalists. And some of them did. The first hurdle was passed. The next step was to convince and guarantee to the parents or next-of-kin of these women that nothing bad would happen to their sister, daughter or cousin. In order to create a safe environment for the female journalists, Media Ink even provided a special guest house where they would be safe and secure. So the project started in 2014 with these kinds of challenges, resulting in only a couple of female journalists attending the training. But, also thanks to the effort of the female journalists themselves, who showed that they are capable of doing the same work as their male peers or even better, Editors in Chiefs are hiring female journalists on their own initiative now. These journalists are sent to the training, and this year nine women were promoted to leadership positions within newsrooms! What a great story and what a great achievement, especially considering the Somali context.

So I'm very happy that I've participated in the workshop and I'm very proud of the outcomes and even more of our partners. What a brave and courageous group of people they are! I left Nairobi full of inspiration and joy because the workshop showed that what we do, what our partners do, does make sense and makes a better world. What more can one ask for?

 

Ruth Kronenburg is Free Press Unlimited's Director of Operations. Do you want to read more about her experiences meeting our partners? Read her story about Suara Surabaya, a very special radio station in Indonesia.