Learning to use information trainings for effective program management in western Kenya

"Since the trainings, I am more confident. I used to prepare reports at a very basic level, just to comply with Ministry of Health requirements. Now I look at things more strategically," says Liza Onyango-Abuje, Communications, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager at Matibabu Foundation in Ukwala, Western Kenya. "I know these reports can help us make decisions, like do we want to expand into other areas? Or do we have the capacity to do what we want and carry out our activities better to help people we are serving?"

Liza Onyango-Abuje, Communications, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager at Matibabu Foundation

Change has come to Matibabu Foundation, a small homegrown community-support organization founded in 2003, since it was awarded a PEPFAR New Partners Initiative (NPI) grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In conjunction with the direct grant from the CDC, Matibabu was also a recipient of technical assistance (TA) to strengthen both its management and programmatic systems. Implemented by John Snow, Inc., and its sub-contractor, Initiatives Inc., TA-NPI is designed to build the capacity of the CDC's 14 NPI grantees.

"Before NPI our procedures were not well organized," continues Liza. "Human resources also was not well done and our facility had little equipment. Today, we have grown. We have more staff, our management systems are in place and working well, and we even support other facilities nearby because we have the equipment and supplies to conduct lab tests.

"JSI has developed trainings that are helping us all function more effectively as an organization and as a health facility providing services to a large client base. I attended quality improvement training, which has helped us identify problems within our system and put processes in place to solve those problems. It's a continuous process where we review whether our solutions are working, and if not, we put in new strategies," Liza says.

"But most critical, for me, was the monitoring and evaluation training. Before TA-NPI, our M&E was nonexistent. Now we understand why it is so important—not just for our donors and partners, but for us, too. The information we gather in our M&E now helps guide Matibabu in our decision making.
"For example, in our revised data collection tools we now have a place to write-down 'winning strategies' or lessons learned for things that did not go as well as hoped. We use that information now to actively plan to either continue with an intervention or to adjust it to make it more effective."

Supportive supervision training has also been important to Liza's work. "Supportive supervision has given me a new way of working with the people I supervise. I think I used to be a bit judgmental," Liza recognizes. "Now I don't judge them immediately. I look at all the things that could be affecting their performance. Problems could be a system issue or capacity or skills issue. Understanding this has been really helpful and helped me be a better manager."

Matibabu Foundation will receive three years of NPI funding and three years of technical assistance between 2008 and 2011. JSI's goal is to leave behind an organization with strong management systems that can meet all donor requirements while also meeting the needs of the community it serves. "It will be difficult when our NPI grant ends next year," says Liza. "We may have to scale-down a bit. But I am confident that we are now a strong organization that can partner with other groups to continue helping the community here in Ukwala."