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Successful Engagement with Civil Society Organizations
Social movements since the 19th century have altered political systems and social structures. At the core of these social actions are informal groups of individuals or formal organizations either espousing or galvanizing resistance to social change. Referred to as civil society in more recent times, they are characterized as non-state actors whose aims are neither to generate profits nor seek governing power. Civil society organizations (CSOs) unite people to advance shared goals and interests. At the international and local levels, CSOs tenaciously move toward having greater influence on decision making, governance, and actions that directly affect people. Specifically, in Asia and the Pacific region, most governments have recognized the role of civil society in their respective country’s development processes. Their actual engagements, though, vary within and across countries. The advantages of working with CSOs, such as nongovernment organizations (NGOs), have been recognized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) since late 1980s. ADB’s operations have shown that cooperation with CSOs has contributed to the effectiveness, sustainability, and overall performance of ADB-assisted activities in ADB’s developing member countries (DMCs). To strengthen the institutional arrangements for engagement of CSOs in addressing their concerns, ADB established the NGO Civil Society Center in 2001. The Center is mandated with the primary responsibility for developing, implementing, and assessing general policy and practice relating to ADB participations with civil society. Aside from NGOs, ADB has partnered with community-based organizations (CBOs), independent research institutes, people’s organizations, labor unions, and various nonprofit foundations as collaborative partners and/or under a contract engagement. ADB cooperates with civil society at different levels covering policy, country strategy, and programs/projects. Engagement of CSOs in ADB operations has been through different roles, including but are not limited to (i) serving as partners in project implementation and/ or operations, (ii) providing assistance to recipients of ADB support, (iii) acting as cofinancier, (iv) conducting monitoring and evaluation of ADB-assisted activities, disadvantaged (including women and children) are critical to achieving desired development results. For example, during the project preparation phase of the Third Livestock Development Project in Nepal, representatives of local communities confirmed the need to improve livestock productivity among low-income families with the ultimate goal of improving family incomes and health. During project implementation, NGOs facilitated the formation and strengthening of CBOs, specifically, farmers’ groups. This engagement led to the improvement of livestock production and household
Cooperation with civil society organizations has contributed to the effectiveness, sustainability, and overall performance of ADB-assisted activities in its developing member countries.
and (v) participating in policy advocacy. This synthesis focuses on lessons from successful engagement of CSOs in ADBfinanced operations. The lessons were framed according to the various roles of CSOs and based on information extracted from project completion reports (selfevaluation) and independent evaluations. CSOs have partnered with ADB in project design and implementation under different contexts. CSOs have served as (i) facilitators in the identification and provision of targeted services for the poor, disadvantaged people, and women; (ii) agents and intermediaries for microfinance operations that provide credit to the poor; and (iii) service providers that contribute to the attainment of project objectives and sustained outcomes. The involvement and contributions of NGOs and CBOs in identifying the needs of the poor and the incomes, and also contributed to the social and economic empowerment of the poor, the disadvantaged communities, and women. Similarly, the involvement of an NGO was instrumental in the preparation of the natural resource management plan of district wards (barangay) in the Cordillera Highland of the Philippines. The NGO had been effective because of their familiarity with participatory development planning practices, the region, and the people. The participatory approach in the identification of community needs and preparation of plans has heightened awareness of development issues and priorities, sense of ownership, and community responsibility among local inhabitants. In another project in the Philippines, community participation was accomplished through the engagement of NGOs in community organization and development of agrarian reform
beneficiaries. This contributed to greater beneficiary participation and ownership, which were key factors for achieving the intended targets of the country’s agrarian reform project. In Sri Lanka, experience with a community restoration project indicated that CBOs had facilitated the selection of priority works and initiatives for income generation, amid the destruction of facilities and dislocation of communities brought about by protracted internal conflict. With the involvement of CBOs, the project was able to focus on highly relevant initiatives, which were aimed at improving the living conditions of communities that comprised mostly of internally displaced people. Similarly, in Nepal, the role of CSOs in consensus building and social mobilization, given the prevailing lawlessness and insecurity at the local level, was essential in facilitating design and implementation of various programs and projects. The evaluation of country assistance programs in Nepal indicated that the combination of programs and projects and technical assistance support channeled through CSOs helped address the country’s concerns on exclusion and lack of connectivity in rural areas, microfinancing, and education. CSOs, such as cooperatives, foundations, and associations, have served as effective partners in microfinance operations. In the Philippines, for example, microfinance projects have successfully engaged NGOs as microfinance intermediaries for low-income entrepreneurs, poor households, and disadvantaged women. Among the attributes of these successful microfinance intermediaries were capable and dedicated managers, established accounting and control systems, active participation of clientele, capability to generate and mobilize internal resources, effective management of loan portfolio, cost recovery, and appropriate pricing of interest rates. Increased access to microfinance through NGO engagement has contributed to increased incomes and greater employment opportunities among beneficiaries. Similarly, the NGOs’ extensive outreach capacity in microfinance was used effectively in the participatory livestock development in Bangladesh. Access to credit and incomegenerating activities were extended to small farmer groups, benefiting mostly village women. CBOs involved in another agriculture project in Bangladesh became effective microfinance intermediaries. They competed with well-established NGOs and improved service delivery. Smallholders perceived water management cooperative associations as a competitive alternative to NGO microcredit programs.
CBOs can serve as reliable facilitators connecting the project and beneficiary groups for project implementation and operation and maintenance.
NGOs and CBOs have assumed the roles of service providers to facilitate achievement of project objectives. In a social protection project in Indonesia, for instance, NGOs were engaged in managing orphanages and halfway house for street children. These NGOs have rejoined some children with their families, served as conduits for scholarships, and facilitated the conduct of vocational trainings. CBOs have served as reliable facilitators, connecting projects and beneficiary groups for project implementation, and fostering operation and maintenance (O&M). For example, in the groundwater irrigation project in Nepal, representatives from each of the water users’ associations (WUAs) underwent training on appropriate O&M for irrigation facilities and basic agricultural extension. They subsequently provided fee-based water irrigation and extension services to their fellow farmers. Aside from being contracted to undertake earthworks and simple gravel works, WUAs also carried out annual maintenance of farm-to-market roads, and took on the responsibility for O&M of irrigation facilities. Women and disadvantaged groups were represented in WUAs, which facilitated their active roles in local resource management, and ensured their year- round access to irrigation. Similarly, in the Lao PDR’s irrigation project, WUAs employed systematic water management and conducted routine maintenance for the irrigation systems using their own resources. Having a reliable irrigation water source for the farmers subsequently improved their agricultural productivity, which translated into increased household incomes. In addition, civil society can play a role in helping to monitor impact of ADB operations on intended beneficiary.
A consultation workshop is held in an agrarian reform community in the Philippines. Community participation was accomplished through the engagement of NGOs in community organization and development of agrarian reform beneficiaries. ADB Photo Library
Women attending a seminar on Participatory Livestock Development in Bangladesh. The seminar aims to provide them with opportunities to expand their small livestock enterprises. ADB Photo Library.
As recipients of development assistance, CSOs have benefited from their involvement throughout the project cycle. In the livestock project in Bangladesh, the participatory planning process helped smallholder farmers share their ideas, assess their capabilities, and facilitate their access to markets. Farmers in village organizations were provided with opportunities to expand the scope of their small livestock enterprises by increasing production over a wide range of enterprises (e.g., livestock husbandry, dairy farming, agricultural processing, and input supply) in the sector. Likewise, the village area improvement (VAI) experience in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic highlights the importance of having proactive participation of communities during the design, implementation, and maintenance of projects that comprised rural infrastructures (i.e., roads and drainage) and services (i.e., environmental, community health, and solid waste collection). This VAI was demand-driven and gender-balanced in the implementation of project activities. The approach involved stakeholder participation on multiple fronts through consultations and actions at the grassroots level, with enthusiastic support and collaboration among village committee members. Households benefited from improved road access, reduced flooding, better collection of solid waste, and improved sanitation. CSOs have contributed to the financing of development and strived for greater efficiency in the use of available resources. The Assistance Scheme for Facilities Improvement (ASFI) component of the Basic Education Project
in Indonesia created strong motivation among local community residents to improve the quality of their schools. The ASFI allowed for a three-way sharing of the improvement costs of school facilities among the government, ADB, and the schools. Local communities provided inkind contributions and cash to cover the schools’ share of the costs. Through cost sharing, the communities accomplished a much higher level of improvements in physical facilities than originally planned or what could have been achieved if investments were solely made through the public works department. The ASFI component of the project had increased access to basic education in remote areas. The involvement of CSOs in monitoring project implementation has augmented transparency and accountability among project implementers. Experience from Indonesia’s Health and Nutrition Sector Development Project indicated that the participation of communities, the public, and the private sector contributed to mitigating the effects brought about by the financial crisis. Greater transparency, improved accountability, and better governance of public resources were attained through the establishment of independent monitoring units managed by NGOs and the formation of complaint resolution committees with representations from NGOs, academia, and local community representatives. The independent monitoring units at the central and provincial levels were tasked to monitor the effectiveness of the project and accuracy of fund transfers. They addressed operational issues and established related monitoring tools. The complaint resolution committees at the
district and subdistrict levels enhanced the role of the communities in monitoring the allocation and utilization of resources and helped minimize leaks and misuses of funds, and administrative bottlenecks in health care service delivery. In Bangladesh, the vital roles of NGOs in the delivery of nonformal education services were recognized, specifically in terms of management, monitoring, and evaluation. The project employed the NGOs’ outreach capacities to deliver nonformal education to the disadvantaged and illiterate segments of the population. The delivery of service was carried out through social mobilization and operations of learning centers, with continuous monitoring. Opportunities were, ultimately, provided to those who have learned to read and write, to learn new skills, gain employment, obtain credit, and engage in small-scale enterprises. With the NGOs, the baseline survey for the program area and the local monitoring and evaluation of program activities were made feasible and cost-effective. CSOs’ participation in policy advocacy has also contributed to a better understanding of the operating environment conducive for sector reforms. For example, in the Philippines, CSOs have been actively involved in various advocacy initiatives aimed at influencing decision making on policies that address national development issues. The country assistance program evaluation for the Philippines reflected that independent analysis and advocacy by various stakeholders, including the civil society, academia, and the private sector together with coordinated consultation with the Government, had helped to improve the understanding and management of the political economy dynamics of fiscal and energy sector reforms that complemented fiscal management improvements. In Indonesia, CSOs promoting genderresponsive budgeting and advocating budget awareness of local citizens have pushed the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection to incorporate gender-responsive budgeting into the government’s national development budgeting process. This was
Through cost-sharing, communities accomplished a much higher level of improvements in physical facilities than originally planned.
largely prompted by an appreciation of the potential strength that genderresponsive budgeting has, to advance gender mainstreaming in development planning and implementation.
CSOs have played varying and multiple roles in various phases of ADB’s operations. Effective engagement of CSOs depends on comparative advantages in the context of organizational and management capability, human resource skills, networks, and efforts to enhance their capacities. Evaluation evidence has indicated that active involvement of CSOs in project planning/design, implementation and operations, or in monitoring and evaluation of projects/ programs in appropriate contexts can help achieve efficient and effective implementation, with attainment of outcomes that are sustainable.
ADB. 1996. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board: Third Livestock Development Program in Nepal (Loan 1461). Manila. (para. 38) ____. 1999. Completion Report: Second NGO Microcredit Project in the Philippines (Loan 1137). Manila. (paras. 35, 44, and 47) ____. 2003a. Completion Report: Basic Education Project in Indonesia (Loan 1442). Manila. (para. 67) ____. 2003b. Completion Report: Nonformal Education Project in Bangladesh (Loan 1390). Manila. (para. 44) ____. 2003c. Special Evaluation Study: Participatory Approaches in Forest and
Water Resource Operations In Selected Developing Member Countries. Manila. (para. 116iii) ____. 2005. Completion Report: Participatory Livestock Development Project in Bangladesh (Loan 1524). Manila. (paras. 68 and 69) ____. 2006a. Completion Report: Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management in the Republic of the Philippines (Loans 1421-1422). Manila. (paras. 50 and 55iii). ____. 2006b. Completion Report: Third Livestock Development Project in Nepal (Loan 1461). Manila. (paras. 20, 39, and 48). ____. 2006c. Performance Evaluation Report: Rural Microenterprise Finance Project in the Republic of the Philippines (Loan 1435). Manila. (para. 83) ____. 2006d. Performance Evaluation Report: Social Protection Sector Development. Manila. (para. 31) ____. 2006e. Performance Evaluation Report: Health and Nutrition Sector Development Program in Indonesia (Loans 1675-1676). Manila. (paras. 66 and 86) ____. 2006f. Special Evaluation Study on Involvement of Civil Society Organizations in Asian Development Bank Operations. Manila. ____. 2007. Performance Evaluation Report: Small-Scale Water Resources Development Sector Project in Bangladesh (Loan 1381). Manila. (para. 71) ____. 2008a. Completion Report: Community Groundwater Irrigation Sector Project in Nepal (Loan 1609). Manila. (paras. 38 and 47) ____. 2008b. Country Assistance Program Evaluation: Increasing Strategic Focus
for Better Results in the Philippines. Manila. (para. 104) ____. 2009a. Civil Society Organizations: Sourcebook: A Staff Guide to Cooperation with Civil Society Organizations. Manila. ____. 2009b. Completion Report: Agrarian Reform Communities Project in the Philippines (Loan 1667). Manila. (paras. 35 and 51) ____. 2009c. Completion Report: North East Community Restoration and Development Program in Sri Lanka (Loan 1846). Manila. (paras. 33 and 53) ____. 2009d. Country Assistance Program Evaluation for Nepal. Manila. (para. 129) ____. 2010a. Completion Report: Decentralized Irrigation Development and Management Sector Project in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Loan 1788). Manila. (paras. 43 and 44) ____. 2010b. Performance Evaluation Report: Vientiane Urban Infrastructure and Services Project in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Loan 1834). Manila. para. 95) ____. 2010c. Special Evaluation Study on ADB’s Support for Gender and Development: Results from Country Case Studies. Manila. (para. 49) ____. 2010d. Validation Report: North East Community Restoration and Development Program. Manila. (p. 8.d) United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific website. www.unescap.org/drpad/vc/ orientation/M6_lnk_1.htm
Written by Liz Biglang-awa and George Bestari under the guidance of Vinod Thomas, Director General, Independent Evaluation. Disclaimer The views and assessments contained herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or its Board of Directors or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. About the Independent Evaluation at Asian Development Bank The Independent Evaluation Department evaluates the policies, strategies, operations, and special concerns of the Asian Development Bank relating to organizational and operational effectiveness. It contributes to development effectiveness by providing feedback on performance and through evaluation lessons.
Learning Lessons is a synthesis of key evaluative lessons drawn from the experience of ADB operations and non-ADB sources. Lessons presented in this brief are not prescriptive, and users are advised to carefully review these lessons in the context of country, sector, and thematic conditions.
Independent Evaluation Department Asian Development Bank 6 ADB Avenue, Mandaluyong City 1550 Metro Manila, Philippines Tel +63 2 632 4100 Fax +63 2 636 2161 www.adb.org/evaluation email@example.com
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