Working Locally in Fragile Environments


March 12, 2010

Balkh-NI-13 People living in emerging democratic states understandably want their government to provide adequate public services, including security, economic management and basic social infrastructure such as quality schools. There is consensus that development aid is more effective where there are good policies and strong institutions. In conflictive or post-conflict situations, emerging government structures often operate in complex social environments with uneven systems in place for ensuring transpar

Creative Associates seeks out and employs qualified, experienced local professionals in the design and implementation of projects. Engaging the political will of local communities to build local capacity with in-country NGOs and government ministries is key. Working in partnership with communities at large, Creative’s approach helps foreign assistance beneficiaries identify and act upon their own priorities.

In Afghanistan, over the last seven years, Creative partnered with five indigenous Afghan organizations to deliver education services. These partners—the Afghan Development Association, Afghan Women’s Education Center, Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, Coordination of Afghan Relief and Development & Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan—have implemented nearly $60 million dollars in contracts under two USAID-funded projects.
By partnering with Creative on the Afghanistan Primary Education Project (APEP) and the Building Education Support Systems for Teachers (BESST), the Afghan NGOs have grown professionally to the point of managing their own projects today. Creative’s approach helped these organizations to adopt management, accounting and technical skills to run projects efficiently.

“ADA and other NGOs used the success of the two Creative projects as a platform to apply for World Bank funding to implement teacher training in other Afghan provinces. We won our bid for the funding!”

Creative approaches collaboration with local organizations as partnership and a two way street. An educator from Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance observes, “Creative can bring some very good approaches and methods from outside, but it must adapt them to the Afghan context. We have experience working with the local community, dealing with the community, we know the culture of our community, and we know the habits of our community.”

From 2003 to 2006, under APEP, the Afghan-Creative team reached the country’s most remote mountain villages bringing education to nearly 170,000 students. Despite a challenging security situation, the team obtained the support of 3,600 communities in 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. What’s most telling about the project’s impact is that not only did village elders agree to open schools but also more than half of students in the accelerated learning program were girls. According to APEP’s former accelerated learning manager, getting communities to send girls to school and provide in-kind donations for classrooms and materials required a delicate balance between diplomacy and winning their trust. In that three year period, these students completed six years of elementary school through an accelerated learning program. Under the current USAID-funded BESST project, Creative and its Afghan partners have trained more than 50,000 teachers throughout Afghanistan in modern child-centered teaching approaches.

Creative’s field staff meets weekly with local partners to discuss challenges they face in the field. Team members are expected to propose solutions to the problems they raise. “It’s learning by doing, sharing and learning from each other’s experiences.” said a BESST Program Manager. “For example, if there is a security threat in one area, Creative and partner NGOs will discuss what to do with the training team members. Sometimes they have to move the team to another location.”

Even though Creative’s local partners were well established in Afghanistan, they now have the experience to provide donors, especially the U.S. Government, the requisite audit and record keeping necessary to win and implement contracts. In fact, the Afghan Development Association is now leading other NGOs in a World Bank effort to implement an education program in eight provinces.

“ADA and other NGOs used the success of the two Creative projects as a platform to apply for World Bank funding to implement teacher training in other Afghan provinces. We won our bid for the funding!” said a founder of ADA. “It would not have happened if we had not been involved in the APEP and BESST projects with Creative, and had not learned to implement these trainings so we can go ahead on our own.”

“The World Bank project shows that our partnership with Creative under APEP and BESST resulted in capacity development. This is the result of the close relation with and benefits of working with Creative and its staff.”

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