Identifying Impact: Capturing the outcomes of humanitarian capacity-building

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With an increasing focus on the use of blended learning and capacity-building at local level, RedR UK is seeking to better understand and enhance the impact of its work.

In order to do so, we first carried out an internal review of historical training and learning activities, which aimed to:

  • assess the overall effectiveness and relevance of RedR’s training and capacity-building activities;
  • identify evidence of impact on individual or organisational performance;
  • identify evidence of impact on the affected populations or wider humanitarian situation;
  • review and analyse the current approaches and methods for assessing outcomes and impact.

This review considered:

  • quantitative data from participant evaluations of a range of open, tailor-made and project-related trainings run globally from 2011-14;
  • quantitative data from survey follow ups with training participants;
  • quantitative and qualitative data from a sample of reflective journals used on accredited training courses to record personal learning and practice, and
  • findings from six case studies selected to investigate a number of contrasting approaches to, and methodologies for training and capacity-building.  

Some conclusions

The findings of this review indicate high satisfaction with the services offered, and varied examples of the positive impact they have had on individual and organisational capacity. Download a one-page summary of the findings of the review here.

The ability to demonstrate the impact of training and capacity-building on the wider humanitarian situation and target populations remains a challenge. With growing demand for this type of evidence, RedR sought to undertake a broader piece of research to explore the relative strengths of different approaches and methodologies in facilitating impact. This research took place in 2016 in collaboration with the University of Sussex who provided the research design, data analysis and review of the research findings. 

The research aimed to validate and extend findings of the internal review and consider how best impact can be measured as part of the learning process, and the extent to which impact on end beneficiaries can reasonably be attributed. Specifically, the purpose of the research was to explore the relative strengths of different approaches and methodologies for humanitarian training and capacity-building, and to explore how impact measures could be built into training delivery. The identified research questions were therefore: 

  1. To what extent does the involvement of senior staff affect the level of behavior change of individual staff members and at organisational level following a capacity-building intervention?
  2. To what extent does the practice of skills transfer versus knowledge transfer during capacity-building interventions affect the level of behaviour or organisational change, and the retention of learning?
  3. How can effective methods for measuring impact be built into capacity-building interventions?
  4. To what extent does face to face contact during capacity-building interventions impact on the effectiveness of learning and the outcomes of learning?

This research was conducted by Dr Anke Schwittay, Head of the Department of International Development at the University of Sussex, who focused on qualitative data analysis, and Sarah-Jane Phelan, doctoral student in International Development at the University of Sussex, who holds an MA in International and Development Economics from Yale University and undertook the quantitative data analysis.

The findings of the research have been synthesised into a thought piece that provides recommendations on ways to incorporate the measurement of level 2 learning and level 3 behaviour change into the design of capacity building interventions. 'Identifying Impact - capturing the outcomes of humanitarian capacity-building' by Katie Robertson and Dr Anke Schwittay can be downloaded here. 

We now plan to test these recommendations in our own work, and report back in order to share the learning with the sector.