I’m attending my first Evidence-Based Planning Retreat this week – it’s a few days of meetings to determine the district’s activities on HIV/AIDS for the whole year. The idea is to use data and statistics to plan for the future. It’s smart in theory, but in practice is something of a mess. The amount of evidence we have for planning is miniscule, and its role in shaping our activities is more as a loose guideline than anything else. We have spent this week brainstorming events and campaigns out of thin air – there is no indication that they will have any success despite the probability that they have been replicated every year for as long as this coordinating body has existed. Much of the data we use is outdated, mostly from a 2008 nation-wide survey, yet it is analyzed like new and matched to the current year’s findings.
I can’t sit quietly in meetings like this – I object to the process at nearly every turn, incessantly asking the inevitable “why?” But many of my colleagues aren’t convinced that there are any flaws in this process. Despite convincing a few people, most others are content to go through the motions. I asked if there was ever any evaluation of the past year’s activities, but that process is non-existent. This is not a wise way to plan spending; the basic tools are missing.
My initial goal for this week was to lobby for funding for the non-profit sector in which my work resides, but the group is insistent on allocating funds for these activities rather than strengthening the existing weak systems; a budget is being calculated around frivolous additives like snacks and drinks. It appears that I was vainly optimistic and that I’ll be seeking outside aid for my NGO, while being asked to participate in these poorly planned diversions.
I usually try to avert my attitude from critique, but it’s overwhelming this week. I’m mostly left to my own devices in Rakops, not having to deal with the overgrown bureaucracy. I give a lot of credit to the volunteers who can make strides here – they are improving organizations rather than building them from the ground up. I’m not sure which is more challenging. I’ll keep you posted.