Between May and August, the Pathways teams have been busy conducting a qualitative mid-term evaluation of the Pathways project. The Midterm Review was designed to test the Pathways Theory of Change, with a particular emphasis on understanding change in Change Levers 4+5 – household influence and an enabling environment – to answer questions which could not be answered with other quantitative monitoring data tools. The Participatory Performance Tracker (PPT) and Annual Review Studies (ARS) provide data on the agriculture and marketing practices that are being adopted. However, Pathways teams have struggled to monitor and make sense of the changes they are observing at the intra-household level and around gender norms in the community.
The main areas of inquiry were around household decision-making patterns, women’s views on empowerment, men’s engagement, and the involvement of community leaders. The methodology, using Participatory Research Analysis (PRA) tools focused on identifying the specific behavior or relationship changes that have been observed at the intra-household level and among men who have been engaged with the project. After using PRA tools to collect qualitative data, an outcome mapping methodology was used to analyze responses. In groups, the enumerator teams tried to classify behaviors identified in the research along a spectrum toward “transformative” change and more equitable relations. The teams tried to answer the following questions: To what extent has there been change? Which gender norms and practices seem to be easier for men and women to contest? Which seem to be more rigid? What factors encourage and inhibit men’s engagement? Where has there been backlash?
The research was carried out in five of the Pathways countries (Mali, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, and India), over a period of approximately one month in each country, including preparation, training, fieldwork, and analysis. Supported by Core Team advisors and six Master-level student researchers, most teams engaged Pathways staff as enumerators. Pathways Program Managers were also closely involved in the process.
Two objectives of the mid-term evaluation were to build Pathways’ teams capacities in qualitative research and analysis and to help teams internalize a deeper understanding of the processes of intra-household change. There were inherent challenges in carrying out the study with internal staff, including their potential bias in collecting information, their varying levels of expertise in qualitative data collection, and the challenge of taking time off from regular field activities.
On the other hand, participating in the process also had great payoffs for the Pathways teams. The Pathways Mali team noted, “This evaluation has been a real capacity-building frame for our team, as far as qualitative inquiry goes. We found that social change has really taken root on the ground in a short period, among the men and the community leaders in particular. Although not all of the changes observed can be attributed to Pathways alone, they are the result of synergy with other CARE interventions.”
One of the outcomes of the study, has been renewed conviction among Pathways leadership that the gender activities and dialogues are resonating with the communities and bringing about changes. Many participants involved in the process were astonished by their observations during the lifetime of the Pathways program.
Across the countries, the review has highlighted the importance of engaging men in Pathways activities and in gender dialogues. It also discovered cases of backlash against “empowered” women, and identified social risks that “engaged” men face when they take on different household responsibilities or cede more decision-making to their spouse. Teams, such as the Pathways Tanzania team have already taken these findings into account; they now plan to work more closely with male “champions.”
All five country teams completed data collection and analysis, and are working on the preliminary reports, expected by early September. The first formal presentation related to the mid-term evaluation results will be shared September 22-24, at the Outcome Mapping Learning Community workshop in Dar es Salaam. The presentation will focus on the methodology and process of the evaluation. Stay tuned for further internal and external presentations and reflections on the mid-term findings.