In the world of international development, the story of a programme does not end with its implementation. For our SPRING evaluation team at Tetra Tech International Development, it is a midpoint in our journey: as we collect data and conduct interviews, to discover how the SPRING experience has shaped businesses and transformed the lives of adolescent girls in South Asia and East Africa. In this blog, Libby Bligh, our lead on the SPRING sustainability study, gives insights on her team’s latest work and how the team have approached research in times of uncertainty.
1. The SPRING programme officially finished in 2019. What is your team currently working on?
When SPRING wrapped up its activities in 2019, it had worked with 75 businesses. We are now going back to these businesses to check in with them and to interview them as part of a sustainability study.
We are asking them questions such as, “What are SPRING’s partner businesses doing now, what legacy will their SPRING experience leave behind, and to what extent does the SPRING experience continue to shape their businesses?”. It is an exciting thing to do – it is not often that we, as evaluators, get the chance to go back as much as five or six years after the beginning of a programme to understand the lasting effect a development initiative has had.
The SPRING sustainability study is one of these unique moments that allows us to look at a longer period of time and find out which businesses were really able to put a stamp on the future of creating sustainable business opportunities for adolescent girls.
2. What have you found so far?
While it is still too early to talk about findings at the moment – we are still interviewing businesses until early March and are going to submit the final report at the end of April – we had a striking number of businesses coming back to us within the first ten days of our interview stage saying that they are open to being respondents and giving their feedback for our evaluation. This may be an indication of the positive mark left by SPRING on the lives of the businesses. Most businesses have not worked with SPRING for a long time now, so we were pleased to see that they are still keen to be engaged with SPRING activities – especially in a time when everyone is facing unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. How do you manage to carry out evaluations during the coronavirus pandemic?
As evaluators, we know that there are always elements of unpredictability when conducting fieldwork. Before the pandemic, when last minute cancellations, delays and disruptions happened, we simply had to make the best out of it. If your schedule had not gone through several revisions before the end of your trip, you were probably doing something wrong. Now that we have shifted to remote data collection, flexibility has become more manageable. Sure, working remotely also comes with its own set of challenges – weak internet connections and arranging interviews across different time zones with our interviewees in East Africa and South Asia for example – but thanks to our experience, we were well prepared for a situation like this. We have also liaised with some of the Country Managers who were originally part of the programme implementation team. Their in-country and on-site knowledge of the businesses and their personal relationships are a great help for us to carry out our evaluation.
4. What are the next steps for you and your team?
We have busy weeks ahead which will see us coding findings, analysing and writing the final report. But our main hope right now is that the SPRING businesses continue wanting to be involved in our sustainability study. The more businesses that participate, the better we will be able to tell the story of SPRING’s legacy – and we are looking forward to sharing it with stakeholders, businesses and the wider international development sector.