Learning and accountability is firmly on the NGO agenda nowadays and for Action Against Hunger, it is something we take very seriously. We dedicate a lot of energy into evaluating our programmes, learning from them and, fundamentally, holding ourselves to account for them.
We firmly believe that analysing our programmes is crucial to continuously improving their impact and ultimately reaching more communities in need with better quality assistance. In a nutshell - it might sound obvious - but we learn to improve for the future.
This is why Action Against Hunger publishes an annual Learning Review, which we make available to the public, both here and in the countries where we work... we are aiming to be accountable after all! And if we've learned valuable lessons about what works, then surely we have a duty to share those lessons, so others can learn too.
This year's Learning Review explores 30 different evaluations of our programmes in 2012 and is broken into two main sections. The first analyses our programme performance and the second presents a selection of best practices from a variety of field programmes.
Each evaluation has a different focus and aims to investigate the questions that the field team need answering. To carry out evaluations we work with experienced consultants who collect a range of data, including questionnaires, focus group sessions and interviews and so on. We involve our fieldworkers, government bodies, donors who are funding the programmes and crucially, and most importantly most might argue, the community members themselves who we are assisting.
Evaluations are done with the aim of providing clear and actionable recommendations for programmes to improve, and provide a channel for us to identify good and bad practice. The Learning Review enables us to share these good and bad practices, with full transparency.
Some examples of what this year's Learning Review found out, is that close community involvement in our programmes remains crucial. This, along with a gender-sensitive approach and a comprehensive exit strategy significantly improves the sustainability of assistance and empowers communities for long after we have gone.
Hopefully the Learning Review will continue to influence how organisations reflect on the performance of their programmes. And of course, we hope that other programmes in our own organisation will learn from the best practices presented and include these in their activities.
For anyone interested in learning and accountability for humanitarian aid and international development, Action Against Hunger's Learning Review is a must. After all, if we don't learn and improve then what's the point?
Follow Claire Blackburn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/claireblackb