Last year we hosted a couple of webinars on CoLMEAL and got some great questions. Today we’re answering some questions we received during the webinars about adapting CoLMEAL to context. We talk about how we adapt our approach when working with multiple communities or at the national level, how we mix approaches and tools and whether CoLMEAL is adaptable to the humanitarian context.
Question: COLMEAL as with most participatory approaches requires patience from all stakeholders in the iteration processes and engagement. Given that this may not always be available in projects, have you explored what mix of MEAL methods, approaches and tools work best with COLMEAL to leverage its benefits?
Yes, initially we’ve worked with only a few communities to pilot the process. This has meant that at times we have had to balance staffing, schedules and resources to accommodate additional MEAL requirements. We advocate for a dedicated CoLMEAL staff during this pilot process so that it can continue while other MEAL activities are on-going. However, it requires the support of other project staff and key community stakeholders as well.
There are also many examples from other organizations and projects where elements of CoLMEAL are implemented for just the assessment and design process, for example, SALT methodology by Constellation, or for real-time monitoring of policy for advocacy, for example, ITPC’s Community-Led Monitoring process. We aim to provide technical expertise and support to organizations to nudge them towards increasingly integrating CoLMEAL through testing and iteration. This may happen over several project life spans.
It is important that the leaders have a vision and commitment to CoLMEAL and ideally model an empowering leadership style. It is equally important that the organization have a strong community engagement or community-led approach already. A useful tool to assess this is the Movement for Community-Led Development’s Community-Led Development Assessment Tool. Another facet to consider is whether your donors or funders support a community-led approach to MEAL.
Question: When working with multiple communities with different and unique circumstances on a national program, how do you recommend applying CoLMEAL?
We see stakeholder analysis is a key first step to CoLMEAL. We also do not see CoLMEAL as limited to village level. There can be CoLMEAL examples that work with existing structures, even at the national level. The key questions to consider are: who are the actors who have power and interest to the project or issue? Who needs to be mobilized? Where is the momentum? What is the capacity of different stakeholders to engage? In some cases, it could be working with national actors about understanding the different criteria of who should be involved, for example, are there differences in country, such as different ethic groups, differences in regions for the issue/project focus. We always want to ask the question: who is marginalized and vulnerable regarding the issue and how can they be part of the process?
Looking at the issue of aggregation, you can define a general framework of domains of change or improvement towards the shared goal. You can then allow communities to define their own indictors within these domains and aggregate on a common scale. In this way all can track how progress is being made towards the shared goal according to different community timelines and indicators, and still know which domains they are contributing to.
Question: Do you see opportunities for CoLMEAL in Emergency Humanitarian responses?
Yes, but there are a lot of things to consider. One is the nature of relationships an organization has already with those affected. Even though there is a lot of disruption in humanitarian emergencies, e.g. conflict-affected populations or displaced peoples, there are often temporary structures are set up even within temporary settings like transitional camps. As always, we promote conducting a good stakeholder analysis as a first step. It is important to know who the main actors and influencers are, how structures are resetting themselves, how key stakeholders can be involved in a way that respects their time and what they are able to engage in. Even in transitional camps, there can be groupings of households and families. How can these structures be mobilized? The CoLMEAL process can be scaled down to some core questions for a quicker process: what changes do people want to see, what are the measures of success, etc. It may not be extensive, but the focus would be on the core elements of CoLMEAL; the principles of engagement still apply.
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