Early Fall 2019, the Spur Change program conducted a comprehensive national needs assessment process in order to assess the capacity building needs and knowledge gaps of Canadian SMOs and appropriate learning methods. Findings from these consultations informed the design of capacity building opportunities held during its first year.
While many SMOs understand the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), it was clear that there was a need for more opportunities to share best practices, learn from experts and from each other, in a manner that is responsive and tailored to emergent needs. Within this needs assessment, Spur Change looked specifically at the 21 SMOs that have been approved for Global Affairs Canada funding through the Development Impact Window of the Initiative for SMOs for Impact and Innovation to adapt its program to their needs and accompany them throughout the year. Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF), based in Prince Edward Island (PEI), is one of the 21 SMOS funded for their project “More Food, Better Food: Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers”. Wendy MacDonald, the president of FHF, has been participating in Spur Change activities since the beginning of the program.
FHF has worked since 1980 to bring PEI and Kenyan farmers together to share knowledge. They work with women’s groups and with dairy co-ops, many of whose members are women farmers. Since 2002 their work also includes fostering and supporting twinning relationships between Island schools and Kenyan schools. “While FHF has had CIDA projects in the past, the new GAC project is on a larger scale and involves the integration of all our methodologies. It will require more complex and formal governance structures and processes, and participatory mechanisms, than in the past. […] I hope to gain insights, knowledge and connections to assist in this work.”, stated the president when she applied to Spur Change 2019 National Conference.
Spur Change has been timely and responsive to support FHF and the 20 other funded SMOs by offering tailored capacity-building opportunities at key moments of their new funded project implementation. In October 2019, Mrs. MacDonald participated in an in-person workshop on Project Implementation Plan. In November 2019, Mrs. MacDonald was invited to share best practices at the National Conference in a panel discussion on “Integrating Gender into Programming” since the organization has long term partnerships with Kenyan farmers, and the Spur Change team wanted other SMOs to benefit from their experience.
While she wasn’t able to attend our online training on Baseline Survey in January 2020, Mrs. MacDonald contacted us and requested to consult our newly created micro-learning resources before flying to Kenya to conduct their baseline. She reviewed the content so she could include the learnings while collecting baseline with their volunteers. In March 2020, Mrs. MacDonald participated in the National Training “Making Data Collection Meaningful” in Halifax and shared the following satisfaction feedback:
“Thank you. The training was helpful and timely, and the space and arrangements were comfortable. I enjoyed meeting the other participants. Great job by the organizers and facilitators.”
In the Post-National Training Webinar held by Spur Change and the training facilitators, Mrs. MacDonald mentioned that she kept with her the following insights from the workshop:
“Realizing community-led data collection is a tool for self-determination. Realizing that within our organization, the members and leaders who are unenthusiastic about conventional data collection are actually much more attuned to this approach. So this approach is a way to engage them more fully in MEL.”
She also replied that the organization will be applying some of the learning in the coming weeks:
FHF’s systematic and enthusiastic engagement through Spur Change activities is a concrete impact of the constant and timely support Spur Change has been offering the 21 funded SMOs. By accompanying and supporting them as they were embarking into their new GAC funded project, Spur Change has been creating timely opportunities, sharing knowledge of best practices aligning with the FIAP and the SDGs, so they could improve their planning process and overall efficiency.
“Farmers Helping Farmers is benefiting in several ways from our participation in Spur Change programming to date. Through our Global Affairs Canada funding, we are moving our work to a larger scale and more formal project management approaches, and Spur Change is providing information and resources to help us in this progression. As well, Spur Change events are helping us become more connected with and integrated into the community of small and medium international development organizations across Canada, providing both valuable information and insights, and a greater sense of community. Thanks!”