Middle East and North Africa: Drama, Diversity and Development – Evaluation

By Ibtissem Jouini

First published by Minority Rights Group International  

Introduction and Background

Drama, Diversity and Development (DDD) is a 3-year project which started in 2014 and uses culture to promote diversity and challenge discrimination against minorities in the MENA region, specifically in the following countries: Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria. DDD is funded by the European Union under the regional program “MedCulture” as well as the Prince Claus Fund. It was implemented by a consortium of three nonprofit organizations led by Minority Rights Group International (MRGI) with the Civic Forum Institute and Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies. Prior to and during the DDD implementation phase, the MENA region faced –and is still facing– deep transformations, linked to violence and critical security situations in several places. Understanding the circumstances under which the DDD project was implemented requires understanding the political, social and economic situation of each country, as well as their cultures.  Likewise, understanding these factors allows the weighing of the extent to which they have influenced achievement of the objectives and the sustainability of the results.

Objectives and methodology

The primary objective of this final external evaluation is to provide pertinent findings, conclusions and recommendations regarding the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and, where possible, the impact of DDD´s activities based on both the evaluator’s assessment and the stakeholders’ perceptions. MRG and its partners are particularly interested in learning lessons that could be used in designing similar objectives in the future, particularly in the MENA region.  The evaluator used a participatory qualitative method to capture and assess project achievements and outcomes. The data collection phase included an in-depth desk review and online research, 52 Key Informant Interviews with key stakeholders, 6 focus group discussions with 35 young performers, on-site observations during field visits to 4 countries and participation in 2 regional events.

Evaluation Key Findings

Relevance

  1. The DDD project is relevant and timely considering the context of the MENA region. The objectives set are in line with the missions of the donors, implementing organizations and local grantees.
  2. The consortium has successfully allocated the grants and their associated objectives, addressing actual needs of communities subject to discrimination.
  3. The DDD design is appropriate for accomplishing the intended general objectives, however, the design could be better adapted to the restrictions and constraints of mobility of the participants in the region, especially refugees and Palestinians.

Effectiveness

  1. The DDD succeeded in building a regional cohort of experienced professionals with the capacity to link minority rights, cultural rights and drama. There was tangible evidence of (i) technical and soft skills development; (ii) higher awareness of discriminations faced by the minorities; (iii) higher engagement with the minority cultural rights after the project; and (iv) higher motivation among artists and activists in designing common projects for their countries and across the region.
  2. While fewer advocacy projects were implemented compared to the initial objective, the overall short term outcomes of the advocacy endeavor are positive and the experience helped to foster the capacity of the artistic organizations to advocate for minority cultural rights. Not enough time has passed to assess the mid and long term outcomes of several projects.
  3. The objectives to “document the feasibility of lodging formal legal processes in cases of abuses of cultural rights are completed and dissemination and/or publicity completed” was not met as only three out of seven planned research papers were drafted, of these one did not meet quality standards and only one has been disseminated, Though, this endeavor did not get a significant effect because –during that period– the law changed and the Berber language (Tamazight) was recognized as one of the country’s official languages.
  1. The objectives for peer to peer visits were partially met and positive feedback about the showcase event participation was reported. Regional workshops did not meet many grantees’ expectations apart from the networking outcomes.

Efficiency

  1. The coordination of the DDD project was efficient and appropriate. Stakeholders described the DDD management team as professional, friendly, flexible, easy to reach and available to provide appropriate advice when needed.
  2. The program applied knowledge management mechanisms and appropriate corrective actions to reach objectives and overcome challenges.
  3. Grantees reported difficulties in submitting financial reports. This was mainly due to a lack of experience in managing grants, not having a dedicated staff for accounting and financial reporting, and a lack of knowledge of financial guidelines.
  4. Grantees’ activities were largely covered, although not equally, by local and international media. Indeed, various levels of capacity were noted when dealing with media: Some organizations had both ample experience and a large network of contacts, while others lacked both.
  5. Grantees’ capacity, both at organizational and individual levels, were strengthened thanks to the experience gained after implementing their projects.

Impact and Sustainability

  1. Stakeholders used different techniques to assess audience reactions and satisfaction. Their own assessment suggests that their work did make a difference among their audiences, nonetheless they believe that if the work is to have a lasting impact it should continue for a long period of time.
  2. Many organizations showed awareness of peer expertise and added value, many grantees continued collaborating and there are examples where they have designed and implemented new joint projects after the DDD project.
  3. Two advocacy projects, namely the National Federation of Amazigh Associations in Morocco and Mossawa Center in Israel, succeeded, in a very short time, in contributing to the improvement of the cultural conditions of the Amazigh community in Morocco and Arab citizens in Israel.

Recommendations

To improve the design of similar projects in the MENA region

  1. Conduct primary research such as a baseline study prior to project design, it is key to effectively tailoring behavior intervention projects. This generates valuable insights into control issues and internal and external factors that facilitate or inhibit acceptance and tolerance of a “minority” group (or refugees). It also facilitates theory-based interventions where messages are tailored to research findings.
  2. Where possible, stakeholders should create spaces and facilitate interaction between civil society organizations and institutions’ representatives of the same country.
  3. Donors should consider refugees’ and Palestinian mobility constraints when designing and elaborating calls for proposals in the MENA region.

To maintain and improve the good effectiveness record

  1. Continue promoting partnerships between artists and Human/Minority Rights activists through promoting joint projects and consortia.
  2. Continue supporting artistic residency camps that embrace a Human Rights approach.
  3. Adapt the design of regional workshops to take into account the needs, aspirations and the expertise levels of participants. Consider splitting the different sections into different workshops. Including a session on how to lead/work in a consortium and manage partnerships.
  4. Grantees should share and adopt tailored and creative good practices to enable women to participate at all levels of project implementation.
  5. Design constant and repetitive activities with the same groups. This, per all the testimony of stakeholders, is an effective approach for perceptible change on beliefs, attitudes and behaviors within a community.

To maintain and improve the good efficiency record

  1. Map relevant stakeholders in the region and in each country to anticipate the quality of proposals for advocacy projects and litigation research and adapt the guidelines of the call for proposals accordingly. In the same manner, consider increasing project duration, budget and implementing partner staff time. Mapping could be part of the local implementing partners’ scope of work.
  2. Provide grantees with a written and comprehensive financial document specifying the guidelines translated to their mother language. Good and bad practices of previous experiences, frequently asked questions (FAQ) etc. could be integrated in this document.
  3. Grantees should hire qualified and dedicated financial staff to manage the accounting part.
  4. Ensure that advocacy projects start earlier so the outputs and outcomes can be more perceptible and can be assessed during the timeline of the project.

To ensure the sustainability of the results

  1. Perform a post DDD monitoring and continue providing technical assistance to artistic organizations so they can reach their advocacy objectives.

To improve the monitoring and evaluation endeavor

  1. Apply more qualitative indicators for all project objectives, highlighting the nuances of changes among participants after their involvement in the projects and the specific outcomes among minority vs. majority members and women.
  2. Change the indicators of audience satisfaction as partners on this project struggled to collect the data as they were framed.
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