What remained of Mongolian kindergartens
In 2012, we have ventured with my colleague Marie Koerner through steppes of Mongolia to learn what remained of the Czech-funded mobile kindergartens. People remembered a great project, nomadic women teaching in mobile kindergartens, children learning playfully in a safe environment and integrating better to primary schools… and their parents having more time for work or smaller siblings. Well, not much remained of it 4 months after extended project end. Despite an official agreement, the Mongolian Ministry of Education did not provide a budget. It rather accepted a bigger donation from the Asian Development Bank for a similar project. Well, the new one did not benefit that many children in so many remote areas, but kindergartens had better qualified teachers, free meals and heating. And the donor was happy. Still, something remained of the Czech project – the positive attitude of the community towards pre-primary education and dedication to involve children at least in summer prep-schools organized by the government. Read the full evaluation report here in the Czech language.
The sustainability stories are diverse, yet factors are often similar. The devil is in the detail – for example, a dedicated village chief can make a big difference.
Sustainability or commercial continuity?
Based on different evaluations of Czech development projects conducted in 2010 to 2013, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs started debating sustainability in 2013. Often, it was linked to commercial continuity – companies, ideally Czech, would continue to have business based on their previous successful engagement. Or at least income generation within the projects was highlighted. Questions arose if at least certain sectors, CSO or companies or types of projects are more sustainable than others, based on income generation or other factors.
What makes development projects sustainable?
Following the policy debate, the Czech platform of Civil Society Organisations – FoRS engaged Marie Koerner and me to analyse all evaluation reports, define what sustainability actually is and how it can be achieved. The key findings are below.
- Project sustainability is linked to continued benefits for intended beneficiaries after donor funding has been withdrawn. Not all project activities need to continue. Not all benefits need to be seen as meaningful by the beneficiaries. Income generation is not always possible and does not necessarily contribute to poverty reduction. Especially if the income is generated by the Czech companies, not by the local actors, who are responsible for sustaining project benefits.
- Sustainability of the Czech Development Cooperation projects varies. Review of 37 publicly available evaluation reports of Czech development projects shows no correlation between sustainability and specific sectors, contracting authorities, implementers or countries of implementation has not been detected. It is rather external and internal factors shown below which influence project sustainability.
- Sustainability factors are project specific and interdependent. They are external and internal. Often, even external factors can be influenced to achieve higher sustainability.
- Sustainability can be influenced throughout the project cycle. Each stakeholder plays a certain role at each phase of the project cycle.
- Good practice is available across sectors, including environment, agriculture, social development including education, economic development including energy as well as global development education and awareness raising. These sustainable Czech projects considered the key factors influencing sustainability in their plans and activities and thus contributed to lasting positive benefits for the recipients.
An overview of factors is displayed below:
What next? What is your experience?
Based on the study, the Czech Development Agency together with FoRS organised an internal expert workshop on 13 March 2014 to debate possible steps for increasing the sustainability of Czech bilateral projects.The results are yet to be seen. Feel free to share your resources and experience!