Action Plan for Moira Laidlaw, September 2006

What is my Concern?

How can I support my VSO colleagues as we work together to promote sustainable development, combat disadvantage and poverty and move towards empowerment?


What are the reasons for my concern?

            My contract is short-term. Monitoring and Evaluation and AR are the explicit processes outlined in my contract, but it's bigger than that, given the nature of M&E and AR. Both are open-ended, values-driven processes, which cannot be fully defined through documentation or in the length of time I have. They can only be fully realized through action with people over time. And time is something I don't have a lot of! So, how to make anything I do here sustainable? That worries me. Having faith in the ability of others, however, relieves this pressure.

            I am also assisting in the development of PAR documentation, and I want to ensure that I give this the required attention.

            Scrutiny of the documentation reveals that processes are not always as advanced as the ideas. I need to be able to isolate weaknesses in the M&E systems (documentation and processes) as well as build up the necessary relationships with others to make the processes we are working on sustainable.

            There is a huge range of talent and expertise in the office. How to support such a diverse set of individuals and groups to the maximum benefit of our shared values?

            Some concerns about whether transparency in terms of joining the micro to the macro is sufficiently taken into account during the facilitation of processes – designing data-collection methods, for example.

            I would like to have some follow-through from office-training sessions for volunteers and partners, that there is a shared clarity around certain processes – data-collection and assimilation, for example. Time is so short!


What can I do to improve the quality of my support?

            Talk to people. Through AR enquiries of others, which I am facilitating, I will come closer to an understanding of how I can support them.

            Close liaison with Guozhi, asking him to give me feedback on what 'support' should mean for a POBV and monitoring my progress through our 1:1s.

            Asking for feedback from others, not only in the office, but from Jack at Bath University, whose experience in AR will benefit me in terms of logic, feasibility, transparency, etc.

            Discussions with key-people about the content of my contract – i.e. M&E programme progress (PAR).

            Adherence to VSO's code of conduct for office behaviour, aims and so on. Keep a close eye on whether my work-progress is clearly in line with VSO policy, contract etc. Ask others.

            Be consistently helpful and friendly, open and listen to the needs of others. Office-harmony is a HUGE aspect of productivity and people feeling happy and settled. Part of my support, as the POBV, is to do what I do with the right spirit. I am here to support.

Who can help me and how?

The above people, by offering constructive feedback on my performance; by contradicting where necessary; and by helping me to become more familiar with areas I may be weak on – some documentation, VSO precedents, ways of working, etc; by showing their understanding of my supportive role through assigning me appropriate areas of activity to further the aims and outcomes of VSO as highlighted in my question above; ARers will tell me how better to facilitate their enquiries and be pro-active on their own behalf.


How will I know my support has improved?

            Sustainability: When I leave, people will be generating their own processes to promote sustainability in those areas of M&E and AR.

            Greater clarity between micro and macro in VSO China. This will show through follow-through between conversations, policy, implementation, partnership implementation, volunteer understanding about aims, and target population satisfaction.

            Greater clarity about some data-collection methods;

            Narratives of learning that show the influence of VSO volunteers in  relation to their own values, the vision of VSO and the learning of  those they are working with.


Moira Laidlaw