A little over a year ago, the leadership team from Bountifield International attended a presentation on Measurement and Evaluation by The Improve Group (IG) Founder & CEO, Leah Goldstein Moses, and Chief Practice Officer, Rebecca Stewart, at the Minnesota International NGO Network’s annual IDEA Summit. A St. Paul, Minnesota-based nonprofit, Bountifield is dedicated to helping families in developing countries access innovative farming tools so they can process their harvest more sustainably and bring their crops to market.
Knowing that their organization was gearing up to apply for a $2.2 million award from the United States Agency on International Development (USAID), the introduction could not have come at a better time. Bountifield went on to win the USAID award for the project (the burgeoning nonprofit’s largest to-date)—which includes the introduction, distribution and use of a new CTI millet thresher into the local market economy in rural Senegal over the next four years.
“In preparing the application, we met with Leah to talk about Bountifield, and she prepared an initial plan that was approved in the award. Since then, the amazing staff at IG have continued to work with CTI in the U.S. and Senegal to put a solid M&E program in place,” said Alexandra Spieldoch, Executive Director of Bountifield.
The purpose of the supply chain project is to develop the local manufacturing market for the technology and build farmer capacity to efficiently process millet to get higher quality and greater amounts of the grain into the market. Bountifield selected IG as the outside evaluator for the project, but more important, Bountifield has worked in close partnership with IG to continue using an evaluative mindset throughout the cycle of the project (sometimes called a “Design/Build” approach)—not just at the end for a required evaluation.
“Bountifield has such a strong organizational culture of commitment to ongoing learning,” said Sara McGarraugh, Senior Research Analyst at IG and lead on the Bountifield project. “Without knowing specific evaluation techniques, CTI has already been informally using data to drive their design. They are already doing evaluation for learning and continuous quality improvement. I think this makes them more open to learning through this project, and applying those learnings to other parts of their organization, which we at IG really appreciate as their evaluation partner.”
“Overall, IG is really helping us to strengthen and develop the Bountifield model so that it is as good as it can be. I am proud of this,” said Alexandra.
The Improve Group is the technical assistance partner on this evaluation, with implementation happening at the local level in Senegal. Last July, Sara travelled to Senegal to partner with a local evaluator to co-create the evaluation design and to train him on IG’s Image Grouping(SM) tool, which will be used in the evaluation.
It was especially exciting for Sara to work on this project, as she had previously lived and studied in Senegal and speaks both French and Wolof (the local language). And, although technology brings the world to our desks, “nothing takes the place of the relationship-building and fostering of trust that can only happen face to face,” said Sara.
“It was so critical to develop the relationship early on, just as it is for all of our projects. Going to Senegal helped us establish relationships with key stakeholders in the region, co-create the evaluation design, and incorporate community input. This is how we work through our Community Responsive Approach(SM).”
One of the most exciting things about our partnership with Bountifield is that IG is helping to build Bountifield's capacity to use evaluation in their other work, long after the USAID award is complete.
Alexandra said, “Beyond any grant or award, I am most interested in actually measuring and improving what we are doing. It is not about checking another box, but waking up in the morning and knowing that we are striving to be the best we can be.”