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CSO Reality Check: A multi-year results-oriented evaluation of Sida’s support to CSOs in developing countries via Swedish CSOs

Nicaragua, Pakistan, Uganda

Civil Society, Gender Equality, Local Government and Decentralisation, Environment and Climate Change, Monitoring and Evaluation, Natural Resource Management, Good Governance and Public Administration

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The overall purpose of the multiyear evaluation was to evaluate the Swedish Civil Society Strategy via Swedish Civil Society Organisations. And to find out if, how and why/why not the support via the Swedish CSOs through their national partners –has contributed to the overall objectives of the strategy to create conditions to enable poor and discriminated people to improve their living conditions and quality of life. The evaluation explored what the human rights perspective means to poor and discriminated people and how it could be applied in different contexts. The overall focus was to seek if the strategy was aligned, relevant and feasible trough out the structural chain.  

Scope: 3 Countries (Nicaragua, Pakistan, Uganda): 9 research sites & themes (3 per country); 16 Swedish CSOs and their partners.

The focus was to understand:

  • The realities of people living in poverty and marginalisation, and their perceptions of what is changing in the enabling conditions needed to improve their lives.
  • What the human rights based approach and its four principles of participation, transparency, accountability and non-discrimination  mean to people living in poverty.
  • The theories of change and strategies of Swedish CSOs and their local partners, and how they understand and pursue the human rights based approach.
  • The plausible contributions of Swedish CSOs and their partners to creating changes in enabling conditions, and of CSO capacity development efforts.
  • The relevance, alignment and feasibility of the theories of change, strategies and interventions of the Swedish CSOs and their partners

The thematic areas covered by the evaluation included gender, environmental management, democracy and citizenship, indigenous rights, local governance,  worker's rights, sexual and reproductive health, popular participation and policy influence.

The results of the evaluation were findings and recommendations related to:

  • Relevance – are the programmes, approaches and theories of change of the Swedish CSOs and their partners relevant to people’s priorities and perceptions of what changes are desired in the conditions that would enable them to improve their lives?
  • Alignment – are the programmes, approaches and theories of change of the Swedish CSOs and their partners aligned with the strategies of multiple actors at different levels, including actions being taken by local people themselves, to create enabling conditions to improve their lives?
  • Feasibility – are the programmes, approaches and theories of change of the Swedish CSOs and their partners feasible in terms of their plausible contributions (and in relation to what other actors are contributing) to creating enabling conditions for people to improve their lives?

The evaluation concluded that people’s realities included exclusion based on

-gender, age, ethnicity and/or disability

-lack of access to land, employment, income and markets

-violation of labour rights

-vulnerability to climate change such as drought or flooding

-poor access to education and health services

-gender-based violence

Evidence from all nine sites showed how the multiple dimensions of poverty and exclusion intersect to pose both external constraints on people’s options, and internal constraints on their agency as citizens.

The evaluation produced nine reports including the Final Synthesis Reoort. The study concludes with recommendations for steps that Sida and CSOs can take to address these more deep-seated power relations constraining citizens and civil society, including:

  • Engaging more deeply with people’s intimate realities of multidimensional poverty and exclusion, in order to locate entry points and effective actors for change.
  • Facilitating processes of horizontal dialogue and strategizing among civil society and other actors, and reducing the negative effects of vertical, results-based relationships.
  • Supporting civil society and its power as a ‘field’ rather than as ‘organisations’, through processes of ‘capacity mobilising’ to release existing energies.

The contributions of the entire evaluation can be found here: