Southern African AIDS Trust - An evaluation of the process and outcomes of community-based partner graduation
CANADIAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH-REVUE CANADIENNE DE SANTE PUBLIQUE
McMaster University, University of Toronto, So African AIDS Trust
Objectives: To assess the partner graduation process used by SAT, the barriers partners face to graduation, and the outcomes following graduation, as well as to recommend directions for formalizing the graduation process into a more efficient and effective strategy.
Methods: The quantitative component of this evaluation described existing data on graduated partners. The qualitative component collected data through semi-structured interviews with SAT regional and national staff, and both current long-term and graduated partners, with an emphasis on SAT's operations in Zambia and Zimbabwe. A participatory staff workshop allowed for the review of findings and recommendations.
Results: SAT has graduated 31 implementing partners in its 5 core programming countries, after an average partnership duration of 6.5 years each. The graduation process has generally operated in accordance with SAT's guidelines regarding criteria and timeline, but has also involved considerable judgement, as SAT does not form explicit graduation strategies with partners. Key barriers to graduation included partners' challenges with resource mobilization and high staff turnover, as well as the reduced clarity around the graduation process itself for both SAT staff and partners. The outcomes of the graduated partners interviewed revealed strong sustainability of organizational systems, but mixed sustainability of financial resources and resource-dependent features. SAT staff provided many recommendations for addressing partners' challenges, and for improving and formalizing the graduation process.
Discussion: The efficiency and sustainability of SAT's work could be improved with the development of an explicit and individualized graduation strategy with each partner. An enhanced and earlier focus on fundraising, sustainability, and human resources would also remove barriers to graduation and help improve outcomes.