How can VFM analysis be used to improve WASH programmes?
Our previous blog explains that VFM analysis can not only be used for reporting purposes, but also as a performance-based management tool. In this blog, we share examples of how such performance-based management was used in Bangladesh and Zambia.
VFM analysis is basically an analytical tool that programme managers can use to get useful information about the way in which their WASH programmes are delivering results. Managers can then use this information to make management decisions, which will help maximise the results of their programme. This approach can be useful at various stages of programme design and implementation, as shown in the figure below:
Figure 1. Where VFM analysis fits in the WASH programming cycle
Decisions made during programme design have a high potential impact on VFM. Two WASH programmes – one in Bangladesh and another in Zambia – had the same aim; to improve health outcomes through WASH interventions. However, both made different choices about which activities to undertake. SHEWA-B in Bangladesh aimed to influence outcomes for water supply, sanitation and hygiene as well as WASH in schools, while in Zambia the programme was more tightly focused on outcomes in sanitation and hygiene alone.
Decisions made during programme implementation can give managers greater control over internal factors that may influence VFM, such as the selection and training of staff, and the amount of investment in monitoring. It is important to distinguish these from external factors such as hydrogeological conditions, which also affect VFM, but are outside of the programme manager’s control.
– In Bangladesh, managers noted patchy performance by some Community Health Promoters (CHPs) in 2010. As a result, UNICEF appointed two experienced NGOs (WaterAid and Plan International) to support the local NGO providers, to train CHPs and promote standardised reporting. This increased indirect programme support costs but had a positive effect on the quality of promotional work, which in turn increased its effectiveness towards impacting behaviour change of households. Arguably this improved overall VFM.
– In Zambia, UNICEF introduced a Performance Monitoring System in 2014 to track project performance at district, province and national levels, using mobile-to-web (M2W) technology. The use of this tool led to several cost-efficiency improvements, as fewer managers were needed to oversee activities, and the real-time data could be used to see which communities were lagging behind, allowing managers to decide where support to implementing partners was most needed. Programme cost per new person gaining access to improved sanitation or a hand-washing facility decreased from US$ 8.3 to US$ 3.4 between mid- 2013 and the end of 2014. Part of this improvement can be attributed to the new M2W system.
Therefore, by using VFM analysis to explore the impact of these programme design changes in terms of cost-efficiency and other indicators, it is possible for managers to inform and justify future decisions, as well as to inform the design of other programmes. More detail on our analysis in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zambia – and the conclusions and lessons emerging out of our analysis – can be found in our Synthesis Report which will be launched at World Water Week, next week.