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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interesting Window into New Thinking at USAID

A lot of us work with, for, within, or around USAID. On good days we pledge eternal love, and on honest days we sometimes feel the burden of a bureaucracy, where good intentions and best thinking are at times at odds with new fads and the inherent challenges of a bureaucracy. I don't think I'm breaking any secrets here or making enemies of my USAID friends and colleagues. A bureaucracy is a bureaucracy; and you don't disburse billions in assistance dollars without one. (Well, not unless you want to repeat the first six months of Iraq.)

In this context, it was very invigorating to discover the blog Aid on the Edge of Chaos, and notably the report of an October 2011 meeting on USAID's Complexity Journey. Given our growing interest in Complex Adaptive Systems from both an approach to development and a methodological challenge, this gives a very refreshing and exciting report of 'thinking outside the box.'

I invite you to read for yourself, but small take-home snippet, for example, that when it comes to development:
the key is to build innovative platforms that unlock existing capacities, rather than deliver over-specified, top-down solutions.
 This doesn't sound revolutionary, but it's welcome thinking from a donor which can change the landscape.

Ben Ramalingan provides a rapid summary of other discussions -- Aid on the Edge of Chaos, a blog to follow.


Friday, February 17, 2012

ICF/CEDARS completes work with EGPAF

Over the past three years, ICF/CEDARS has been supporting various different aspects of the Elizabeth Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s (EGPAF) transition monitoring efforts for their CDC-supported PEPFAR program, Project HEART (Help Expand Antiretroviral Therapy to children and families). This month marks the successful completion of both Project HEART and the technical support from CEDARS (the end-of-project report and more information on Project HEART can be found at:

As part of the PEPFAR Track 1.0 treatment initiative, this eight-year project was launched in Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Tanzania, and Mozambique in an effort to scale up ART through existing organizations implementing PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission). A core goal of Project HEART was to transition care and treatment activities to local partners in a sustainable way.

EGPAF contracted ICF/CEDARS to provide technical assistance in 1) the development of a plan for this transition, 2) the design and development of tailor-made data collection tools to measure progress in this transition process: the Organizational Capacity and Viability Assessment Tool (OCVAT), the Site Capacity Profile (SCP) for facility level assessments, CBO Capacity Profile for local organizations providing ARV treatment support, and a service delivery site mapping inventory, 3) the design and development of a training curriculum for country programs on program design for sustainable health outcomes, based on the Taking the Longview Sustainability Planning Manual.

The fruits of this productive collaboration between EGPAF and ICF/CEDARS will be posted on the CEDARS website over the course of the next few weeks—keep any eye for them!

Watch this video about the impact of Project HEART:

Living Proof: A Father and Son Love Story from EGPAF on Vimeo.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Emergence of Sustainability in a Complex System

On January 26, CEDARS was featured at a Microlinks Breakfast Seminar, which turned out to be a great success, as well as a unique learning experience for everyone.

Eric Sarriot, joined by Sudhir Wanmali, Sharon Arscott-Mills, and Owen Calvert, presented a simple definition of "Complex Adaptive Systems", described how the concept of Sustainability fits into this definition, and provided real-world examples of its use.

Following the presentation, a thought-provoking Q&A session took place amongst both the panel and the audience. One question, in particular, asked how complex systems in food security could be incorporated into Pastoral Systems, and the bulk of the discussion focused on data collection challenges, the need for accurate indicators, and stakeholder organization in these types of systems.

Watch Eric's follow-up interview:

For more information, view the full presentation with audio or visit the Microlinks website.

Read a detailed summary of the event on ICT 4 Agriculture's Blog: Sustainability Lessons from HSS: Implications for FS and ICTs Projects.