Research and Monitoring & Evaluation (RME) Unit
Research as a key element in promoting gender equality, preventing HIV and GBV, and advocating for social justice
The Research and Monitoring and Evaluation (RME) Unit leads the knowledge generation arm of Sonke’s social justice strategy, seeking to rigorously measure the effectiveness and impact of Sonke’s programmatic, capacity building and policy advocacy work in an effort to strengthen the evidence base on gender transformative practice and policy.
Across Sonke’s units and portfolios, the RME Unit promotes increasing the value of research and evidence-informed programming and advocacy to promote gender equality and prevent HIV and gender-based violence (GBV). Within the organisation, we provide strategic and technical guidance on research design and methodology as well as standardising monitoring and evaluation processes. Through a variety of strategic research partnerships, we work collectively to develop, implement, evaluate and adapt our community mobilisation model for gender transformation in individual attitudes and practices, social norms, and institutional policies. The body of evidence produced from these efforts contribute to understanding effective strategies, developing best practices, and identifying specific pathways to achieving gender justice through:
- Working with men and boys to construct and adopt gender-equitable constructions of masculinity
- Engaging in policy advocacy to shape global and national laws and policies to achieve gender transformation
- Holding social institutions and opinion leaders accountable for delivering on their commitments to gender equality and equity
Strategic Priorities for the RME Unit during the 2014-2018 period:
Develop a sustainable in-house programme of research that contributes to achieving our strategic goals and reflects our commitment to strengthening communities’ capacity to transform gender relations and achieve gender equality
Strengthen Sonke’s research partnerships with collaborative organisations and academic institutions to ensure that Sonke is a full partner in the analysis, interpretation, publication and dissemination of research findings
Improve the ability of all units and portfolios to consistently capture reliable, accurate data and timely submit data by integrating a new cloud-based data management system (SalesForce) into Sonke’s M&E activities
Finalise and implement a revised M&E plan and standard operating procedures for data collection that assist all units and portfolios in developing research plans with measurable, meaningful, and achievable targets and timeframes and developing appropriate metrics to assess progress and impact
Data Quality Management
Review RDQA tool and implement routine data quality assessment (RDQA) to inform M&E capacity building, manage data quality issues and promote accurate and reliable reporting
Use data to systematically measure the impact of our work and effectiveness in meeting our strategic objectives and use the evidence produced to inform the design and implementation of our policy, programmatic and research activities
Build the sustainable capacity of Sonke staff, the MenEngage Network and our partner organisations to undertake rigorous data collection and analysis and produce high quality dissemination materials that demonstrate the impact of work to achieve gender equality
Produce and disseminate information, knowledge, and best practices from our work to achieve gender equality across Sonke’s units and portfolios, and amongst communities with which we engage, collaborative organisations, donors and the general public
Research – Foundational in the process of social change
A core value of Sonke’s social justice strategy is building and sustaining fruitful partnerships with other non-governmental organisations and academic institutions to improve the depth and impact of our work. Through these collaborations – and knowledge produced from them – we contribute globally to the wealth of evidence-informed interventions aimed at engaging men and boys for gender justice and in the prevention and response to HIV/AIDS and GBV. We produce a wide variety of dissemination products that document the effectiveness and impact of our work including scientific articles, internal research reports, case studies, most significant change stories, and internal and external evaluations. Following is a list of noteworthy research articles, many of which have been published in top-tier, peer-reviewed scientific journals, that highlight our theoretical and applied contributions towards gender equality and social justice.
- Dworkin, S. L.; Hatcher, A. M.; Colvin, C.; Peacock, D. (2013) “Impact of a gender-transformative HIV and antiviolence program on gender ideologies and masculinities in two rural, South African communities.” Men and masculinities 16.2: 181-202.
- Flood, M.; Peacock, D.; Stern, O.; Barker, G.; and Greig, A. (2010) “World Health Organization Men and Gender Policy Brief: Policy approaches to involving men and boys in achieving gender equality and health equity.” Johannesburg, South Africa: Sonke Gender Justice Network.
- Keehn, E.; Nyembe, N.; and Sukhija. T. (2013) “An evaluation of South Africa’s Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services-assessing its independence, effectiveness, and community engagement.” Sonke Gender Justice Network Report 7
- Peacock, D.; and Barker, G. (2014) “Working with Men and Boys to Prevent Gender-based Violence Principles, Lessons Learned, and Ways Forward.” Men and Masculinities 17.5: 578-599.
- Peacock, D, and Levack, A. (2004) “The men as partners program in South Africa: Reaching men to end gender-based violence and promote sexual and reproductive health.” International Journal of Men’s Health 3.3.
- Pettifor, A.; Lippman, S. A.; Selin, A. M.; Peacock, D.; Gottert, A.; Maman, S.; and MacPhail, C. (2015) “A cluster randomized-controlled trial of a community mobilization intervention to change gender norms and reduce HIV risk in rural South Africa: study design and intervention.” BMC public health 15.1: 752.
- Shand, T.; Thomson‐de Boor, H.; van den Berg, W.; Peacock, D.; and Pascoe, L. (2014) “The HIV Blind Spot: Men and HIV Testing, Treatment and Care in Sub‐Saharan Africa.” IDS Bulletin 45.1: 53-60.
- Steen, R.; Jana, S.; Reza-Paul, S.; and Richter, M. (2015) “Trafficking, sex work, and HIV: efforts to resolve conflicts.” The Lancet 385.9963: 94-96.
- Stern, E.; Pascoe, L.; Shand, T.; and Richmond, S. (2015) “Lessons learned from engaging men in sexual and reproductive health as clients, partners and advocates of change in the Hoima district of Uganda.” Culture, health & sexuality ahead-of-print: 1-16.
- van den Berg, W., Hendricks, L., Hatcher, A., Peacock, D., Godana, P., & Dworkin, S. (2013). ‘One Man Can’: shifts in fatherhood beliefs and parenting practices following a gender-transformative programme in Eastern Cape, South Africa. Gender & Development, 21(1), 111-125.
Sonke’s robust body of research contributes substantively to global scholarship and debate on issues of gender, violence, health and justice. The RME Unit is currently developing a sustainable in-house program of research that complements Sonke’s programmatic and policy activities. In addition, the unit provides strategic guidance to Sonke staff, graduate interns and collaborative partners in research methods, implementation and dissemination to ensure effective and impactful strategies for achieving gender equality and social justice.
Following are some examples of how we do this:
NGO/Academic Joint Research Collaborations
Over the past 5 years, Sonke has increasingly partnered with academic institutions to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of our OMC model and other programmatic work we have developed and implemented in South Africa and throughout the continent. Following are highlights from Sonke’s research collaborations that are managed by the RME Unit.
OMC Impact Evaluation Research in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Since 2011, we are partnered with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the University of California San Francisco and Wits University School of Public Health on two cluster randomised control trials (RCT) evaluating the impact of our OMC community mobilisation model on improving HIV and GBV outcomes in Bushbuckridge, a rural area of Mpumalanga, South Africa. The first study completed in 2014, sought to engage young men 18 – 35 years through a variety of community mobilisation approaches to increase their support for girls and women’s rights and decrease men’s unsafe sexual practices, especially those that increase girls’ and young women’s vulnerability to HIV infection. Using quantitative and qualitative research methods, our findings indicate HIV testing uptake was associated with community mobilisation in communities receiving OMC activities compared to communities that did not. In addition, the data shows significant attitudinal and some behavioural changes around gender and HIV risk amongst OMC community mobilisers, community action team (CAT) members, and community members exposed to the intervention. A follow RCT study, Tsima began last year and extends the OMC community mobilisation intervention model to mobilise men and women to use HIV treatment as a way of preventing HIV infection in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga.
OMC Impact Evaluation Research in Diepsloot, Gauteng, South Africa
One of our newest collaboration with Wits University School of Public Health and the South Africa Medical Research Council was developed to implement the Sonke Change Trial, a three-year intervention supported by the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) through What Works to Prevent Violence: A Global Programme to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls. With our research partners, we are developing and implementing the Sonke Change Trial in the peri-urban Diepsloot area of Gauteng, South Africa. This new study uses a cluster randomised control trial research design to evaluate how Sonke’s OMC model shifts masculinities towards gender equality in general, and contributes to an enabling environment for GBV reduction specifically. The following infographic depicts the theory of change for this intervention.
Building an evidence base on routes to work with boys and men to promote gender equality
As part of the Engendering Men: Evidence on Routes to Gender Equality (EMERGE) consortium with the University of Sussex’s Institute for Development Studies and Promundo-US, we are assessing the state of work with men and boys globally for the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Together with our project partners, we are conducting a systematic review of the existing evidence, documenting lessons from the field through a series of case studies and stories of change, and developing guidance for improved learning, policy and practice. We seek to find out what works best in engaging men and boys for gender equality in terms of changing social norms and the institutional arrangements and structures, which sustain or shift norms, attitudes, and behaviours. To date, we have contributed to the forthcoming EMERGE Evidence Review – Engendering Men: A Collaborative Review of Evidence on Men and Boys in Social Change and Gender Equality by writing three chapters on Sexual Health and Rights, Education, and Health and Wellbeing. We’ve also conducted two case studies, 1) on engaging men in FGM/C abandonment in Ethiopia and 2) work with young men to promote gender equality and reduce HIV vulnerability based on our research with young men in Bushbuckridge, South Africa. The Ethiopia case study was presented at the 2015 Sexual Violence Research Initiative Forum.
Understanding and strengthening men and women’s linkages to HIV health services
As part of a broader joint effort, we are working with the University of Cape Town School of Public Health, Brown University and University of California San Francisco to evaluate our efforts to engage men in health services at our One Man Can Men’s Wellness Centre in the Gugulethu neighbourhood in Cape Town, South Africa. The project called iALARM (Information to Align Services and Link and Retain Men in the HIV Cascade), uses health information to ‘raise the alarm’ about men’s continuing poor performance and outcomes in HIV care, from prevention and testing, through to ART initiation, adherence and retention in care. The project is rooted in an on-going collaboration between the NY1 community health clinic in Gugulethu and Sonke Gender Justice’s ‘Men’s Wellness Centre’, located on the grounds of the clinic. iALARM aims to strengthen the alignment of clinic and NGO services for men in the area by combining data from several existing sources of routine health information and using this information on an on-going basis to coordinate and improve services for men.
International Men and Gender Equality Survey
Through a longstanding partnership between Sonke and Promundo-US, we are collaborating to conduct the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) in countries throughout Africa. IMAGES is a comprehensive household survey on men’s attitudes and practices, and women’s opinions and reports of men’s practices, on a wide variety of topics related to gender equality. The aim of this research collaboration is to provide a baseline for developing comparable, international data on the changing behaviours of men and women in a relational perspective in terms of gender equality in sub-Saharan Africa. Together, we have conducted studies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Mali, Malawi, and Mozambique.
Understanding the gendered impact of unpaid care work
To support a class action lawsuit to hold South African gold mines accountable for failure to prevent and respond to silicosis and tuberculosis, Sonke is examining the gendered impact of unpaid care work in communities that have been affected by silicosis. The lawsuit aims to seek justice for tens of thousands of current and former mineworkers who contracted silicosis and/or tuberculosis while working in South African gold mines, and for the dependents of deceased mineworkers, due to failures on the part of gold mining companies to prevent and treat the diseases. Contributing to Sonke’s support of the lawsuit, the RME Unit conducted research to understand how silicosis has affected communities throughout the Eastern Cape and specifically women who have been responsible for caring for sick mineworkers. In June of this year, we conducted 5 days of fieldwork throughout 5 communities in the Eastern Cape, which included 13 in-depth interviews with women caretakers (11 who are caring for men suffering from silicosis and 2 who are widows of men who died of complications related to silicosis) and 2 focus groups with men suffering from silicosis. We asked women to describe their experiences of providing care for male mineworkers living with or who have died from silicosis and we explored the social and economic impact of providing care for ill mineworkers on women’s lives. A detailed report of the research findings and documentary are forthcoming.
Case study of Sonke’s work with migrant communities in South Africa
As the RME Unit’s scope of work expands we are increasing our network of consultants and graduate student interns that contribute to achieving our strategic priorities. This year, we recruited a masters student, Thabani Nyoni from the University of California Berkeley School of Social Welfare to conduct research on our community mobilisation efforts. Thabani conducted an independent research study assessing the extent to which Sonke’s community mobilisation through community action teams (CAT) results in positive behaviour change and community activism among CAT members. His study was designed as a comparative evaluation of Sonke’s Refugees Health and Rights (RHR) programs in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Qualitative ethnographic research was undertaken with Sonke’s RHR trainers and CATS and primary data collection included field observation of outreach activities, meetings and workshops and field visits to townships, churches, and community halls. Thirty-two CAT members participated in in-depth individual interviews. The research findings indicate that Sonke’s community mobilisation approach increased the CAT member’s knowledge, understanding and acceptance in the following areas: 1) HIV/AIDS and reduction of risky behaviour; 2) gender relations, family relationships and violence (partner and family); 3) sexual behaviour and condom use; and 4) community activism/collective actions. Additionally, Sonke’s community mobilisation efforts created social networks of solidarity and support within CAT teams. Thabani will report on the findings of this important research at the International Meeting on Community Mobilisation and Social Accountability for Gender Justice, Health and Human Rights that Sonke is convening in South Africa in November 2015.
Strategic Guidance and Capacity Building on M&E Processes
The RME Unit is tasked with ensuring that Sonke monitors the effectiveness of meeting stated programmatic goals and working with Sonke staff across units and portfolios to take course-correcting action when necessary. In addition, the unit strives to develop M&E tools – and provide training and skill-building activities on the use of these tools – that are appropriate to demonstrate impact to communities, partner organisations, donors, and the public. Towards this end, in 2014 the unit began the development of data management system using the Salesforce platform. This is a cloud-based system that was originally designed for the private sector, but it is increasingly being used in the development sector. Phase 1 of Sonke’s M&E data management system design is complete and several staff members have been trained to use the system to input data and generate reports highlighting the effectiveness of their work. Through this system, we plan to facilitate more efficient internal and external communication as well as capture data from activities in real time as they are being implemented in our field sites.
The RME Unit has a clear data flow process, which improves the ability of all units and portfolios to consistently collect, capture and submit reliable, accurate data. In the past year, we have improved the use of standardised M&E tools within Sonke and adherence to M&E processes and procedures. We have worked with unit managers to identify their M&E challenges, which will inform the revision of M&E standard operating procedures to improve data quality management. We are currently revising Sonke’s M&E plan and standard operating procedures, which will provide guidance to units and portfolios in developing research plans with measurable, meaningful, and achievable targets and timeframes and appropriate metrics to assess progress and impact.
Following are highlights on our on-going work to provide guidance and capacity building across Sonke’s diverse units and portfolios.
External evaluation of UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women project
Earlier this year, the RME Unit coordinated an external evaluation of the UN Trust Fund (UNTF) to End Violence against Women three-year funded project, ‘Engaging men to strengthen the implementation of GBV laws and policies and promote gender equality in Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone’. The aim of the evaluation was to assess the effectiveness and relevance of the project’s objectives and progress towards them. A qualitative research design was chosen to understand and analyse respondents’ experiences and perceptions of the project within the different local contexts. Interviews were conducted with primary and secondary beneficiaries to assess their experiences with and impressions of the UNTF project, and triangulated with focus group discussions and observations.
Overall, the intended project goals were achieved to varying degrees in Rwanda, Kenya and Sierra Leone. The UNTF project has made an overall positive impact in the lives of targeted districts, and in particular for women and girls. The RME Unit hired a team of consultants to conduct the evaluation based on the terms of reference developed by funder and worked closely with the evaluators in evaluation implementation and providing detailed feedback on inception, preliminary and final reports. The unit has also contributed to sourcing external evaluators and designing evaluation frameworks for other end of the project evaluations including MenCare (within the Child Rights and Positive Parenting portfolio), Finnish Embassy funding work (within the Policy Development and Advocacy unit), and SIDA Zambia (within the International Programmes Network unit).
Documenting Stories of Change towards gender-equitable attitudes and practices
The RMEUnit supports Sonke programme and policy staff in documenting stories of change. The most significant change (MSC) is qualitative data collection technique use in participatory monitoring and evaluation.1 The technique is often used in on-going M&E throughout the lifecycle of a project. Key stakeholders, project staff and beneficiaries are actively involved in deciding the aspects of change to be captured and analysed. The process involves capturing significant change stories. The technique has been used frequently to qualitatively measure the impact of Sonke’s community mobilisation work as well as our capacity building work throughout the MenEngage Africa network. Following are excerpts from an evaluation conducted by the RME staff for the CEM Unit’s work in Bushbuckridge.
‘Let me say it plainly, I was a womaniser’
I got involved with the One Man Can campaign when I saw a pamphlet advertising positions for volunteers, and I thought, “Let me try it instead of sitting at home doing nothing every day.” I applied and was happy to be called for an interview. At the interview, I sold myself pretty well, but was honest that I am willing to learn as I do not have gender training – maybe my Soul Buddies experience caught the organisers’ attention. To my surprise I made it to the team and things changed. I was reserved at times because I was the youngest, and it was the first time that someone as old as my father would talk openly about sex and sexuality matters. I did not know how to answer. A week later though, I was one of the best students (I think), and yes, I qualified as a community mobiliser. Because my village is the biggest, there are two of us working together.
Let me say it plainly, I was a womaniser, at any given time I would sleep with three girls each week, and thought that I was being the smarter boy. I would lie to these girls and sometimes they would fight at my house to the dismay of my family. Secondly, I hated my sister’s children because I believed they needed to be looked after by their fathers at their places and not at my mom’s. I would tease them, call them names and be physical with them too. It got worse when I received my first stipend; I would buy things and display them to my sisters, and tease them that they have nothing even though their children’s’ fathers are alive. As we continued to learn about the child protection protocol, a new dawn appeared on me, and when we did the activity about the ideal partner, and reasons why people have sex, I found myself challenged to the core. I made decisions to change.
Today I have only one girlfriend (though it was not easy to convince my many partners). I also reached out to my sister’s children. Both were not doing well at school; I went to see their teachers who told me that they were both slow learners. I took it upon myself to help them with homework daily and in the third month I saw improvements with their schoolwork. In fact all of them passed at the end of the year. I look back and say, this is because of all the education I received from OMC. I live a better life today; these kids are now my best friends at home and my relationship with my mother and sister have changed for the better in a great way.
I could have continued living the old life; maybe one girl would be pregnant by now, because I did not use condoms. I was a monster to those kids in the house, though they needed my support. Can you imagine me eating ice cream and sweets in front of them without sharing with them but rather calling them names? It is important also because now my relationship with my sister and mother has changed. I am able to point out that the life we learned from our grandparents is not the way to go.
To have grown-ups who will share their experiences with you was something that I thought only happened on television, but to hear the coordinators doing this and sharing their personal life stories, is encouraging. When we started, the older guys were disrespectful towards me because I am youngest but now they all respect me equally. This is great!
Sustainability and Growth
In order for Sonke to continue to produce knowledge that strengthens the evidence base on gender transformative practice and policy, the RME Unit requires the expertise, skills, and resources to sustain our current program of research and M&E processes and expand our capacity building efforts within the organisation and externally through collaborative partnerships. Towards this end, the RME Unit is seeking core support to retain the expertise of our current staff and to develop the following proposed projects.
Internal Research Capacity-building Initiative
Maintaining fruitful partnerships with research consultants and academic institutions has been central to our ability to produce new knowledge and disseminate findings on the effectiveness and impact of our work. Over time we have expanded our external research collaborations for several reasons including limited internal capacity to design, implement, evaluate and adapt research projects and impact evaluations. To improve Sonke’s internal research capacity across all units and portfolios, the RME Unit proposes to develop a new Sonke initiative that allows staff (from the trainer level to the director level) to acquire technical skills in research design, data collection and analysis, professional writing, and presentation and public speaking.
We have had initial consultations with our researcher partners about the possible areas of building research capacity and conducted a training session with Sonke staff in Cape Town to begin reflecting on the type of skills and research projects that could enhance our work and necessary support and resources to pursue new research endeavours. We have also worked with our research partners at academic institutions to explore ways for Sonke staff to access campus-based short courses on data analysis and academic writing. Our academic partners have agreed to facilitate access to skill-building opportunities for Sonke staff working on our joint research projects and have also shown interest in providing professional mentoring in some capacity. These agreements have been incorporated in our most recent MOUs with our academic partners.
Proposal: To further these initial efforts, the RME Unit seeks to institutionalise the prioritisation of internal research capacity building at Sonke. This includes developing a organisational strategy outlining the specific areas for research skill development; identifying short courses, workshops and other skill-building opportunities and negotiating access to these professional development opportunities for staff; and evaluating the added value to achieving our organisational goals by broadening the existing skills sets of Sonke staff. This ambitious initiative will require a substantial investment in time and expertise by the RME Unit to develop, implement and evaluate internal research capacity building activities. Material resources are also required including licenses for quantitative (STATA) and qualitative (Atlas.ti) data analysis software, and additional user licenses for Salesforce, Sonke’s M&E data management system. The proposed added value of this capacity-building strategy is three-fold: 1) staff will be better able to translate knowledge into practice by interpreting and using data and research findings in designing and modifying Sonke’s existing programmatic and policy advocacy activities; 2) building the research skills of Sonke staff will complement and contribute to our on-going research collaborations; and 3) internal research capacity building promotes more equity in NGO/academic research partnerships by equipping Sonke staff with the knowledge and technical skills to serve as equal partners in our research endeavours.
Data Quality Management
Key to the provision of quality data and information is to have clear M&E policies and procedures. The review and adaptation of existing Data Quality Assessment (DQA) tools will assist with identifying M&E gaps within projects, inform the revision of our M&E capacity building plan, and promote accurate and reliable reporting. Improving data quality management will also assist with developing synergy between units and strengthening the accessibility and sharing of information internally and with our stakeholders.
Proposal: conduct quarterly data quality site visits to all Sonke projects and partner organisations working within South Africa. The RME Unit requires resources to adapt existing DQA tools to align with the HIV and GBV process, output and outcomes indicators outlined in project plans across Sonke’s units and portfolios. Subsequently, we seek to field test our revised DQA tool along with the revised M&E standard operation procedures and train all staff in these new M&E processes.
Developing topic-specific fact sheets
Research is more likely to contribute to progress in international health and development if it is relevant and effectively communicated to people who can use the findings.2
Proposal: To work with graduate student interns to develop 2-page ‘evidence at-a-glance’ fact sheets summarising the existing body of evidence on specific topics related to Sonke’s programmatic and policy advocacy work (i.e. current GBV and HIV surveillance and survey data for the countries that we work in, key findings from gender transformative interventions engaging men and boys, and the evidence on school-based sexuality and HIV education programs addressing gender power inequities). These fact sheets will contribute to reducing the knowledge translation gap by providing a useful and easily accessible source of current data for Sonke staff and other intervention implementers and activists to incorporate in programmatic and advocacy work. Towards this end, the RME Unit seeks to develop and implement a process to write, review, and publish evidence at-a-glance topic-specific fact sheets. Consistency in process-based fact sheet development will help to standardise the scope and content of the products.
RME Unit Annual Planning and Team-building Session
Periodic reflection and planning is an essential process for all types of organisations and groups. The purposes of annual planning are to:
- To demonstrate a relationship between the long-range strategic plan and the chosen annual objectives of the institution
- To provide a linkage between annual plans, program review, and resource allocation/budgeting
- To provide a basis for assessment of institutional progress in a fiscal year3
Proposal: to hold a one-day RME Unit annual planning and team-building session, with an external facilitator, to review and revise the existing unit work plan, assess staff’s current roles and responsibilities in achieving the unit’s priorities set out in Sonke’s strategic plan, and explore ways to build on our collective strengths and expertise. Given the rapid expansion of the RME Unit over the past 6 months, an increase in both staff and workload, a structured team building and planning session would greatly contribute to staff excelling in individual-level key performance areas, and at the unit-level in achieving our targeted outcomes. An investment in adequate time and funding to undertake the process is required.
- Davies, Rick, and Jess Dart. “The ‘Most Significant Change’(MSC) Technique.” A guide to its use (2005).
- Gooding, Katharine Helen. Combining research with advocacy and service delivery: experience from NGOs in Malawi. Diss. University of Leeds, 2014.
- Gabriner, R. “CCSF Management Plan, 2002/2003.”