Evaluation of Lifeline in Zambia
Lifeline in Zambia (LiZ) is a Christian, non-profit organisation based in Ndola in northern Zambia. Starting in 2008, the ROCKWOOL Foundation worked with LiZ in an effort to create an approach to advancing the development of local societies through social capacity building, focusing on particularly vulnerable areas in Zambia. The approach consisted of recruiting local volunteers from across church denominations in the various project areas, and then giving training to these volunteers in the fields of health, education and agriculture. Next, each volunteer was allocated five families that they were to help through home visits. The idea was to help local societies by reaching out to their poorest members, using the societies’ own resources. The project was implemented and developed over three project phases. The last of these phases (P3) began in April 2012. It covered two project areas and had a target group of 300 households. The intention was to improve living standards in these vulnerable households.
A qualitative evaluation was initiated in connection with the start of the third project phase. It was based on three field visits in 2012 – one in the spring and two in the autumn. The evaluation had two objectives: (1) to comprehend LiZ’s interdenominational approach in relation to other church interventions, focusing particularly on the mobilisation of churches and church-goers; and (2) to track the implementation and assess the relevance of the project, focusing on the extent to which LiZ was capable of identifying and addressing the most pressing problems faced by the target group, and also to examine the views and use made of the project volunteers. The evaluation was reported in two documents.
– A literature study focusing on interdenominational collaboration.
– A qualitative evaluation document focusing on the implementation.
The evaluation of the third project phase was a qualitative evaluation based on focus group interviews, participant observation and various types of individual interviews with volunteers, LiZ personnel, target group families and other relevant parties. Background materials and project documents concerning LiZ and P3 were also included in the evaluation. The literature study and the article on volunteers also included other academic literature on the topic and materials from related projects.
The evaluation of the implementation showed that LiZ successfully organised and mobilised volunteers in the two project areas. The agricultural component was relevant for everyone in the target group. The relevance of the education and health components varied from household to household. However, the evaluation also showed that not all the volunteers felt that they were equipped to deal with the many different types of problem faced by their households. The problem was that the training that the volunteers received from LiZ was too general, and was difficult to translate into answers to individuals’ specific needs. The volunteers expressed pride in their work and strong commitment. At the same time, however, they complained that the work was hard and time-consuming. It was recommended that LiZ should aim to become better at supporting the volunteers in their work with households and should encourage and motivate them better in order to avoid ‘burn-out’.
The evaluation focusing on interdenominational collaboration showed that the approach used by LiZ had great potential for promoting social capacity building in Africa. It was recommended that the approach should be tested further within a better organisational framework. It was also pointed out that it was important to see financial work as a goal in itself, and not just as a means to an end. It was also essential that the implementing organisation should signal its neutrality in its work with the various church denominations. This was vital in order to achieve a broad mobilisation of the various churches.
Early conclusion of the project
Because of organisational difficulties in LiZ, the ROCKWOOL Foundation unfortunately found it necessary to terminate its involvement in the project in the autumn of 2013, which meant that the evaluation of the project also had to finish before it was due to do so. In consequence, there is no overall evaluation of the entire third phase of the project. The conclusions in the reports are thus based on early data collection work, and it has not been possible to determine whether the goals of the project were achieved, or whether the recommendations for improvements given in the evaluation reports were subsequently taken up.