Consultant - Providing Humanitarian Assistance for Self-Reliance in Eastern Congo (PHASE) Final Evaluation - DRC
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The Providing Humanitarian Assistance for Self-Reliance in Eastern Congo (PHASE) project will cover 18 months of implementation from September 28, 2020 to March 30, 2022. Funded by USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), PHASE activities include providing food assistance, enhancing agricultural production and improving household income for the most vulnerable among internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and host families affected by conflict in the territories of Irumu and Mahagi (Ituri province) in eastern DR Congo.
In order to capitalize on learning from the project to inform implementation and the design of similar projects in the future, Mercy Corps will undertake a final evaluation of the PHASE project.
Purpose / Project Description:
PHASE's goal is to reduce the vulnerability of households affected by shocks that negatively impact their ability to meet their basic food needs, while gradually increasing their self-reliance. Its theory of change holds that if food insecure households are supported with food aid and early recovery assistance, they will emerge from crises in safety and with dignity. Mercy Corps will reach at least 17,050 households (approximately 102,300 people, including approximately 71,610 IDPs) in food-insecure areas.
The target provinces in eastern DRC are plagued by armed conflict, creating security instabilities that are often the primary cause of human mobility characterized by displacement of local populations, resulting in forced changes of residence. Leaving behind all their livelihoods and other valuable assets, displaced households are often subjected to difficult food insecurity conditions. In addition to the deterioration of the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, the precariousness of security significantly affects the agricultural production efforts of rural populations in the target provinces. It is in this context that the PHASE project is being implemented. Its strategy is based on an approach aimed at strengthening the food security of displaced persons, returnees and host families affected by the multiple security crises in the target areas. Its approach combines activities that increase access to emergency humanitarian assistance (through fairs and cash) for households affected by conflict, while supporting economic recovery, particularly for women (through Village Savings and Loan Associations, or VSLAs), technical agricultural skills, agricultural inputs and farming tools. This strategy builds on lessons learned from Mercy Corps’ previous rapid response programming, in which we found that one-off emergency assistance to displaced households was not enough to sustain improved food security and well-being in the medium term, 3-6 months following an intervention.
In order to assess the relevance of this strategy in the context described above, the final evaluation will capture evidence and measure the achievement of the expected results in order to provide relevant learning and recommendations for future early recovery programs in similar contexts.
Overall, the objective of the final evaluation is to analyze the quantitative data collected through the rolling endline surveys, to evaluate the changes produced (or not) by the project, and to demonstrate how the project strategy and the activities implemented have contributed or not to the achievement of the project objectives. Specifically, this evaluation aims to:
- Produce evidence of the project’s results and highlight the positive and negative as well as anticipated and unanticipated changes in participating communities.
- Assess the extent to which the early recovery strategy and activities implemented under the PHASE project have or have not contributed to change among participants.
- Identify lessons learned and make recommendations relevant to improving future early recovery programs in contexts defined by conflict and high population mobility.
The Consultant will perform activities corresponding to “Component 2” described as follows.
The strategy for this final evaluation is designed to answer three main questions:
- What were the results of the PHASE project?
- How were results achieved (or not achieved)?
- What external factors contributed to the achievement or non-achievement of the results?
To answer these main questions, Mercy Corps proposes a mixed evaluation approach to measure the performance of the project against its selected indicators through ongoing quantitative analysis (“Component 1”) reinforced by a qualitative analysis of the contributions of the project to the observed results (“Component 2”).
The quantitative component will be conducted internally by Mercy Corps' emergency monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) team members through the use of rolling endline surveys (or enhanced post-distribution monitoring - PDMs) following the end of each intervention in order to provide statistical data relating to the project’s logical framework indicators.
In addition to this quantitative analysis, the second qualitative component will allow for a more in-depth assessment of the project's performance. This SOW accordingly outlines the requirements for an independent consultant to implement this qualitative final evaluation of the PHASE project.
The evaluation will cover the entire PHASE implementation period from September 2020 to March 2022. Geographically it will cover all Mercy Corps intervention zones in Ituri based on representative sampling.
The first phase will be to analyze the quantitative data collected for indicators through rolling endine surveys. The second phase will involve in-depth analysis of the project’s contributions using primarily qualitative methods, collecting data from participants, target community members (non-beneficiaries of the project), and various project stakeholders (partners, providers, authorities, staff, etc.).
Approaches will be primarily document review (for the first phase) followed by direct observation, individual interviews, focus group discussions, or any other qualitative data collection techniques that can provide answers to the below illustrative evaluation questions. The final methodologies will be defined with the consultant.
What changes have been achieved?
- Do the quantitative data for logical framework indicators as collected through rolling endline surveys (enhanced PDMs) reflect qualitative observations of changes in participant outcomes?
- What (if any) unanticipated results has the program caused?
- In the face of ongoing security crises and population migration, to what extent are the effects and changes observed among participants sustainable?
What was the contribution of the PHASE project to the results obtained?
- How have project activities improved the food security of households exposed to conflict, including the autonomy of women and youth?
- To what extent were different transfer modalities (cash and/or vouchers) effective and relevant in achieving the project objectives? How did different modality types affect local markets? Were there impacts in terms of empowerment of women and youth particularly?
- What are the contributions of the project in terms of well-being, particularly in terms of food, on participants, and especially on women and youth? Are these effects positive or negative?
- To what extent has the food assistance provided by the project, in cash or food, improved the food security of participants?
- To what extent has the project's implementation, training and support of VSLAs improved the food security and self-sufficiency of participants?
- To what extent has access to training in agricultural techniques, inputs and farming tools provided by the project improved the living conditions of the participants, particularly in terms of strengthening their food security?
- To what extent have VSLAs and agricultural support created economic opportunities, especially for women and youth? How have VSLAs and agricultural supports contributed to strengthening women's leadership?
- What factors, external or internal to the project, did or did not contribute to the achievement of the expected and unanticipated results, positive or negative?
- To what extent do operational partners, particularly technical services, financial service providers, microfinance institutions (MFIs), etc. have the necessary capacity to implement activities? What are the added values of these partners and providers in achieving the project objectives?
What could we have done differently?
- What are the lessons learned and recommendations that can be drawn from the implementation of the different activities, the strategy and the context of the project?
- What could have been done differently or better?
The Consultant will deliver the following items:
- An initial evaluation design report that provides a detailed explanation of the methodology to be used
- A qualitative data collection grid with variables that can be used to answer the evaluation questions
- A presentation slide-deck summarizing the main results
- A first draft of the evaluation report
- The final evaluation report
- Two-page summary of key findings for use as a learning brief
Results from the final evaluation will be shared initially with the full PHASE project team and Mercy Corps’ wider Emergency department through a presentation of findings led by the consultant. The draft report will then be shared with USAID BHA. After consultation and necessary revisions to the draft findings, the final report will be shared with USAID BHA and widely within Mercy Corps, while a summary of findings (formatted as a learning brief) may be shared with other relevant local stakeholders, including complementary USAID-funded activities, clusters, and humanitarian actors in targeted intervention areas.
Timeframe / Schedule:
This evaluation will be conducted between February and March 2022, over a 40-day consulting period. A detailed agenda with the steps of the consultation will be developed according to the expected deliverables after validation of the present SOW.
The Consultant will report to:
Emergency Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Manager, DRC
The Consultant will work closely with:
DRC Emergency Program Director, DRC Emergency Team and DRC Emergency MEL Team; DRC PaQ Team; others as appropriate.
Required Experience & Skills:
The external consultant to be recruited will need to demonstrate the following skills or experience:
- Master’s Degree or a university degree at the Bac+5 level in research and development, humanities or any other field of social science research.
- At least 7 years of relevant experience and proven expertise in the humanitarian sector (with a focus on conflict environments), in monitoring and evaluation of early recovery projects in emergency contexts, and in input and content analysis. Previous experience in community resilience would be highly valued.
- Strong qualitative research and analysis skills.
- Demonstrated experience in interpreting quantitative data and analyzing qualitative data, understanding and writing up impact measurement results.
- Ability to work independently and achieve quality results with limited supervision.
- Strong analytical and synthesis skills.
- Have a good knowledge of cross-cutting issues such as gender, protection, and human rights.
- Excellent command of written and spoken French and English.
- Facilitation and teamwork skills; ability to collaborate and be proactive in finding solutions.
- Good knowledge of the humanitarian context and population mobility in eastern DRC.
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