When Do Western Staff Leave, According to the MPAT?

How should we determine when the appropriate time for the western staff to leave Kenya is? We know that the western staff will leave Kenya, and we know that our goal is to have that happen after five years. We also know, though, that there will need to be some monitoring and evaluation efforts to objectively determine whether the community has reached a point where it is appropriate for those staff members to exit.

In fact, this is one of the main purposes of our M&E system.  We came to exist at the beginning of Nuru’s work in order to keep tabs on the effectiveness of our programs and to ensure that the western staff exits the field as soon as possible. Jake put it recently that Nuru’s western staff should “get into the field, create an enabling environment, and get out.” That is a powerful statement about what our westerners should and should not be focusing on. They should not be focusing on establishing a long-term program that requires their input on a daily basis. They should not be focusing on being managers, but rather, they should focus on being enablers. They should be focusing on helping to enable leaders to manage programs that can exist without their presence. (Incidentally, we believe that they are doing that.)

As we have discussed many times here on this blog, we love the MPAT because it measures exactly what we care about: an enabling environment. So it makes sense that we could potentially use that tool to determine whether we have created enough of an enabling environment for the western staff to, as we used to say in the Marines, pound sand (leave). That means, more specifically, that we could use the MPAT to establish “exit criteria.”

The question, though, is how? How do we use that tool to establish exit criteria? Do I, as the M&E director, pick a bunch of scores that I think make sense as the ten numbers that represent a fully enabled community? Probably not the best idea. Do we ask a bunch of experts in the field of poverty reduction to pick ten scores that they feel represent a fully enabled community? Perhaps. I worry about that approach a bit, though, because it implies that experts know what the community should want, and I’m just not sure that is the case. My inclination is to ask the community members to determine what scores they want to achieve. How enabled do they want to be in a short term, say within five years? We can ask them to take the MPAT surveys with this goal in mind, and compile the results to determine our exit criteria.

The truth is that we have actually done that. I apologize for presenting the dilemma as though we had not yet….we have! I guess I was doing a little logic trick. We have done the very last option I presented, and we have also gotten input from our western staffers, so both the Kenyans and the westerners.

We need to take it a little further, though. The standard deviation of the scores that were generated was very high with this drill. There is not a consensus as to what the appropriate enabling environment should look like. That could be a problem. Also, we just are not sure that we could explain to interested parties (like you, perhaps) the process we have gone through and have it make sense as the best possible way to establish exit criteria. And finally, we are looking for something universal. We are looking for exit criteria scores that can be used in all the countries where we work. Do the Kenyans, by virtue of being the first people with whom we have worked, know what is a true enabling environment in Ethiopia? What about a South American country? Or one in Eastern Europe?

Tough questions we are working on answering. If you have an opinion about this, please let us know!

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