We view reflection and course-correction as fundamental to our organizational development at the Lab. As a part of our team learning mechanism, Accountability Lab Nepal introduced quarterly reviews (QR) to reflect on the impact of our programs. Soni Khanal explains how the Nepal team is conducting these reviews
These quarterly reviews (QR) provide a platform for the team to evaluate their work, timeline, individual and team responsibilities and also identify gaps on both human and financial resources. They also assist in collecting feedback for improvements, identifying results and impact, and enhancing critical thinking among the team members. The learnings from these reviews are captured and used to improve our decision-making on an ongoing basis.
We dedicate half a day for reflection at the end of each quarter. We’ve created a structure to make this time as productive as possible. Each program team gets 30 minutes which includes 10 minutes for a presentation and 20 minutes for reflection and feedback from the team.
The review takes place in five stages:
- All program teams completes the quarterly review template prior to the presentation reflecting on their theory of change, activities timeline, budget expenses, challenges, impact and learnings.
- The program team presents their key updates, challenges and impact stories.
- The Finance Manager, MEL Manager, Communication and Branding Manager, and the CEO provide feedback to the team and questions in relation to their roles. [For instance, the Finance Manager may have questions around the program’s burn rate, or the MEL Manager may have thoughts on their impact stories.
- All the staff members get an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
- The team responds to all the questions and feedback, and create action plans for the way forward.
Why are these reviews valuable?
These reviews broadly fulfil six purposes:
i) Tracking our progress: Our small team faces many unforeseen roadblocks, so despite outlined deliverables, allocated resources, and program plans, it is still possible for any program to veer off track if not monitored closely. The quarterly review helps the team to reflect on challenges and program delays to craft ways to manage them. Then, a new timeline is framed to bring all the activities including the budget on track – all based on the learnings. If these delays are not tracked on time, the overall timeline of a program can get badly affected. The main reason why we’ve found quarterly reviews to play such an important role here!
ii) Identifying challenges and opportunities: During three months of programming, teams typically face numerous challenges and have also reached a stage where they can start identifying opportunities for the growth of a program, or even ancillary work. Gathering every quarter provides the perfect platform to discuss both challenges and opportunities.
iii) Capturing our impact: Teams are constantly focusing on activities, meeting deadlines, building networks, managing relationships and fulfilling donor expectations. Amidst all of this, tracking our impact can sometimes fall by the wayside. The QR is filling this gap by focusing on what we are doing, and why are doing it through focused reflection on our impact. They also build a sustained culture of learning among staff.
iv) Enhancing inter-departmental communication: Staff members go to various events representing the organization, and it is incredibly important that we are able to talk about our work confidently and with accurate information. These reviews act as a communication tool for all the departments to get updated and understand the programs better. Furthermore, it also ensures effective coordination between the departments as there are various cross-linkages in a small organization like ours.
v) Revisiting our vision: All the programs contribute to Accountability Lab’s vision of a world where powerholders are accountable. These sessions give an opportunity for the program teams to reflect on how our work aligns with this vision. Reviewing this frequently is important, as it prevents mission creep.
vi) Enhance collaboration and learning in our team: The QR becomes an effective collaboration platform for all the staff at the organization. All the learnings are captured and incorporated and together, support the organization’s development and growth.
*Soni Khanal is the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager at Accountability Lab Nepal.