The three-year community-based sociotherapy program (2014-2016) aims to reach approximately 23.000 individuals as participants of in total 1769 sociotherapy groups spread over 8 districts of Rwanda, which are facilitated by (540 trained sociotherapists. The program has developed the following indicators for the study of the impact of sociotherapy on individuals, families and communities: increased psychological health, higher levels of interpersonal reconciliation, higher levels of social cohesion, increased socio-economic development, improved family dynamics, and (as crosscutting outcome) higher levels of gender equality. The central question is on how to ensure that these outcomes are measured effectively.
The quality of the program and its outcomes are monitored and evaluated in a variety of ways: the development and use of a theory of change as a foundation for the monitoring and evaluation activities, quantitative research based on internationally used and validated questionnaires as well as a `home-grown' questionnaire, qualitative research, participatory action research and significant change stories. The focus of this presentation will be in particular the methods used in the program's participatory action research and its outcomes. Characteristics of participatory action research include: involvement of all stakeholders in the research, main focus on descriptions and understanding of social complexities, critical reflection on the intervention process and its outcomes, responding to emerging difficulties during program implementation through immediate action. The PAR process takes place over a number of cycles so that interpretations of data can be continuously tested, challenged and refined. This implies that by using PAR the impact of the CBSP can be evaluated while at the same time the quality of the approach will be ensured.
The Participatory Action Researchers monitored the recruitment process of sociotherapists and participants, the trainings of sociotherapists, the sociotherapy group dynamics and the conviviality (group closure) meetings. Based on their findings, the recruitment process and trainings have been adjusted significantly, and sociotherapists were able to improve their group facilitation skills. In addition, the Participatory Action Researchers also identified the processes within the groups and among individuals that actually lead to behaviour and cognitive change in the lives of participants, their families, and their community. The researchers have also identified the contextual elements that determine whether a sociotherapy group has been successful in terms of sustainable outcomes or not. The research has also led to defining various indicators that measure the impact of the program. However, one challenge remains: How to evaluate intangible and complex outcomes like healing, peace-building and reconciliation, as a repaired heart is difficult to measure.
Funding & No Conflicts Declaration
The three year community-based sociotherapy program in Rwanda (2014-2016) is funded by the embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Rwanda.