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Lesson #14: It is not easy to keep people engaged after a specific training activity: we need to re- think about its need and timing

At Spaces for Engagement, after organizing some face-to-face regional conferences to foster knowledge exchange and debates among leading think tanks in Latin America, we decided we wanted to look for innovative ways to keep them engaged in the issues and start building a longer capacity building process, with a special emphasis on supporting the implementation of what had been learned.

Thus, as part of the third regional Conference centered in how to monitor and evaluate policy influence and to build on our knowledge and available resources, we provided participants with funds to hold national seminars to share what they had learnt on M&E with similar organisations. In consequence five workshops were organized in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru.

We also offered technical assistance by CIPPEC to develop an M&E plan. Based on the diverse capacities of participant organisations regarding M&E, more than half of the organisations that originally committed to developing an M&E plan actually produced them and positively received and processed our feedback, thus benefiting from our guidance.

However, we learnt that although several organisations initially perceived this process as the beginning of an effective and long term partnership, the lack of specific resources for M&E affects the organizational capacity to make real and short term changes. Only participants with a higher prior commitment or interest in the topic continued engaging and most of them only did so as long as ad hoc support was provided (and when it did not imply too much time commitment).

Moreover, we realized that this effort was not integrated into the organisations’ original annual plans and thus it was difficult for them to find time and space to commit to new efforts. Therefore, a lesson learned is to either invite them to join such processes with enough anticipation so that they can incorporate them early on in their plans (which additionally implies more profound organisational discussion and decision), or allow more time for them to find the resources needed to implement desired changes.