The Catalan Development Cooperation Fund (Fons Català de Cooperació al Desenvolupament) is involved in development and humanitarian action. It coordinates the activities and policies of 280 local Catalan organisations. In recent years, decentralised development cooperation has been provided with more human and financial resources and has come to occupy an increasingly important place in the Spanish cooperation and development system. It contributes more than any other European region. In such a context, local organisations play an important role due to their closeness to grass-roots social solidarity initiatives.
Due to the type of organisations that operate under the Catalan Fund, their interventions are characterised by close relations with civil society and municipal bodies both in the North and South.
Actions carried out via decentralised cooperation have both positive and negative points. Among the positive points is the high degree of involvement with crisis-affected areas, and among the negative is a lack of professionalism. The Catalan Fund therefore decided to strengthen its own technical capacity in terms of evaluating quality and learning by setting up an ad hoc evaluation and learning system for decentralised cooperation. To do this, it established a technical and methodological partnership with Groupe URD, the creators of the Quality COMPAS.
The humanitarian action carried out by the Catalan Fund is part of the relief – rehabilitation – development continuum, where evaluation is a means of learning, which allows projects to be adapted and quality to be ensured. To do this, we feel that the evaluation process should be part of a wider overall learning process, based on the principle of quality assurance, with two, equally important criteria for evaluation: credibility and usefulness.
Following on from our work with Groupe URD, we drew up a preliminary evaluation grid for humanitarian projects based on the Quality COMPAS evaluation criteria, which allows us to select projects to support.
The Quality COMPAS method, which includes tools and a reference framework based on questions organised by criterion, has helped us a lot and allowed us to improve the process of selecting humanitarian programmes which were proposed in post-emergency contexts such as the Peru earthquake in 2007 and the hurricanes in Haiti and Cuba in 2008.
More generally, it has allowed us to evaluate project proposals systematically. Equally, we have begun to take into account possible critical points and anticipate negative impacts.
Using a reference framework which uses questions, with indicators linked to criteria in sentence form gives greater flexibility when evaluating and rating project proposals. Each criterion can be contextualised, moving away from one-size-fits-all solutions and integrating a holistic approach. This allowed us to take into account the specific characteristics of the contexts in Peru, Haiti and Cuba and to be as rigorous and objective as possible. At the time of writing this article, we are currently using the initial assessment grid and the Quality COMPAS reference framework to choose post-emergency projects in Haiti and Cuba.
The quality assurance approach we are putting in place, based on the method proposed by Groupe URD, is the fruit of in-depth reflection about quality. It can not be reduced to a series of technical indicators or standards. It implies a holistic approach to all the processes related to an intervention, placing questions about the quality of humanitarian action in their wider context with its external pressures, tensions and interactions.
For our organisation, the quality of the initial evaluation of humanitarian project proposals is very important because of the complexity of local actors and their lack of technical and methodological capacity. We lack rigorous monitoring systems, so identifying projects properly is a way to improve the quality of the actions run by the Catalan Fund.
Using this selection grid is part of a wider objective to promote and develop tools and processes which aim to guarantee quality to the benefit of affected populations and the environment in which operations take place.