Ipas embraces findings from first external evaluation of its global program

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Between January and June 2015, the UK-based firm Ann Bartholomew Consulting Ltd. conducted the first-ever comprehensive external evaluation of Ipas, on behalf of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The evaluation affirmed Ipas’s unique niche and value in the global reproductive health field and suggested ways for the organization to increase its impact.

“We are very grateful to Sida, the evaluation team and all who contributed for this important learning opportunity,” said Ipas President and CEO John Hetherington. “Already, critical reflection on the findings is helping Ipas to become stronger and more effective in advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women worldwide.”

According to the evaluation report, staff, partners and other stakeholders view Ipas as a “credible organization” that has contributed to increased availability of safe comprehensive abortion care and reduction of abortion-related mortality and morbidity. The evaluation found that key stakeholders appreciate Ipas’s clear focus and the quality of its technical work in program countries, including the effective transfer of skills to local institutions through clinical training and other support.

Evaluators noted that Ipas’s approaches to policy advocacy and abortion stigma are especially innovative, and identified as particularly useful Ipas’s values clarification methodology and research generating important knowledge on various aspects of abortion.

While evaluators commended Ipas’s commitment to integrating attention to the needs of young people into all aspects of its work, this area was one of several they felt needed to be strengthened. Others were further articulation and sharing of the Ipas theory of change and core strategies (for example, related to sustainability of programs); evaluation and demonstration of impact, especially in community-engagement and policy interventions; and monitoring of the cost and cost-effectiveness of community and health-system interventions.

The evaluators also recommended that Ipas revisit and enhance certain internal structures and processes, to clarify roles and responsibilities and to improve staff capacity, development and engagement.

In the last several months, Ipas staff worldwide have participated in thoughtful discussions on the evaluation findings, leading to identification of priorities for both short- and long-term action. These include strengthening integration of youth-led and youth-focused programming into all areas of our work, clarifying organizational strategies around key issues such as supporting women’s access to medical abortion, and improving evaluation so we can better understand and communicate our impact. 

“We appreciate the willingness of Ipas to open its programs to external scrutiny and to act on the feedback provided in the evaluation report,” said Ulrika Hertel, Sida’s Senior Programme Specialist for Health and Education. “Sida strongly supports Ipas’s mission and hopes the organization will continue to strive for the highest standards in all aspects of its programs and operations.”

Evaluation findings will influence activities under Ipas’s current strategic plan and will also form an important foundation for Ipas’s next organizational strategic plan, which will take effect in fiscal year 2018.

Speaking on behalf of the Ipas leadership team, President and CEO John Hetherington said, “We are keenly aware that we are accountable to our donors, our Board of Directors, our staff – and most importantly to the women and girls we serve. We are committed to tracking progress across areas identified as priorities for improvement, while building on Ipas’s strong track record of achievements in advancing women’s reproductive health and rights.”

The evaluation team members were Sue Newport (team leader), Ann Bartholomew and Muriel Visser.  During February - May 2015, they visited Ipas’s central office and five country programs (Ghana, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, and Nicaragua); reviewed hundreds of documents; and interviewed dozens of Ipas staff, partners and stakeholders at regional and global levels.