5 Tough Questions to Improve Coaching

By Matt von Boecklin
Senior Monitoring & Evaluation Officer

This July, I traveled with our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Director to meet our regional team in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The purpose: to finalize the monitoring tools for our new initiative in the Sahel: the Adaptive Social Protection (ASP) project.

In conjunction with the World Bank, government partners, and NGOs, the ASP project will provide a version of the Graduation Approach for up to 60,000 women and their families living in extreme poverty in the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Senegal, and Mauritania. As one of many partners in this groundbreaking project, Trickle Up is responsible for creating and providing training on the coaching and savings groups components for the project. This includes designing the monitoring tools that coaches and their supervisors will use to guide their work and assess the quality of support. We will also support the implementation of these tools through local partners.

This represents a great opportunity for Trickle Up’s extensive M&E framework to influence best practices of large-scale social protection efforts.

During my two-week trip, we focused on tools for tracking participant support and coaching, components of the project that seek to enhance participant resilience. Coaches are trained community members who visit participants in their households and savings groups regularly, giving personalized feedback, instruction, and problem-solving to participants. Coaches are supervised by Field Officers, many of whom are former coaches themselves. Field Officers support coaches to perform their duties, and step in to personally assist participants facing extreme difficulties that coaches themselves are unable to address.

Trickle Up has already developed monitoring tools over many years of working in Burkina Faso, but for the ASP project, we needed to refine the tools to accommodate potentially illiterate users. As we scale our work to increasingly remote areas, these tools must to be accessible to coaches recruited from communities without access to education. Guiding questions ranged from theoretical to logistical. Here are just a few examples of the questions we wrestled with:

  • For Coaches:
    • What is the simplest, most lightweight, and yet effective way for a coach to track participant needs and coaching over repeated visits?
    • How can we synthesize the evolution of participants’ agricultural activities, small businesses, savings, or family health using visual coding that is concise and self-explanatory for people who are illiterate?
  • For Field Officers:
    • How can a Field Officer verify the efficacy of coaching provided to participants using simple and quick assessments?
    • How can a Field Officer track and upload key performance indicators using a mobile app, even in areas of limited connectivity?
    • How can a Field Officer clearly monitor support provided to coaches and households throughout the project?

To put the weight of these questions into perspective, in Burkina Faso alone, each coach will support 100 participants, and each Field Officer will supervise and support 3-4 coaches (indirectly supporting 300-400 participants). Adapting these tools for illiterate users and finding a simple, visually informative coding system was a particular challenge, as we were forced to think outside of our own experience and put ourselves in the shoes of a person reliant on visual cues.

During the trip, we visited the village of Yako to observe a savings group meeting and present our prototyped tools to field partners and Field Officers.

We needed to know how our design would fit into the real-world context of the ASP project. Throughout the visit, I relied on English translation from the French and Mooré languages. Still, it was clear to me that the tools were well-received, and the partners and Field Officers gave constructive and useful feedback. Back in Ouagadougou, we then met with our government partner, Burkin-Naong-Saya, that is responsible for piloting the ASP in Burkina Faso to discuss implementation and possible digitization of the tools within their network.

Overall, we learned that, if constructed carefully enough, the ASP monitoring tools will be able to effectively help coaches and Field Officers to streamline their workload and deliver better support and coaching to thousands of project participants. Next steps include submitting finalized tools to the World Bank for feedback, digitizing Field Officer tools in mobile apps, and integrating the tools into existing Burkin-Naong-Saya survey databases for uniform implementation in the field.