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Evaluating the Community Systems Strengthening approach in Burundi

HealthNet TPO works on a new “Community Systems Strengthening approach” (CSS) to empower people to restore social cohesion/trust and building their capacity to take charge of their own health and well-being. What are the results so far? Natassia Brenman travelled to Burundi conduct a first evaluation.

A new approach
Within the context of the programme of the Dutch Consortium for Rehabilitation, HealthNet TPO has been establishing the “Community Systems Strengthening approach” (CSS) since July 2011 in Burundi. CSS is about empowering people to restore social cohesion/trust and building their capacity to take charge of their own health and well-being. New community structures are built by creating networks of people, who identify and organize activities that will improve health in the community. This can be anything from cooking lessons to education about how to care for someone with epilepsy.

Collecting evidence
In order to present and disseminate an evidence-based approach to CSS, we have engaged in a multi-year process of development and evaluation. We are now at an intermediate stage, looking to obtain information on how feasible and relevant the activities are and to work on the theoretical model of CSS. This field trip was organised to take place during the lead-up and beginning of data collection for this intermediate phase: the process evaluation of the approach. Along with AlineNdayisaba, I conducted workshops with the research team who would be conducting the interviews and prepared for our trip to Makamba for data collection. As they were an external research team, we spent time briefing them about the background and concept behind the approach- an activity that turned out to be as useful for our own shared understanding as for theirs.

From practice to theory
That CSS works in practice is something we know and have been experiencing in the past years. But throughout the trip, I was reminded of the challenge that we face in trying to capture this approach in one theory; whilst its flexibility makes it work very well in practice, it makes our jobs all the more difficult as researchers! Nevertheless, the insights I gained from visiting the field were invaluable, and come 2013 we should have the data we need to move the evaluation on to the next phase.

Read more about the CSS approach

Meeting of community members taking part in the programme

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