The Learning Post: insights from UK Aid Match

Which factors influenced successful adaptation to COVID-19?

Episode Summary

In this episode, we speak to Performance and Risk Manager Patrick Douglas who summarises his recent assessment of factors that influenced the success of COVID-19 adaptations within UK Aid Match projects.

Episode Transcription

Ben Anderson (00:10):

Welcome to the Learning Post, a podcast dedicated to sharing insights from the UK Aid Match and UK Aid Direct Funds. My name is Ben Anderson and I'm the Communication Specialist for UK Aid Match and your host for this episode. In this episode, I speak to Performance and Risk manager for UK Match, Patrick Douglas, who has been looking into the performance of UK Aid Match projects during COVID 19 and the factors which determine their ability to adapt effectively. So Patrick, why did you choose to look into this subject in the first place?


Patrick Douglas (00:45):

Well, being a Performance and Risk Manager, we kind of deal with risks on a daily basis. The emergence of COVID provided a unique opportunity to see how projects and organizations adapted to a risk that they all at the same time in various different sectors in various different countries. So provided us with a really good opportunity to learn.


Ben Anderson (01:12):

What did you look at in this study?


Patrick Douglas (01:15):

Well, we have a diverse portfolio projects and we decided to kind of break down these projects into four different categories. The first category was looking at the project design, where we looked at issues like the sector in which they were working in, the approach they took, and the time in which they started the project. The second category was the project size, which was project budget, the number of beneficiaries they were looking at, and the geographical scope in which they were implementing the project. The third category was the project location. Was it a multi-country project? And the particular countries in which the project was being implemented in. And the fourth and final category was the organisation itself, the size, the experience that it has, and the speed at which they were able to adapt after COVID struck.


Ben Anderson (02:09):

And what did you find was the most important factor when adapting to COVID 19?


Patrick Douglas (02:14):

We believe that the length of time the project had been implementing had a significant impact on project's ability to adapt for a number of reasons. The first is the longer the project had been implementing for, the more integrated they would be within the community in which they are operating in. They would have more time to demonstrate the value of their activities, which then would increase the likelihood of those community. Continuing with the project activities during the COVID, which would allow them to progress towards their project goals. Secondly, the longer the project had been operating for the more time, it would give the project staff to get up to speed with all the protocols and procedures and policies of that project, which would then put them in a better position to be able to adapt more effectively when COVID struck. I think these two reasons are why the projects that had been running for nine months or longer before COVID struck, were more likely to be able to adapt effectively.


Ben Anderson (03:25):

Was there anything that surprised you or a correlation that you weren't expecting while you were doing this study?


Patrick Douglas (03:31):

I think the most surprising aspect of this review was that there was only one factor that really had a significant impact on whether the project was able to effectively adapt or not. Considering the diverse range of projects that we have from projects reaching 400 beneficiaries to projects reaching two and a half million beneficiaries to projects working in animal rescue to water and sanitation. None of the other factors really had any significant impact on whether a project was adaptable or not, which I was most surprised at. I think another big point would be there's so many different factors that influence it. You can't separate individual issues. So for instance, let's say we thought that multi-country projects would be less resilient, however, that bore no significant difference. But when we did a deeper dive into the multi-country project, we found that four of the five projects had been running for nine months or longer, so that would've influenced their ability to adapt far more than if it's multi-country or not. It was only time that bore any significant impact.


Ben Anderson (04:52):

Thanks for your time, Patrick.


Patrick Douglas (04:53):

Cheers, Ben.


Ben Anderson (04:59):

To find out more about Patrick's work analysing COVID-19 adaptability, head over to the resources page on the UK Aid Match website and search 'COVID-19 adaptability.' If you haven't already listened to our previous episode on education projects, here's a little insight into what was discussed.


Speaker 3 (05:16):

If the secret of French cooking is butter, butter, butter, the secret of development projects and education is focus, focus, focus.


Ben Anderson (05:24):

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