Information collected at the community level is fed into the system and employed to maximize the impact of interventions.
Sure Start’s Management Information System helps ensure effective service delivery
Sure Start is proud to be collaborating with its 95 partner organizations, which are crucial to its success. The strength of this great network ensures that the maternal and newborn health needs of the communities across and UP and Maharashtra are effectively fulfilled.
To manage these partnerships and help collaborators overcome their own obstacles, Sure Start uses an innovative Management Information System. The system employs a strategy that emphasizes partnership, training, standardization, and recording of data and was employed after rigorous consultation, design, testing, and feedback.
In Uttar Pradesh, Sure Start partners collect data on several indicators related to maternal and newborn health behaviors and access to services. Sure Start personnel are trained to use the Management Information System. They make site visits to “mothers’ groups” and village committees and monitor records kept by community-level health workers in order to ensure data accuracy, which is of fundamental importance in planning and executing effective interventions.
In Maharashtra, the system tracks approximately 22,000 pregnant women across seven cities. It stores precise data on indicators such as number of home visits, number of expectant mothers contacted for behavior change communication, percentage of expectant mothers who have received the tetanus toxoid vaccine, and percentage of births that take place in institutions.
The system is based on sharing knowledge; the information is collated and made accessible to people at different levels. Government personnel can also use the data. The system is organic and has been designed for the use of Sure Start’s partners and to continue well after the project concludes. Originally designed as a manual system, the Management Information System is now transitioning to an electronic system that will allow lead partners to gather and evaluate more nuanced data, as well as ensure scalability.
Working toward decentralization
In keeping with its philosophy of decentralization, Sure Start has trained field staff, community health workers, and supervisors in the use of the Management Information System, allowing the team to monitor data quality across project districts.
Sure Start is also collaboratively building its partners’ capacities in areas such as advocacy, financial management, and capacity building. Front-line government health workers across seven cities in Maharashtra have attended training workshops facilitated by Sure Start, providing much-needed knowledge and guidance on the provision of prenatal care and its improvement.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi once said. Sure Start’s approach aims to help its partners to give birth to, and manage, this change.
Partnering to achieve change
Ms. Kusum of Sarvodaya Ashram explains the mission of her remarkable organization and says that her organisation would be very interested in carrying the work of Sure Start forward even after the project formally comes to a close.
Vinoba Bhave is often referred to as Gandhi’s spiritual successor. Bhave dedicated his life to quietly and persistently working toward Gandhi’s vision of a decentralized society—a society based on autonomous, self-reliant villages. Toward the end of Bhave’s life, his followers made the decision to take his work forward. It was in this spirit that the Sarvodaya Ashram, one of Sure Start’s partner organizations, was created.
Located in Hardoi district, Uttar Pradesh, the Ashram’s school, established in 1983 with 50 students, now has an enrollment of 500 and emphasizes education for underprivileged girls from marginalized castes. Its wasteland projects have helped transform dormant land in neighboring communities into fertile farmland; these became so successful that they were adopted and extended by the Indian government, and then by the World Bank.
Ms. Kusum, one of the most senior members of the Ashram, feels that Sure Start’s work with Village Health and Sanitation Committees and Accredited Social Health Activists has been effective enough to achieve lasting impact. She commends the program’s work in improving maternal and newborn health, which has increased awareness in the community as a whole, including among government doctors and nurses.
Ms. Kusum emphasizes the need for continued efforts in all areas. “I would like to underline that the more guidance Sure Start extends to mothers’ groups, health activists, and village committees, the more robust and sustainable all these will be,” she says.
A continuing endeavor
The Sarvodaya Ashram, like many of Sure Start’s partners, has experienced much success and achieved a great deal. But the work is far from over. As with each of Sure Start’s other partners, the Ashram has unique and valuable knowledge that will ultimately assist the organization in facing its many project challenges.
Sure Start functions on the premise that knowledge is power. As such, its innovative methods effectively work to harness and disseminate the information collected by separate organizations. At the same time, the project helps its partners acquire fundamental skills and capabilities—a necessary component of any endeavor that seeks to bring about decentralization in its truest sense.
“Sarvodaya Ashram is extremely interested in carrying all this necessary work forward,” says Ms. Kusum, “even after the Sure Start project formally comes to an end.” Her words capture the essence of Sure Start’s vision: to establish a continuing endeavor with the goal of achieving positive change in communities.
Example of impact
Forty-two out of 55 consortium partners received program funding from the government and private donors due to improvements in their systems and enhanced credibility.
Photos (from top): Lakshman Anand, PATH. Figure: PATH.