By Alice Johnson
MPH in International Development
“To increase accountability and effectiveness by working with community mechanisms for improving health and health education.” This is one of the key objectives of the Health Pooled Fund: a three and a half year initiative set up to strengthen the health system in South Sudan and to coordinate any funding received by donors. The British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) is one of the key actors that supports the fund, which currently aids six out of ten states within South Sudan. The concept of working alongside the community as part of development work is something that I am very passionate about. That’s why, when SIDshare advertised that Aid Works were offering four positions for students to explore the work DFID are supporting at the community level in South Sudan, I was eager to apply.
Aid Works (www.aidworks.org.uk) is a Sheffield-based social enterprise that helps international development organisations to improve their work, and supports local and international aid workers in reaching their full potential through training and e-learning. Last year, Aid Works – contracted by the Health Pooled Fund and working with local partner Skills for South Sudan, conducted a review of the community work undertaken in South Sudan. As a continuation of their work, the role that Aid Works and SIDshare advertised entails both quantitative and qualitative data analysis of surveys collected as part of this review and the presentation of any key findings. Furthermore, Aid Works have asked for the findings to be presented in a way that can be fed back to the local communities from whence the surveys came.
When I realised that I had got the job, along with three of my course mates, not only did I experience excitement, but I felt apprehensive as well. Although each of our team contributes extremely competent skill sets, none of us had been presented with a challenge similar to this before. Fortunately, we have all approached the task with great determination and enthusiasm! To make the workload easier to handle, we split the surveys into four parts and were each designated a different section to analyse. What’s more, we meet regularly to discuss our findings and keep our work accessible to the whole team by using a shared Dropbox folder.
What I’ve learnt so far is that the daunting task of analysing 36 surveys is accomplishable as long as we work as a team. In addition, I believe I have learnt a lot more about South Sudan, which is a country that became independent in 2011 and has been trapped in civil war since 2013. Due to the conflict and civil unrest, this is one of the most difficult places to deliver aid and development work, so being able to explore how DFID is working within this environment is an amazing experience. However, I think the most exciting prospect for me is the potential to present our findings to DFID. No international development student could deny that working with Aid Works to produce this level of work is a unique opportunity not to be missed!