Submitted by Julia Burakowski
28 Mar 2024

How P-FIM adds value to developing protocols for anticipatory action

In the second of a two-part blog, Welthungerhilfe explains how the People First Impact Method, known as P-FIM, contributes to ensuring that protocols for anticipatory action are developed through a locally led approach.

In January 2024, Welthungerhilfe (WHH) held a two-day workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe, to train people in the People First Impact Method, or P-FIM. Building on the lessons from a P-FIM exercise held in October 2023 in Bindura, the participants explored how P-FIM can inform anticipatory action initiatives, especially the approach used to developing early action protocols (EAPs), as well as monitoring and evaluation.  

Like many tools, WHH’s step-by-step guide to developing an EAP is based on assumptions; often, these are the assumptions of the organization that developed the tool. So, the first question to ask when using a tool is: how were these assumptions informed, and by whom?

To answer this, it is necessary to identify the assumptions. The next step is to use the findings from a P-FIM exercise to test if the assumptions are similar to the community’s priority issues or not. For example, the same issues might be identified by a community, but named in a different way or given more nuance and depth. Using P-FIM means that an organization’s assumptions are informed by communities from the start, which adds value to tools such as WHH’s step-by-step guide.

Our projects are introduced to a community that is already in existence. It is now our approach to develop projects with communities that will make a positive impact in their lives – doing the right thing, the right way, for a positive impact!

Tillscent Kudzai Mashavira Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEAL) officer, Mvuramanzi Trust

Incorporating P-FIM into WHH’s step-by-step guide to developing an EAP

  • Two-way engagement can be incorporated into WHH’s Step-by-Step EAP development guide; this helps to ensure improved, goal-free communication with a community, and provides an opportunity to explain the process of developing an EAP so that the community understands it and feel ownership of it.
  • By ensuring the voice of a community is part of EAP development, P-FIM adds clear value. Instead of going to the community to get answers to the predetermined questions, the first step is to listen to the community using goal-free engagement. This builds trust and establishes what is important to them, and why; after this, further two-way engagement can address the specific questions in the development guide.
  • Scenario planning, community feedback systems and validation systems can also be approached in this way, with two-way engagement an informing these.

As noted, WHH’s step-by-step guide is an agency-centred tool, focused on challenges, needs and risks. But by adapting it to incorporate the P-FIM approach, there is an opportunity to include opportunities, innovations and solutions identified by the community. This adds a lot of value to the approach, and may identify how the community has already identified its own solutions to address serious issues – in effect, how it is turning a risk into an opportunity.

Communities are already taking action to address their concerns. P-FIM will only assist community social groups in exchanging, sharing and learning from one another, while district custodians and agencies [can] tap into rich indigenous knowledge systems to develop early action protocols.

Tinashe Bete Field officer, Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe

Monitoring and evaluation

The two-day workshop in Zimbabwe also explored how P-FIM can enhance monitoring and evaluation processes to assess if an organization is achieving its planned outputs and meeting its targets. For example, it is a way to ask: have we really made the changes we hoped for in the community?

P-FIM adds value to monitoring and evaluation from the programme and/or organizational perspective, but also for the community. For example:

  • It helps us to understand the context on which trust built with the community is based; we can understand this context from the community's perspective and better understand what works and what doesn’t.
  • Understanding the context, and knowing the perspectives and recommendations of communities, helps to establish how to actually add value and ‘do the right thing’ when designing and implementing programmes.
  • Monitoring and evaluation should not only be considered from a programme and organizational perspective, but established as a community-based approach. This can be done using two-way engagement, so that the community understands monitoring and evaluation (both their role and the organization’s role) and has ownership of it.

P-FIM makes monitoring and evaluation work much easier. Instead of just wanting communities to answer our predefined question, we listen first; then we know which questions to ask. If our programme had a meaning and an impact – if it added value – the communities will tell us.

Linah Ruparanganda MEAL officer, Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe

P-FIM: a way to ensure anticipatory action is truly locally led

Ultimately, the question of whether organizations are doing the right thing – and in the right way – is answered by the quality of the engagement and the relationship with communities. Do communities trust us? Do they feel free to share monitoring and evaluation responsibilities? And do they appreciate and agree with the roles played by organizations?

If communities engage fully with the tools used to develop anticipatory action initiatives, it helps to ensure that these initiatives are truly locally led. The key lesson – whether developing EAPs or another aspect of an anticipatory action programme – is that simple works and complicated doesn’t. Tools and approaches should be as simple as possible, so that they can be easily understood by frontline staff, and then delivered to communities in an understandable way that allows them to engage meaningfully. Incorporating P-FIM can help to achieve this, as it puts the concerns, priorities, skills and knowledge of a community at the forefront, right from the start.

Under the WHH Anticipatory Humanitarian Action Facility (WAHAFA) initiative, participating organizations will further test and pilot P-FIM when developing EAPs in Zimbabwe. Further lessons learned will be shared.

For questions, please contact Julia Burakowski, the advisor for MEAL and capacity anticipatory action at Welthungerhilfe, as well as the focal point for locally led anticipatory action, and Vincent Chiunya, head of the WAHAFA project at Welthungerhilfe Zimbabwe.

Read the first blog post about P-FIM in Zimbabwe here.