The ability to change

When I moved to Uganda in 2011 I was looking forward to engage in some disability work, like I had been doing when I lived in South East Asia. I was very pleased when I was asked by Light for the World to conduct an impact study on access to micro finance for persons with a disability. The study was conducted in 4 districts in Uganda and took place in January/ February 2014. It concerned a program funded by the Norwegian Association for the Disabled (NAD), implementing partners being the National Union of Disabled Persons Uganda (NUDIPU) and the Association of Micro Finance Institutions of Uganda (AMFIU). The study proved to be a great opportunity to use my experience in the field of disability issues, monitoring and evaluation, capacity development and change management.

We looked at two major levels of change: the entrepreneurs with a disability, and the micro finance institutions.

At the level of the entrepreneurs with a disability we used storytelling to assess how access to finance changed their lives; we asked the person who provided the story to signify their own story. We found that over 100 entrepreneurs experienced similar changes in life caused by having access to informal or formal saving and credit services, which helped them to be able to pay for school fees, construct a small house, pay medical bills and further invest in their businesses/ income generating activities. It was interesting to see that the narrators valued their stories differently: part of them mostly valued the economic changes, others the changes in their social life and or self-confidence.

 Economic change,  carpenter, deaf, 34 years old, Lira

I got a contract so I went to PRIDE micro finance where I opened an account where I do my savings I borrowed 1.000.000 UGX from them and after finishing the contract I paid back the money with the interest they gave me. The balance I got from the contract as profit is the one I am using for keeping my family, paying school fees for my children and in case of sickness I use the very money. And the other money I get from the business I save.

My life has changed. It is so good for us, persons with a disability, to adapt culture of saving because if we don’t save there is no way we can improve our lives. Now I have skills in my business because I am keeping records and I know how to calculate and know my profits. That’s what I have learnt in this project. 

What surprised me most is that that asking for stories of change seemed to be empowering by itself. In many group discussions and evaluation missions I facilitated, people with disabilities tended to show a demanding attitude, asking for more (financial) support. This was also what the program implementation team expected us to encounter and report on. However, we did not encounter these kinds of requests as a part of this study.

Anneke LFTW

At the level of the micro finance institutions we applied a systematic way of documenting change. We looked at the process of change at their level as well as different elements of change. We applied parts of the outcome harvesting methodology and the time line methodology. We analyzed the findings using the 8 steps theory of organizational change of Kotter and designed a framework that clustered different elements of change and made it possible to visualize areas of change where progress was noted, as well as areas of further improvement.

radar LFTW

The most rewarding part of the study was the sense making meeting. In this meeting we presented the findings of the study and discussed the implications for practice:

  • What is the picture we see/ the impression you get?
  • What have been critical success factors of the approach?
  • What are implications for practice/ what could be done differently?
  • What are main lessons learned for others who would like to replicate this program?

The participants really appreciated the methodologies applied in this study, and the fact that all the statements made were based on evidence. One participant mentioned that with the quotes, stories and examples it was like ‘the experiences of the entrepreneurs with a disability were brought into the room’. It was also good that we were able to share a short video that showed Francis, a severely disabled cobbler, sharing his story of change. The ‘real life’ evidence made our discussions lively and linked them to practice. The most important lesson learned is that it is time to move beyond the financial institutions that are convinced of the added value of inclusive financing, but also find ways to convince others. A way to do that is to develop a business case; which reinforces the need to develop a data management system for financial institutions that includes persons with a disability.

The combination of the timeline method, the outcome mapping framework and storytelling has worked well in this study. We will further apply these methods in another Double Loop assignment concerning the Participatory Development of an Impact Evaluation Model and Toolkit for Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), funded by AusAid and implemented by the Institute for Global Health of the University College of Londen, Enablement/ University of Applied Sciences Leiden, the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and the University of Cape Town.

Are you interested to hear more about the link between timeline method, outcome harvesting and story telling? You are very welcome to approach me directly on