The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) has published an in-depth evaluation of the organization’s Speaking Out Initiative, a technical and funding assistance program to support HIV advocacy efforts and leadership development for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people at the grassroots level. Conducted by Health & Development Consulting International LLC (HDCi), the independent third-party evaluation uses a combination of literature review and 20 key informant interviews to assess the program’s processes and its ultimate impact on the ability of MSM and transgender people to access HIV services and fulfill their human rights.
“Since the MSMGF’s inception, we have emphasized achieving meaningful and measurable results as our paramount priority,” said Dr. George Ayala, executive director of the MSMGF. “This means clear outcomes in terms of stronger community systems, as well as solid victories that create the policy, funding, and programmatic changes we need for an effective response to HIV among MSM. Engaging in this level of monitoring and evaluation is a reflection of our ongoing commitment to those values.”
Launched in 2010, the Speaking Out Initiative works to build local capacity and accomplish advocacy gains by: 1) supporting grassroots advocates to identify and map issues that affect the ability of MSM and transgender people to access HIV services and fulfill their human rights; 2) supporting the development of homegrown advocacy initiatives to address the issues identified; and 3) funding the implementation of initiatives developed. Community partners play a central role in the development and implementation of the process from start to finish.
“Speaking Out supports advocacy to create enabling environments where the health and human rights of sexual and gender minorities are protected,” said Omar Banos, policy initiatives field manager at the MSMGF. “Through the initiative, we address the high rates of HIV among sexual and gender minorities by working to overcome barriers that increase vulnerability to HIV among our communities, including stigma, discrimination, injustice, and violence. Ultimately, the initiative aims to build community capacity and create safe environments to seek and access high-quality prevention, testing, care, and treatment.”
Through the pilot period (2011-2012), the MSMGF implemented Speaking Out in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Central America, and Asia (Viet Nam). A Global Toolkit was developed as a generalized model of high-quality advocacy strategies, ensuring participants are equipped with the skills and techniques necessary to advocate effectively for sexual minority health and human rights. Community members and local advocates were involved in all stages of the Global Toolkit’s development and validation, as well as the subsequent generation of locally adapted toolkits and Trainings of Trainers (ToTs) tailored to local languages and contexts.
A total of 120 MSM and transgender advocates have graduated from Speaking Out trainings to date, and graduates have gone on to develop and implement numerous successful advocacy initiatives. The results of these initiatives include changes to social protection laws and the criminal code in Honduras, changes to the National AIDS Strategic Plan in Tunisia, a successful campaign to free gay men arrested for homosexuality in Lebanon, and the development of a national MSM network in Viet Nam.
At the end of the pilot period, the MSMGF commissioned HDCi to conduct an in-depth evaluation of Speaking Out. The results of HDCi’s evaluation indicate that the objectives of the Speaking Out Initiative were met both from the technical perspective and from the outcome perspective. Toolkits were adapted for three languages and regions, ToTs were implemented, advocates were trained, technical assistance was provided to partner organizations, and homegrown advocacy initiatives were funded. Additionally, Speaking Out had an impact on local advocacy, as participants identified and mapped issues to target, ultimately developing and implementing largely successful advocacy actions.
“This is an important and timely evaluation for us,” said Noah Metheny, director of policy for the MSMGF. “It provides valuable insight into the effectiveness and impact of the Speaking Out process, and more broadly, it signifies an important milestone in the MSMGF’s continued work to integrate this kind of sophisticated evaluation into all of our work. As we move ahead, the MSMGF is adopting a comprehensive evaluation framework with which we will evaluate all of our technical support programs.”
“Stronger monitoring and evaluation that utilizes rich iterative methodologies to capture case studies, good practices, and lessons learned will contribute to the ongoing process of building and providing better and more effective programs and initiatives,” said Dr. Ayala. “Our communities demand results, and it is our responsibility to ensure they get them.”
In 2014, HDCi and the MSMGF will engage in a multi-stage process of incorporating and implementing key recommendations from this evaluation, including applying lessons learned, overcoming identified barriers, and developing a broader monitoring and evaluation framework.
The Speaking Out Initiative is funded by Levi Strauss Foundation, Hivos, and ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action Program.