SMP: How well did we do last year?

17 May 2021

As a member-led national network, which receives public funding to cover much of our core costs, we think its hugely important that the SMP is transparent and accountable about all aspects of our work.

Every year we undertake a number of reviews, some of which are required for our Scottish Government funding, and others we volunteer to undertake to ensure we remain a learning and improving organisation.

We’re delighted to share here all the key data which have come out of our review of 2020-21 (covering the period 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2021). We encourage members, partners, funders and other stakeholders to have a read and share any reflections or feedback you think relevant, directly to our Chief Executive David. And we’re keen to say a HUGE thank you to all who have fed into our 2020-21 review.

Quick links:

Read the full results of our 2021 Member Needs and Impact Survey, which was completed by 96 members.

Read 479 pieces of positive feedback we have received this year from named individuals – from the President of Malawi and the First Minister of Scotland to individual SMP members.

Read the expert external review of our work in 2020-21, undertaken by the Corra Foundation.

Read our colour-coded (Red-Amber-Green) ‘logical framework’ (logframe) which includes all the quantitative indicators which we report to the Scottish Government on for our Core Funding.

Read the feedback we received from those who contacted the SMP with an enquiry last year.

Explore the 35 SMP digital events/engagements and 13 co-hosted engagements, attended by 2,935 people last year.

Our assessment of our successes and challenges:

The SMP has responded well to the challenges and changes that Covid-19 has brought. We moved the staff team quickly to homeworking and developed a detailed Covid-19 Response Strategy, Risk Register and Implementation Plan.

We have been in constant dialogue with our members and partners, to understand the dynamic situation and what SMP support would be most valuable, within the agreed SG-funded outcomes. Specifically, in this period we:

Hosted 13 major Covid-19 coordination Zoom meetings, working with the Malawi Presidential Covid taskforce, often at a Ministerial level, with a total attendance of over 1,465.

Supported 21 Scotland-Malawi Covid fundraising appeals, leveraging donations from across the UK, with many of these funds reporting they have exceeded targets.

Established a Scotland-Malawi Oxygen Supply Coordination Group and hosted our own appeal, raising over £40,000 for emergency support.

Created a Covid digital web-hub for the sharing of news, resources and information.

Agreed Scotland-Malawi Covid-19 Response Principles of Best Practice for funders and NGOs, after consultations across Scotland and Malawi.

Provided Covid coordination services taken up by 641 different organisations and individuals, 94% of whom said this strengthened their work with Malawi.

Other notable successes in this period included:

35 SMP digital events/engagements and 13 co-hosted engagements, attended by 2,935 people, with 635 giving feedback, of whom 95.7% described our work as “excellent” or “very good”.

Youth Festival, with a week of digital engagements (webinars, podcasts, school resources, social media takeovers, etc), reaching over 250,000.

479 positive impact statements [LINK TO THE IMPACT STATEMENT DOC] from named individuals (NGO/community leaders etc) outlining how they have benefitted from the SMP’s core funded work.

Close working and mutual support with MaSP, including support for the 2050 partnership.

Significantly increased diversity and inclusion, with one third of SMP event attendees from BAME backgrounds and a 53% female:47% male gender balance
All feedback targets exceeded.

An independent expert review [LINK TO THE EXTERNAL REVIEW DOC] concluding the SMP has achieved/exceeded what the SG has core funded and praising the SMP’s response to Covid.

106 points of engagement/support/endorsement from political leaders, including the President of Malawi, the First Minister, Scottish Party Leaders, MSPs and MPs.
A widely praised joint MaSP and SMP Black Lives Matter response.

13 Chichewa classes delivered online.

Significant digital communications success in Q3 and Q4, with 51 videos produced, viewed 17,151 times.

Major digital projects developed, to be launched/completed in Q1 2021/22, including new SMP website and 10-part ‘People to People’ podcast.

Member Forums and other digital engagements, often with the relevant Minister / senior official attending to engage members.

Strong engagements around key themes of race and equality, and climate change.

Of the 69 target logframe indicators (all set pre-Covid):

64 (93%) have been rated “Green” – target met or exceeded
5 (7%) have been rated “Amber” – target missed by within 25%
0 (0%) have been rated “Red” – target missed by more than 25%

Read our colour-coded (Red-Amber-Green) ‘logical framework’ (logframe) which includes all the quantitative indicators which we report to the Scottish Government on for our Core Funding.

Challenges in this period have included:

Staff welfare and mental health through homeworking. We have responded by having regular one-to-ones, time off and flexible working where required, informal WhatsApp channels, offering alternative workspaces where home-working no longer viable, etc.

Ensuring staff have an appropriate, safe and sustainable workplace. We have responded by purchasing ICT and office equipment where required.

IT challenges in homeworking, including increased cyber security risks. We have responded by taking professional advice and responding to threats accordingly.

Schools being closed, then too overworked/pressured to engage: Listening to and giving space to schools and shifting the Youth Congress to become a week-long Youth Festival focused on direct digital youth engagements rather than live school engagements.

External assessor's conclusions:

This review of the annual report documentation shared by the SMP and additional public sources notes a range of evidence provided to support the conclusion that the SMP has:

• successfully delivered on the pre-set outcome milestones for the 2020-2021 year of implementation,

• been able to meet those milestones despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic which affected both member engagement and staff capacities, and,

• additionally, been able to meaningfully respond to the new needs of members in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This assessment has found good evidence of progress in relation to the logframe for almost all indicators at impact, outcome and output level, with many exceeded and none judged as significantly missed, particularly when performance against complementary indicators is taken into consideration. Detailed consideration of how and whether individual indicators have been met is outlined above by outcome, and that text includes discussion of how the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have affected delivery and measurement. As noted above, the SMP’s response to the new restrictions and new needs resulting from the pandemic should be seen as a significant achievement that has helped mutual understanding and assistance among stakeholders in both Malawi and Scotland.

Beyond the conclusions of the review in relation to achievement of grant targets, this review makes a final observation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications for network events and functioning. Pandemic restrictions over the past year have brought dramatic changes to how SMP members are able to conduct activities and engage in the network. SMP moved its events and work online with laudable speed and this transition should be seen as an important and particular achievement of the 2020-21 period. While online work and engagement has swiftly become the ‘new normal’, it remains a very significant adjustment and SMP is therefore encouraged to reflect on what the move online means for SMP members’ needs and events and participation going forward. Many more people can join events, regardless of membership status, and this brings many positive things, not least greater contacts with those based in Malawi and the involvement of those who might not have been able to travel to in-person meetings. However, and as indicated by some of the feedback shared, this also means that the purpose and function of SMP may not be clear to all now joining SMP events – in a review of feedback comment compilations for example, the few negative points amid the generally very positive feedback recorded mostly reflect frustration born of clearly unrealistic expectations of what SMP can provide. One of the SMP’s key challenges, and key strengths, is the breadth of its membership and its ability as an organisation to cater to these very diverse needs: with the shift online, the breadth and diversity of event participation has increased significantly. A year in, and with online events now likely to continue indefinitely as an element of any programme, a suggestion from this review is that this might be a good moment to reflect on the changes the shift to digital events has brought to the kind and types of participation and what that might mean for how SMP advertises, organises and introduces or frames its online events and activity.