Providing long-term development in Sri Lanka

Providing long-term development in Sri Lanka

Our work in Sri Lanka

After 40 years working in Sri Lanka in the areas of mental health, active citizenship, and supporting the post-conflict civil society, VSO closed our country program in March 2014.

An evaluation was carried out using four partners, providing a wide sample of the work VSO undertook.

Two in mental health:

  1.  National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - A governmental hospital
  1.  Shantiham - an NGO

The other two NGOs working in the area of promotion and protection of human rights and democracy through a stronger Sri Lankan civil society:

3.  Peace and Community action (PCA)

4.  Jaffna Social Action Centre (JSAC

One year after we finished working in Sri Lanka, 75% of the skills, income, and process developments that we supported are being sustained, highlighting the effectiveness and continued positive impact of our approach to capacity development.

These figures are supported by the views of partners given within the report:

“All non-governmental organisations talk about capacity building, but nobody shows locals how to do it - this is the huge difference with VSO.”

Staff member at Shantiham Association for Health and Counselling, Sri Lanka

Staff at a care facility in Sri Lanka supported by VSO

VSO’s specific contributions to partners’ capacity

New ways of thinking and attitudes enabled a fundamental change in how services and projects were delivered.

Examples of this include: introducing cognitive dehavioural therapy, professionalizing the role of psychosocial workers, and enabling one partner to evolve from a ‘humanitarian relief’ approach to a ‘community development’ approach- focussing on rebuilding communities following conflict.

Securing donor funding

One partner estimates that VSO volunteers formed around 75% of their donor links. Three quarters of volunteers admitted to having a role in funding - unexpected for them, but a significant emergent outcome.

Closer links between staff

VSO volunteers were effective in facilitating closer links between different staff cadres, and in negotiating and challenging power differences in non-threatening ways. Partners recognised volunteers as peers, and respected their opinions and attitudes.

‘Before only support staff would hand out food to patients, doctors would not do a nurse’s job... VSO volunteers changed this. Volunteers do all things... no hierarchy or class. Volunteers sit on the floor with patients.’

NIMH staff member

Formalising structure of service and project delivery with systems, processes and documents.

This enabled partners to better design and manage projects to have a greater positive impact on the lives of beneficiaries. Examples include designing regular meetings to decide the best recovery process for a patient, writing training manuals and assessment forms, and creating monitoring tools to show impact to donors.

Skills developed

The estimated improvement in skills of up to 60% as a result of VSO volunteers’ capacity development support. (Statistics taken from a sample of staff in Shantiham, JSAC, and PCA)

Unique effectiveness of VSO

VSO was ranked 2nd or 3rd compared to other organisations supporting Partners’ capacity development. The organisations that ranked higher provided financial support. Partners identified:

  • Our ability to form good working relationships uniquely effective
  • The provision of long-term support
  • Having volunteers embedded as team members
  • Bespoke capacity development rooted in a deep understanding of Partners’ needs
  • The focus on Partners’ sustainability, service and project delivery.

Find out more

Download the report as a PDF: VSO Sri Lanka post-closure evaluation

More about learning and evaluation at VSO

Watch a film about VSO's work in mental health in Sri Lanka on Youtube