Building Smarter in Iraq through Better Project Management Systems

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Baghdad’s Sayyidet Al Najjat, or Our Lady of Salvation Church, was decimated by a deadly terrorist attack in 2010. The church was being rebuilt by Iraq’s Ministry of Construction and Housing, but the project fell behind schedule. With support from the USAID-funded Tarabot project, the ministry offset the delay by using modern project scheduling systems.

At a recent conference, the ministry credited these systems as saving more than two weeks and significant money in rebuilding the church.

In Iraq, improvements to the capital investment cycle have been largely measured by budget execution rates. This approach neglected whether projects were completed on time or on budget. Through an integrated approach of training and systems reform, Tarabot has helped the government to improve the implementation and quality of its projects.

The conference was hosted by Iraq’s Council of Ministers Secretariat (COMSEC) together with Tarabot. It brought together high-level officials and engineers to shed light on improved infrastructure projects.

Iraqi partners led the way with detailed discussions of their specific pilot projects. Staff from the Governors’ Offices of Babil and Wasit presented on the value of establishing a Project Management Office to manage provincial projects. The Ministry of Industry and Minerals showed how Tarabot’s suggested Earned Value Management system has also saved resources on their ongoing projects.

The conference resulted in a total of 14 official recommendations that fall under three themes:
• Supporting nationwide adoption of the project management systems promulgated by Tarabot
• Encouraging government engineers to attain international project management certification
• Promoting the establishment of a community of practice for project managers.

Since 2011, Tarabot has worked in partnership with the Iraqi government to improve the planning and construction of vital infrastructure as part of a larger administrative reform initiative.
A total of 67 Iraqi government pilot projects are underway across the country. This list is poised to expand dramatically in the final months of Tarabot and beyond.

Read more about our Tarabot.

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Amidst Obstacles, Testing the Literacy of Pakistani Children

The local Pakistani data collectors got up at 3 a.m. and then drove for three hours into far-off towns in Gilgit–Baltistan, Sindh or Balochistan. Some then walked another hour to their assigned schools.

Efforts have been thwarted by other obstacles. On one occasion, a flood caused 50 percent of data collectors to drop out the week before a crucial training. The team was forced to replace 75 crucial personnel in 48 hours. An earthquake complicated another round of scheduled collections.

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Child literacy testing in remote region of Pakistan

Along the way, the team has had to plan for setbacks and the unexpected. The team also planned for backup schools if the original schools became unavailable. They ended up having to use all of these schools.

This is but one glimpse into the arduous process of collecting data in Pakistan, contributing to the most comprehensive and largest testing that has ever been completed to date. Using the EGRA or the Early Grade Reading Assessment, the team is testing 31,000 children across all eight districts of Pakistan.

The data is contributing to a baseline on the literacy of Pakistani children to inform USAID on the effectiveness of its education programming.

To date, the team has trained 550 local Pakistanis on data collection, with some of them graduating and becoming part of the project’s quality control team. Different local partners are used in each district for security and assurance of correct data. The project also works with School to School International to develop the sampling and adapt the EGRA tool.

Our team has also built up the capacity of local partners to deal with setbacks and problems.
The Pakistan EGRA is being implemented under a USAID-funded project that supports monitoring and evaluation services. The project provides monitoring, verification, and evaluation services to USAID, covering USAID-supported programs.

Previously our USAID-funded Pakistan M&E project covered the $4 billion portfolio of USAID/Pakistan, spanning 100 projects.

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Larry Cooley Presents Hopes and Challenges for Building Democracies in USAID Priority Countries

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In late February, USAID hosted a launch event for the Human and Institutional Capacity Development Pro (HICDPro) contract, which strives to support both individuals and organizations in order to promote resilient democracies. The event brought together HICDPro award holders, which includes MSI, and started a dialogue on the best ways to have sustainable impact in USAID critical priority countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and South Sudan.

MSI’s President Larry Cooley was a speaker at the event and talked about the challenges of capacity building and approaches to sustainable impact.  Click the image above to watch the video at the start of Larry’s talk.

“You’ve got to be diagnostic, you’ve got to look for root causes of things,” Cooley said about how to approach HICD. “You’ve got to figure out… what we can do to materially help in a sustainable way around these sorts of changes, not in the small, but at scale.”

HICDPro is helping USAID Missions to support local partner organizations to identify needs and improvement gaps related to HICD.

Read more about our HICDPro approach and team.

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Addressing the Needs of Syrian Civil Society

This February, Syrian civil society and international donor representatives came together to discuss the current and future status of civil society in Syria. In the video above, we catch up with MSI’s Senior Vice President Andy Griminger, who moderated this roundtable meeting in Istanbul.

Griminger says that international support for civil society can “not only alleviate problems right now but prepare for the period when peace comes.”

The half-day meeting provided a unique opportunity for attendees to discuss the current realities impacting Syrian civil society.

‪In an interactive and open discussion, participants talked about programming challenges and gaps. They identified effective approaches for donors to deliver assistance. Smaller group sessions focused on organizational capacity building, financial sustainability and coordination.‬

Donor countries represented at the roundtable included Denmark, France, the United Kingdom and the USA.

Half of the attendees were from Syrian civil society organizations, which included senior leaders from partner organizations under Coffey’s Syrian Civil Society Capacity Building. Representatives from several other Syrian Civil Society organizations were also present.‬

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MSI Awarded Three New Partnerships with USAID

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Group dialogue in Pakistan

USAID has awarded MSI three IQCs that help promote resilient democracies and communities worldwide. These contracting vehicles access our team’s expertise and knowledge to deliver the best results.

PEACE IQC
USAID awarded the PEACE IQC to MSI and several other firms to help implement projects dealing with conflict, state fragility and violent extremism. The PEACE IQC aims to promote the design and implementation of conflict-sensitive development programs for USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation. We have brought together an impressive consortium of partner organizations that have specific expertise in the field of conflict management and mitigation. Our team offers USAID Missions and Bureaus access to exceptional analytical, training and program implementation.

Read more about our partners and approach for PEACE IQC.

SWIFT IQC
USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) selected MSI as one of the firms to help advance peace and democracy in countries that are in transition. The awarded Support Which Implement Fast Transitions (SWIFT) IQC is worth up to $2.5 billion over five years. SWIFT organizations deliver flexible short-term grants to location organizations to conflict-affected or transitional areas for OTI. We were awarded both regional SWIFT sub-IQCs which allows us to help USAID in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Eurasia.

Read more on SWIFT’s fast action and world-wide approach.

REPLACE IQC
As a sub to Integra LLC, MSI has won the REPLACE IQC to address environmental and resource management issues. We will provide our expertise in policy analysis and change, M&E, conflict mitigation, anti-corruption, knowledge management, scaling up and communications, and more. REPLACE focuses on approaches to landscape and seascape management to build resilient communities while conserving the natural resource base.

Read more about REPLACE’s effective environmental management strategy.

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