Ember Impact Evaluation: Key Learnings
Feb 15, 2022
This blog shares the key findings from our evaluation of our 2020-2021 partnerships with 11 mental health organisations. You can click here to read the full report.
Community-based mental health organisations are essential actors in the global mental health landscape. They fill a gap by providing necessary mental health services and support to those that cannot access government or private services. Their deep understanding of local mental health needs and connectedness with communities allows them to respond in a timely and efficient way to new challenges and crises.
Acknowledging the immense value of community-based mental health organisations, in 2020 Ember partnered with 12 initiatives working in different settings around the world. We aimed to support them in strengthening their organisational capacity, so that they could reach their objectives and achieve either sustainability, replication, or implementation at scale.
We asked our partners to take part in a series of interviews to evaluate these partnerships with Ember, as we wanted to understand the extent to which we met the expectations of our partners, as well as the partnership’s key achievements and areas of improvement. This is what we learnt:
1. There is huge appetite for the type of partnership and support offered by Ember, where the needs of organisations are placed front and centre
Ember strives to build horizontal relationships with community partners, where transparent and honest communication are paramount. We aim to have an in-depth understanding of the needs of our partners. Priorities and work plans are driven by the organisations we support.
Our partners reported Ember provided a space that enabled reflection in an inclusive and empathetic way. Ember’s support was described as responsive and meaningful. Organisations felt empowered to do their work, as Ember helped them plan for strategies to make it possible. One of our partners explained its relationship and work with Ember in the following way:
“I think you could describe [Ember] as an organisation that really cares about improving and strengthening the organisations it supports, based on the resources they already have and focusing on what their real challenges are, you know? But I think [Ember] does not come with a recipe, but rather, from a place of respect and care, they are willing to listen to what we have [to say] as organisations and work from there.”
2. Tailored guidance, mentorship and skills-building activities are needed by organisations
Community-based mental health organisations are experts in listening to and understanding the needs of their communities, as well as in developing responses to these needs. However, many organisations operate under resource-constrained conditions, often relying on the work of volunteers. In these cases, offering mentoring and guidance on strengthening organisational skills is key. Our partners reported that guidance on how to improve their storytelling, increase their visibility, widen their networks, design fundraising strategies and document their impact was central to supporting their progress towards sustainability. As explained by one of our partner organisations, this is achieved through a wide network of experts:
“[Ember has] a pool of many professionals [which] are used according to what are perceived as gaps within the organisations with which [Ember is] working, in order to strengthen them, right? I think this is the most important thing about Ember.”
3. Community-based organisations are still regularly threatened by funding shortages, due to inflexible, time-limited, and restrictive funding schemes
Mental health organisations struggle to survive and thrive due to the lack of prioritisation of mental health in local and global agendas. Limited funding as well as its restrictive characteristics result in organisations not being able to prioritise the needs of their communities but those of funders. By the end of the partnership, one of our partner organisations highlighted this issue:
“As an organisation, we’re still left in a very deep crisis, considering that, a very honest view, I think we completely agree [that] for these initiatives to function, definitely we need [to be] sustainable. [...] we need some collaborations with some of these potential donors, so that we are able then to function.”
Based on the insights provided by our partners in this area, improving the funding landscape for community-based mental health organisations has become one of our priorities at Ember. As a first step, we are seeking to further understand the current landscape, as well as gather information on needs and key challenges faced by organisations, so that we can continue supporting and advocating in this area.
As we embark in a second round of partnerships, we are hoping to continue supporting mental health organisations so that they continue focusing on the needs of their communities, promoting and caring for their mental health. This is particularly important as communities worldwide continue to recover from the physical and mental health l impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Improvements in the global mental health funding landscape are required to achieve this, including:
Planning for long-term funding mechanisms.
Ensuring the availability of support for strategic planning to ensure paths to sustainability.
Providing a safe space for listening and understanding.
Valuing and caring for the wellbeing of organisations’ members.
If you want to learn more about the results of the Ember evaluation, click here to read or download the full report. We would like to thank all of the organisations that took part in the Ember evaluation for sharing their invaluable insights so that we can continue learning and improving our work.