How do you trace the impact of an intervention that took place 20 years ago? It's a bit like a retiring teacher trying to trace her influence on the lives and work of students she taught a generation ago. Even when you're looking at only one organization, if it's as complex as BRAC, with 50,000 staff and a half billion dollar annual budget, the exercise risks taking too much credit (or blame) or too little. And based on whose perception? The teacher's? The students'? Their spouses? Their colleagues?
That's what it feels like for Aruna Rao and Rieky Stuart, being invited back to BRAC to document the action-learning process we led with David Kelleher, Sheepa Hafiza and her BRAC team. We have been asked to put on paper what GQAL did, its contributions, and what lessons there may be for where BRAC is now, in the current Bangladeshi context.
Certainly the colleagues and GQAL participants we have talked to welcome the opportunity to reflect — with some nostalgia, sharing pictures and stories of what happened in field offices.
And there are pieces of documentation — reports, policies, evaluations of field-based GQAL programmes, and a rich history of spin-offs — from BRAC's gender policy to changes in working conditions for staff, as well in organizational culture. "There was less shouting", one participant told us at a workshop today.
So far, our impression is that a lot of this work goes in cycles. BRAC is currently making a major effort to create a positive organizational culture, and all programmes have been asked to develop gender equality goals with Board agreement for a budget allocation for this work. So perhaps the lessons of the past, both successes and shortcomings, can feed into the future.