Our Bridging the Gap II (BtG-II) project has ended and we were curious to hear about the learning experience that we can take away from this. On this occasion, we talked to Alessia Rogai who worked as knowledge management and learning coordinator of this EU-funded project.
This blog and the interview were prepared by Diana Zsoldos, Communications and Logistics Officer for International Cooperation
EDF: Could you tell me a bit more about how the project started?
AR: The project started officially in April 2017. I started in June 2017 working in the Project Management Unit as knowledge management and learning coordinator of Bridging the Gap II. Specifically, I worked together with the two NGO partners of the project, the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) and the European Disability Forum (EDF), in charge of the development and implementation of the knowledge management strategy. This component was really important and we dedicated to it special attention. After four years and a half, I can say that we achieved a lot of results and the work was truly productive.
It was not my first time working on disability but before this project, I had few experiences in this field. Hence, it was my first time really establishing contacts with the whole disability movement and not working with public institutions or other donors only. It was amazing working with IDDC and EDF and it was one of the best part of my job.
EDF: Could you briefly describe the project?
AR: The project focused on strengthening the capacities of governments, national human rights institutions, and relevant organisations in five partner countries (Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Paraguay, and Sudan), as well as mainstreaming disability in international cooperation, to develop, implement and monitor disability-inclusive sector policies and services in a participatory manner and in line with the CRPD, namely in relation to inclusive education, universal access to health and employment, livelihoods and social protection and data generation. BtG-II has been implemented by a consortium led by the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP), and composed of the Spanish Agency for Development Cooperation (AECID), the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC). The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland also contributed to the initiative. The number of local and international organisations, public institutions, and OPDs involved in this project is really massive, and important key actors have been mobilized at the local and global levels. We outlined and organised a lot of learning spaces, webinars, publications, and studies, and it allows us to achieve important results and connect key actors.
EDF: You mentioned so many different countries working in this partnership. Did you find any differences between these countries on the level of advocacy for disability rights?
AR: Well, there are lots of differences. Currently, there is no country in the world that is implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) 100%. There are of course good examples in Europe and in partner countries and a will for change is absolutely recognisable. However, in many countries around the world, there are such complicated political and social constraints that clearly affect the implementation of the CRPD.
Despite this, we observed interesting steps forward, as for example in Ecuador. With regard to inclusive education, in Ecuador, BtG-II supported the capabilities of the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) to implement the inclusive education legislation and strengthened OPDs and the National Council for the Equality of Persons with Disabilities (CONADIS) to increase their participation and capacity to influence the development of education policies and strategies.
Clearly, one of the keys to the success of the project, which managed to make certain situations move more quickly, is precisely the multi-stakeholders cooperation model put in place by BtG-II. The constant collaboration at all levels with local and global players has allowed the project to position some milestones that we hope will continue in this direction. Partners working together can achieve more than simple bilateral cooperation. Multilateral cooperation is about growing together.
EDF: Was there any “cultural shock”? How did these differences affect the cooperation?
AR: One of the most challenging parts of the project was to make such different countries cooperate and exchange together. For example, the first and apparently very simple barrier you encounter is language. And then there is the distance, the culture, very different political and social contexts. Surely implementing a project like BtG-II at the regional level would immediately break down a good part of these barriers with a greater impact on the action. For example, it is one of the recommendations that emerged from the final capitalizations of the project. Indeed, the BtG-II final capitalizations are divided by region (Latin America and Africa) and topics (respectively Data for Inclusive Education and Social Protection), emphasizing the BtG-II’s multi-cooperation path.
EDF: You said the language barriers can be difficult. As a knowledge management coordinator, how do you make sure that every party can learn, have the knowledge and benefit from the project?
AR: Obviously, It is especially about resources. Resources for translations, subtitling, easy-to-read versions, international sign or local language interpreters, etc…, are basic elements to make knowledge accessible, for example. These facilities depend on financial resources. But investing in eliminating this type of barriers and more is essential to ensure better and more efficient inclusion in the long term.
EDF: What’s your most remarkable memory?
AR: During the first 3 years of the project, we organized and attended several events in Europe, in BtG-II’s countries, and around the world. It was amazing to meet so many people and build paths of inclusion together. We also organized webinars and online sessions with the added value of reaching a lot of people and improving accessibility. The idea of the 12-sessions webinar training cycle in 3 languages was absolutely innovative. However, when we organized the first cycle of webinars we could not imagine that the last year and a half of the project would only be doing online sessions. And it affected the project. Making a learning space in person certainly has a much stronger impact because spending time with people can make a difference.
EDF: Talking about being remarkable, how can we make sure these efforts are staying visible and being used after a project ends?
AR: Firstly, using the resources and materials we produced. Trying to keep track and share them. All BtG-II materials are published on the IDDC website, soon also on the EDF website, but also on the GLAD network and Capacity4Development online pages. With the support of our partners, BtG-II produced three calls for action in several languages as an advocacy instrument. (Inclusive Development, Social Protection and Inclusive Education). We are sure our partners will make good use of these tools.
EDF: Thank you Alessia! What would be your key takeaway?
AR: I would like to thank all our partners and recommend continuing the BtG-II pathway and encouraging other similar initiatives. The project was short but intense and it has demonstrated that when you work altogether, you can achieve wonderful results.
More information about the project.
For more information, contact Diana Zsoldos, Communications and Logistics Officer for International Cooperation at firstname.lastname@example.org