UNRWA is the largest United Nations programme in the Middle East. It provides assistance and protection to Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). It does so by offering to a population of some 5 million registered refugees a range of human development and humanitarian services in primary and vocational education, primary health care, social safety net, community support, camp improvement and microfinance. UNRWA’s role also encompasses advocacy and actions to address the human rights and protection needs of Palestine refugees.
Deadline is 17 June 2012
Consultancy – External Evaluation of the Microcredit Community
Support Programme, Amman
The Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) is one of the Agency’s five core programme departments.
Agency-wide, the vast majority of RSSP’s financial and human resources are directed towards the relief or social assistance programme that currently provides quarterly food and cash assistance to 290,000 refugees across the five fields. The smaller Social Services Programme oversees a variety of work targeting vulnerable groups; one of these pieces of work is the Microcredit Community Support Programme (MCSP). The objective of the MCSP is to increase Palestine refugee household assets through the provision of access to financial and non-financial services and products.
The MCSP began in 1994 as the Poverty Alleviation/Income Generation Programme and has gone through several iterations as the Programme worked to find its footing in the Agency due, in part, to the fact that UNRWA has a robust Microfinance Department in four Fields of Operation. In 2007, MCSP by and large shifted its focus from a direct lending model to an indirect lending model called the Community Managed Fund (CMF) Programme. Through indirect lending, UNRWA affiliated community-based organizations (CBOs) are provided with training by MCSP staff and eventually, seed capital. Once trained, these CBOs provide loans to refugees in their communities. Although this indirect lending model was used in some fields prior to 2007, the CMF was officially launched in 2008 starting with Jordan and then was rolled out in Syria later the same year. In 2009, the West Bank began implementation of the CMF and then Lebanon began implementation in 2010. The MCSP does not operate in Gaza field. To date, 16,904 loans have been disbursed by CBOs through the CMF for a total value of US$ 8,210,215. In addition to the CMF, the Lebanon and Jordan Fields continue to offer other financial products under the MCSP, primarily consisting of business and home improvement loans. As of April 2012, there were 269 active loans in Jordan Field valued at US$ 520,161 and 575 active loans in Lebanon Field valued at US$ 2,020,759.
In each field where MCSP operates, the programme is overseen by a staff member who sits in UNRWA’s Field Office. Under her/his technical guidance, staff in the Area Offices are responsible for working with the CBOs on the CMF and in cases where direct lending still occurs, for working directly with the refugees themselves. A total of 21 staff work full-time with the MCSP; ranging from 10 staff in Lebanon to 3 staff in Syria.
In 2011, a social audit of the MCSP was conducted in Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank with RSSP and CBO staff. Results from the audit showed MCSP to be gender sensitive and providing much needed loans to refugees. While RSSP and CBO staff were able to state the primary components of the MCSP’s mission, most staff were unclear what the mission means in practice, who the specific target group is and what impact MCSP is meant to make amongst its clients. Thus far, impact of the MCSP is most often documented through success stories although this does not happen on a systematic basis across the fields. In 2011, the Lebanon Field Office conducted an impact assessment of the MCSP. Results from the semi-structured interviews with clients found a number of positive outcomes such as being able to smooth household consumption and the ripple effects this has had on the family, such as children’s education. Being able to secure an entrepreneur loan, however, was found to be problematic as it requires a guarantor, which is difficult for Palestine refugees to come by given their precarious position in Lebanon.
Through a great deal of investment by UNRWA and its donors, the Agency has an increased understanding of the breadth and depth of poverty. It is estimated that 1.5 million Palestine refugees live in absolute poverty in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon, with 700,000 of these in abject poverty; they are unable to meet their basic food needs. With this improved understanding of the scale of poverty among Palestine refugees, RSSP is proposing to reform its programme and dedicate itself more fully to alleviating poverty.
To this end, RSSP seeks assistance in evaluating the MCSP as it currently stands and to determine if it is feasible for MCSP to become a microfinance programme for the poor.
Specifically, RSSP seeks recommendations and analysis in order to answer the following questions:
- What differential impacts has MCSP had on poor and non-poor refugee clients; both positive and negative, intended and unintended?
- How do the MCSP products and loan portfolio quality compare against best practices for microfinance?
- Is microfinance recommended as an effective intervention to alleviate Palestine refugees’ poverty considering the context of each field of operation?
- If microfinance is recommended, what would the RSSP need to do to re-design the current MCSP so that it (a) meets intended outcomes, (b) adheres to best practices, and (c) offers products not already available from MFIs or other institutions?
- Is it economically feasible for RSSP to run a microfinance programme that impacts poor Palestine refugees in light of the current resource base?
While UNRWA specifically seeks an evaluation that will answer the foregoing questions, applicants are invited to propose additional areas of investigation in their application.
The methodology proposed by the consultant needs to be sufficiently rigorous so that UNRWA is able to make decisions based upon the final report. To determine the impact of the MCSP on poor and non-poor clients, UNRWA is interested in a mixed methods approach, however experimental designs (e.g. randomized control trials) and control groups are unnecessary, given the stage of programme implementation and constraints on time.
Description of Duties and Responsibilities
The following products should result from the evaluation:
- Theory of change for each field where MCSP operates;
- Draft report;
- Final report including proposed theory of change for the MCSP going forward, if microfinance is indeed recommended.
Debriefings with key stakeholders of the MCSP should be conducted in each field before the consultant’s departure and at HQ Amman before departing the region.
Essential Qualifications and Experience
- Advanced degree in a relevant field;
- Development specialist with minimum 10 years demonstrable experience in the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes to lift the poor, or similar groups, out of poverty;
- Direct experience with the design, implementation and evaluation of microfinance programmes for the poor;
- Fluency in written and spoken English.
Professional experience in the Middle East and knowledge of Arabic language.
CONDITIONS OF SERVICE
The duration of the consultancy will be 50 working days. Expected date of completion is 15 October 2012, taking into consideration the month of Ramadan and the Eid holiday, expected to fall around 20 July – 24 August. UNRWA is open to the idea of the work taking place in two phases: one part before the month of Ramadan and one part with resumption and completion after Ramadan. The incumbent will be based in Amman, Jordan and is expected to travel to UNRWA’s areas of operation with the exclusion of Syria. The incumbent will be required to obtain the required visas for travel with UNRWA only assisting in support letters to the respective embassies.
The total remuneration for completion of the consultancy is US$ 50,000.
Applicants should submit a cover letter and CV or UN Personal History Form, in addition to the following documents and are requested to adhere to a 15 page maximum limit (10 point font) for all documents to be submitted via firstname.lastname@example.org clearly indicating the title of the vacancy “External Evaluation of the Microcredit Community Support Programme” in the subject line of the message. The deadline for the submission of applications is 17June 2012:
The proposal should include:
- Proposed methodology;
- Proposed work plan which shows proposed tasks, their time requirements and sequencing in relation to other tasks;
- Detailed budget;
- Budget notes;
- References and evidence of past performance.
UNRWA is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes applications from both women and men. UNRWA encourages applications from qualified and experienced female candidates. Only those applicants short-listed for interview will be contacted. UNRWA is a non-smoking environment.