Branch management and learning system
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) was founded in December 1998 to campaign for access to AIDS treatment. It is widely acknowledged as one of the most important civil society organisations active on AIDS in the developing world. One of its most significant victories was the 2002 Constitutional Court ruling in which the South African government was ordered to provide anti-retroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies during birth.
TAC is a citizen-led, grassroots organisation working on the front lines of the HIV response in South Africa. With over 600 branches across South Africa, many in rural areas, it is extremely challenging for staff to communicate and share information with each other.
This project focused on two specific challenges:
First, branch members (who are all volunteers) face lacked a systematic way to document and communicate the many activities they do, as well as the changes arise from them. These include checking clinics for stock-outs, providing health information to communities and collecting testimonials from community members. As a result many of these activities go un-recognised and are not reported fully to donors and other stakeholders.
Second, they struggled with the logistical challenges of requesting advances to support activities and accounting for funds received. With finance staff at provincial or national level, this meant transporting receipts and expense claims around the country. Any mistakes were also time consuming to rectify, as new documents or receipts had to be sent if they were missing or in-correct. This often led to delays that were frustrating to branch members.
We worked with branch members and TAC staff using a human centred design approach. This focused on understanding the existing systems and processes related to tracking activities and expenses related to them. Key national teams like finance, M&E and membership were also involved in the process.
Through this process we were able to collectively design updated processes and procedures that could be embedded in a web based branch management and learning system. This was documented as a Process Manual, that clarified all data entry forms, role players and workflows.
Once we had agreement on the underlying processes, we started an iterative process to configure the system and get feedback from users. This helped shape the design further and increased buy-in from staff.
When the system was ready to launch we provided training for staff, developed a user manual and created a phased rollout plan. This focused on a province by province rollout and covered tasks needed to prep the system (adding branches, branch members and users and assigning roles) such that branches could begin recording activity plans and requesting advances.
We continue to provide support to staff managing the system and assisting with the rollout plan.
The project has helped to standardise the way in which TAC branches collect and validate data. This ensures that there is a consistent set of data that all TAC branches report each month, specific to the activities that they plan to carry out. There is also a clear process for reviewing and approving this data before it is used for management, learning or reporting.
Branch members can request advances to support activities - even if they are offline. These requests are passed immediately (once they have an Internet connection) to the finance team to process. When it comes to account for advances, the system prompts them as to what information is needed and enables them to attach photos of receipts. This avoids the need to wait for paper receipts to be transported.
Branches can see the status of all expense claims and who is currently working on them. They can also see branch budgets updating as new expenses are processed, reducing the budget available for future activities. This makes planning easier.