A Decade of Making a Difference: The POLICY Project (1995–2006)
The POLICY Project, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), led a major effort to improve the policy environment for family planning/reproductive health (FP/RH), HIV, and maternal health in developing countries. Implemented in two phases (1995–2000 and 2000–2006), the project combined several USAID technical assistance areas—namely awareness raising, policy dialogue, and policy formulation—into a single program. POLICY’s mandate was to improve policies for an expanded range of reproductive health issues, including HIV and maternal health and to strengthen these policies by promoting multisectoral involvement in policy development processes.
Together, POLICY I and II garnered $230 million in USAID core and field support, with the majority of funding received from USAID Missions. POLICY II, for example, established dozens of country offices and worked with four USAID regional programs. Overall, the project achieved nearly 1,100 strategic objective- and intermediate-level results in response to the project’s results-based framework. What this means is that, under POLICY II alone, the project:
• Fostered the adoption of more than 140 policies and plans to guide FP/RH, HIV, and maternal health services;
• Helped to form or build the capacity of more than 100 civil society networks, including reproductive health advocacy networks and networks of people living with HIV;
• Brought groups such as faith-based organizations and businesses into the health policymaking process;
• Awarded more than 250 small grants to support grassroots policy dialogue and advocacy efforts;
• Conducted groundbreaking policy analyses to raise awareness of issues such as contraceptive security, resource needs, women’s inheritance rights, and HIV-related stigma; and
• Assisted countries and partners allocate, mobilize, and/or leverage more than $200 million in additional funding for FP/RH, HIV, and maternal health.
These results directly contributed not only to the project’s objective of creating an enabling policy environment, and helped meet the strategic goals of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, USAID Missions, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and host-country governments and partners. For the POLICY Project, how it achieved its objective was as important as what it accomplished. The project’s innovative model for implementing the work was both a facilitator and indicator of its overall success. Recognizing that sustainable policy processes must inevitably come from within a country, POLICY set out to establish a project model that put its principles—country focus, multisectoral engagement, capacity development, decentralization—into practice. POLICY transferred authority to local country directors and staff and equipped them with the necessary training, technical assistance from U.S.-based staff, and operational systems to effectively carry out their work. The project employed more than 600 field staff and worked closely with hundreds of local consultants and partners, thereby fostering “policy communities” in each country that will sustain policy work long after the project ends.