Project cycle management capacity – The initiative has demonstrated that cross-denominational church consortia made up of volunteers can be trained to plan and execute quality HIV/AIDs interventions and can also properly manage and account for financial resources. Congregations not only implemented the planned activities but they were also able to organise annual reviews where they discussed, analysed and made appropriate modifications to their activities based on lessons learned from previous years. This resulted in the continuous improvement of consortium-based programme implementation.
Professional technical assistance and back-office support structure – The technical support and mobilising capacity of three full time professional staff at the JCRA national and regional coordination level has been pivotal in the success of this programme. If the JCRA model is to expand nationally or to other sub-Saharan African countries where there is significant church attendance, this administrative and technical backup is the key to success.
Community directed assistance – The programme has demonstrated that if local people who live in the community are mobilised and empowered, they are able to identify the truly needy and get assistance to those who genuinely need it. Limited resources were utilised where most needed and with very limited envy generated in the community, by using a community directed approach.
Ownership and endorsement – Initially, it was a challenge to obtain the general endorsement and genuine buy-in from the major denominations in Malawi. For some denominations the endorsement process was accomplished smoothly, especially those churches that are members of the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC). For others, the process was more difficult. Once the programme was in its second year and the non-MCC member churches had seen for themselves that the JCRA programme had no hidden agenda, they applied to join.
Conflict of interest – Unfortunately, at the HQ denomination level, the other in-house HIV/AIDS programme departments are effectively competing with the JCRA programme for project funding from national and international donors. Both the MCC and the main denominational church bodies whose congregations are participating in the consortia have their own in-house development departments. These development departments apply for funding for HIV projects from the main bilateral and multilateral funding agencies and have established compliments of staff and a comprehensive project management infrastructure. In the name of MCC or LISAP (to name two) they implement HIV/AIDS programmes throughout Malawi, although not in a collaborative way as pioneered by the JCRA programme. This creates a tension for these headquarters-based departments between recruiting funds for the JCRA initiative (which the denomination supports) and recruiting funds for the denominations’ own development programmes. We believe that this clash of interests has had a detrimental effect on publicising JCRA as an alternative modality for funding.
Cooperation of interdenominational leadership – When the concept was first conceived and discussed with the denominational leaders in Lilongwe, the clear intent was for the three main church ‘mother bodies’ to play equal roles in the leadership of JCRA; a tripartite. The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), the Evangelical Alliance and the Catholic Church all expressed initial willingness to take a formal part in the JCRA structure. All of these main blocks maintained goodwill toward the initiative but in the end only the MCC actually took a leading role. At the national level, the Evangelical Alliance and the Catholic Church offered limited practical support.