aepo Strategic Plan

 

Over the past 21 years, AEPO has achieved a great deal through our programs and publications. Our impact on the lives of many Afghans has been significant, with characters from our flagship program ‘New Home, New Life’ now household names in the country. After years of uninterrupted broadcasting on the BBC World Service, AEPO has become an Afghan institution. Working in a context where up to 90% of women and 63% of men are illiterate and almost half of school-age children do not attend classes, we are aware of the need to continue to engage with our audience to enable them to address the challenges that still face many of them.

 The primary focus of AEPO’s programmes during 2015 to 2020 will be: • Education • Health • Livelihoods • Human Rights • Governance • Conflict Resolution and peace-building] Issues covered by AEPO’s current programs include education, human rights, child development and health, the role of women, constitutional issues, reintegration and repatriation, conflict resolution, civic education, mine awareness, poppy cultivation/substitution, nutrition and malnutrition, drinking water, livestock management, basic hygiene, health and agriculture. Through the years, an important aspect of our work has been to make ordinary Afghans aware of the services that might be available to them.

With financial support currently from SDC, EU (directly and via AfghanAid and TDH), the Dutch and Belgian Embassies, IFC, DFID (through BBCMA and AKF) and ECHO (through NRC), we remain committed to ensuring that our outputs are not only relevant to the lives of ordinary Afghans, but of the highest standard. In addition to our existing platforms, therefore, we shall continue to explore ways to diversify our outputs and try to extend our reach across the country, where appropriate exploiting the opportunities afforded by new technology.

2. WHERE WE ARE NOW

AEPO continues to work in close partnership with BBC Media Action and BBC World Service, producing 18 programs per week (9 in Dari and 9 in Pashto) for multiple broadcasts. The long-running drama ‘New Home, New Life’ reaches almost 40% of adult BBC radio listeners in the country, while our regular feature programs reach up to 21%, according to BBC Media Action surveys. A survey conducted by the Aga Khan Foundation in 16 provinces in 2014 found that almost 64% of families reported that at least one member listens to ‘New Home New Life’. AEPO’s current output includes:

Family radio drama: ‘New Home, New Life’ (since 1994)

Adult education programs: ‘Health and Life’ (since 1997); ‘Village Voice’ (since 1995) and ‘Gold in the Dust’ (since 2010)
Children’s’ education programs (REACH): ‘Peddler’s Bag’, ‘Castle of a Thousand Windows’ and ‘Story for Living’ (since 2001)
Publications include ‘New Home New Life’ magazine and illustrated story books for children
Information about AEPO’s programs and streamed content on www.tajalla.af/www.aepo.af, as well as on a dedicated Facebook page.

AEPO works in partnership with a range of Afghan and international institutions and consults with the Ministries of Information and Culture as well as Education as appropriate. We maintain close links with a number of civil society organizations such as Afghan Women’s’ Network and Empowerment Center for Women. As well as BBC Media Action, we work with a number of Afghan media partners, including Salam Watandar and ERTV, and have provided production training for key staff at 20 FM stations in more than 15 provinces across the country and helped train more than 2,700 journalists. Our actors have also worked with theater groups in 8 provinces to help them develop their skills.

AEPO strives to ensure that its programs remain relevant to our audience by systematically involving listeners in the process of design and production. A

a number of ‘consultative committees’ meet regularly and provide a platform for ideas and feedback. We also regularly conduct needs assessments in the field pilot new program ideas with audiences and hold regular ‘listening circles’ to assess the impact of our broadcasts. Our research team finds that listeners often try to apply the lessons carried by AEPO’s programs, and this is backed up by fieldwork undertaken in 2013 by external consultants (commissioned by SDC) in Bamiyan where it was found that:

After listening to ‘Health and Life’, a woman identified the illness affecting her pregnant neighbor and persuaded her to go to hospital

A listener convinced his neighbor to allow his daughter to go to school after hearing a program on the subject
A female shopkeeper in the bazaar learned how to improve her business through listening to ‘Gold in the Dust’
A listener mentioned how Abida from ‘New Home New Life’ had helped demonstrate how to meditate in community conflicts, which helped her to resolve a problem between two families in her village.

We also learn important lessons from external evaluations, such as that conducted by SDC in 2013 and included the following observations:

AEPO enjoys a high degree of credibility among its partners.

Based on the ideas and feedback from listeners, AEPO’s programs are relevant to the changing context in the country.
AEPO adopts a highly professional editorial approach.


There is scope to extend the scope of AEPO’s partnerships with additional Afghan media actors. 

AEPO’s publications make a significant contribution to education and are widely used by teachers and students in many contexts.

As part of preparations for AEPO’s 20th anniversary in 2014, our research team traveled to a number of provinces to solicit the views of listeners. During these consultations, security and conflict resolution emerged as two critical issues among the Afghan public, who urged AEPO to continue to address this in our programs. Those we consulted in Kandahar and Bamiyan stressed the need to continue to focus on education, which they felt could contribute to a ‘culture of peace’. Water management, health, and livelihoods were identified as priorities among those we consulted in Khost, Balkh, and Herat.

3. FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF AEPO

As part of the preparation of this Strategic Plan, AEPO staff consulted a wide range of stakeholders, including listeners, our media partners, donors, consultants and members of the Board to help identify an appropriate way forward. What emerged from these discussions was a picture of a highly successful track record of producing quality educational programs and publications and a degree of financial stability due to continuing support from loyal donors.

This process of consultation also highlighted elements of uncertainty that might affect AEPO’s activities in the next 5 years. Persistent insecurity is perhaps the most immediate threat, but political disputes may also affect the ‘space’ for AEPO’s work in the country. While it is impossible to predict what will happen, clearly AEPO needs to continue to have a flexible and realistic approach in how we adapt to changing circumstances and seize opportunities as they arise. Among the key observations from our consultations were:

While the partnership with the BBC continues to provide an effective and valued platform for AEPO’s output, it will be important to identify appropriate opportunities for diversification, including commissions for training, publications, and other outputs.

Within the general thematic areas identified for future programs, AEPO should be bold in addressing issues that might be perceived as contentious, while ensuring continued impartiality and balance. 

The manner in which AEPO consults its listeners is a key strength but should be matched by systematic monitoring of coverage and outcomes of its programs, by location and demographic group.


AEPO’s reach could be extended by additional partnerships with provincial FM stations and possibly streamed content over the internet.
Building on the steps taken to date, AEPO should continue to explore the opportunities presented by new technology, including multi-platform (radio, TV, mobile phones, websites, publications, theater) and multimedia content (audio and video through podcasts, blogs, social media etc)

Continued attention needs to be paid to staff development within AEPO to enable us to maintain standards and foster creativity while providing opportunities for female staff to participate at all levels.

Bearing these recommendations in mind, the challenge facing the AEPO team is to build on our achievements while continuing to respond to the needs of our audiences and adapt to the changing environment in which we operate. In this, we need to maintain the quality of our outputs while exploiting new platforms for educational content that is relevant to the lives of ordinary Afghans. An important part of this will be social media, which provide opportunities for multimedia content. This will require us to both develop our skills and attract new creative talent. In order to achieve this, we intend to continue to explore potential new sources of revenue.

AEPO enjoys loyal support from a range of donors (see above) and has increasingly explored alternative sources of income, where these are compatible with our values and mandate. As a result, the organization is currently in a relatively secure financial position, with nearly 30% of projected funding to March 2020 already secured. We shall continue to identify new sources of funding and income that will enable us to maintain our activities for the period 2015-20.

4. AEPO’S STRATEGIC AIMS 2015-20

We have identified five strategic aims to take AEPO forward over the next 5 years, and have set these out with the respective activities below:

Strategic Aim 1: To sustain AEPO’s activities through an appropriate mix of donor funding and income derived from commissions, training, research, and publications.

This will entail the following key activities:

Maintain a dialogue with existing donors and identify potential new donors.
Actively market AEPO’s services among government, NGOs, media partners, companies etc as a means of securing commissions
Explore the option of establishing ‘AEPO Enterprises’ as a vehicle for more commercial work.

Strategic Aim 2: to continue to produce quality radio programs and publications that are relevant to the lives of Afghans

This will entail the following key activities:

Maintain a positive relationship with key partners, including BBC World Service, Media Action, and provincial FM stations
Ensure continued high editorial standards and participatory systems for program design and monitoring 

Explore opportunities for developing the AEPO websites and linkages with those of BBC and other partners

Strategic Aim 3: To extend the reach of AEPO’s programmes through different platforms and development of multimedia content

This will entail the following key activities:

Ensure the relevance of AEPO outputs to listeners across the country
As necessary, develop new content whose intellectual property will reside with AEPO
Continue to develop the skills of AEPO staff to enable them to work effectively on social media and other platforms, using video, blogs, information spots and short features

Strategic Aim 4: To develop AEPO’s capacity for research

This will entail the following key activities:

Evaluate existing systems for audience feedback and monitoring of coverage/outcomes and make necessary changes to systems in place
Maintain and disseminate data analysis on a disaggregated basis, as feasible

Strategic Aim 5: To continue to develop AEPO’s organizational effectiveness

This will entail the following key activities:

Ensure a positive and professional working environment for AEPO staff
Periodically review AEPO’s organizational structure to ensure that it is fit for purpose
Strengthen linkages between systems of staff appraisal and career development, as appropriate
Re-enliven AEPO Consultative Committees

Encourage contact between staff and members of the Board, as appropriate.