Answer from Geoffrey Nyeko David: The results of a baseline survey enables you to plan accordingly. It informs you of the existing gaps, strong and weak points and helps you to allocate scarce resources to areas that need more emphasis. It usually gives you a starting point.
Answer from Reymond Patrick: An efficient baseline survey will enable to plan a capacity building strategic plan and to identify both all the potential actors who could be integrated in the reinforcement plan and the beneficiaries to target.
Answer from Erik Harvey: Interestingly, we are finding that there is often some confusion about what to include in a baseline survey and what shoudl actually be termed formative research. Formative research is most often done at a higher level covering a broader number of communities across an entire district (e.g.) and is usually design to tell you more about the overall influencing factors that might add or detract from your work, what you can build on or utilise or what you might need to avoid or be wary of. It can also be designed to help you assess what has worked and what hasn't in the past and also what others might be doing in your space, how best to link your work for added value and impact.
The baseline survey, on the other hand, shoudl generally be much more focused to provide you with more detailed status-quo information, which as the other's have stated, helps you to plan in more detail. It should also generally be built of the back of the key performance monitoring framework that you have design for you project, so that you can easily measure your project's performance against these indicators from start to finish. You can, if necessary also use the baseline to help you validate some of the findings from the formative research which may have influenced your project design and tell you how relevant these might be in the specific target communties.
By separating out these two studies allows you to do a formative pieve of research once across a wider area of work and then allows you to keep your baseline much more focused and lighter (therefore quicker) for each community / sub-project.
But to respond directly to your question "how does a baseline strengthen capacities in WASH", I woudl say that this depends very much on how it is managed. You can do a baseline by contracting someone else to design it and do it, but then you learn very little. If you incorporate the implementing staff within the design and baseline study process, they will learn so much more than what the data is just telling them and that knowledge should lead to better project implementation.
Answer from Reymond Patrick: Erik has perfecly defined base line and its usefulness. The BL serves to measure the project progress from T0 to T1 and to quantify and qualify the results at any given time (t+1).
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