November is Foundation Month: Rapid Update on the Rotary Foundation

Every year, Rotary International publishes an annual report for the organization as well as the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International (TRF). As this is Foundation month in Rotary, it may be useful to provide basic statistics on TRF to underscore the good work done by the Foundation around the world and encourage Rotarians to donate.

In the US, Charity Navigator provides ratings for charities. Ratings are available for financial performance, accountability and transparency, and a combination of accountability and transparency. Charities can get one to four stars overall. TRF has a rating of 97 out of a maximum of 100 for financial performance, and a perfect score of 100 on accountability and transparency, which yields a four stars rating overall (the top rating).

In 2014-15, according to its latest annual report, TRF received contributions worth $269 million, a level similar (after inflation) to the contributions received in 2012-13 ($260 million). These contributions include funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for polio eradication. While in the previous year investment gains were positive and large at $108 million, in 2014-15 there was a small investment loss of $5 million. This meant that after expenditures, there was no net contribution to assets. TRF ended the year with assets just under one billion dollars, as was the case the previous year.

Expenditures for 2014-15 were at $266 million. Of this amount, $224 million was provided for program awards (the rest of the budget is for program operations, fund development, and general administration). The program awards included funding for polio eradication whereby Rotary raised $35 million per year and benefited from a 2×1 match from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation worth $70 million, bringing the total contributions to polio to $105 million. The second largest expenditure was for global grants ($69 million). Funding for district grants was at $25 million.

In terms of areas of focus for global grants, the top category for awards were water and sanitation, as well as disease prevention and treatment (each awarded $20 million), followed by economic and community development ($11 million), basic education and literacy ($8 million), maternal and child health ($6 million), and finally peace and conflict prevention and resolution ($4 million). This last amount for global grants in the category of peace and conflict prevention and resolution does not include the allocation for the Rotary Peace Fellows program and associated Peace Centers.

Overall, it is fair to say that TRF is a highly respected foundation with a unique model for fundraising and the implementation of projects in partnerships with local clubs (through global grants) and districts (through district grants). The annual report of Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation is available here.

I encourage readers of this blog to contribute to the Foundation so that next year can again be a great year in terms of TRF’s reach and positive impact (for readers based in the United States, contributions are tax deductible).

Growing the Membership and Serving the Community: Example of a Strategic Plan for a Rotary Club

On July 1, at the start of each new Rotary year, new club Presidents elected by the membership of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs worldwide take on the responsibility to lead their club for a year.  New elected leaders are also in place, again for a year, at the level of Rotary Districts and even Rotary International.

Rotary has long called on clubs and districts to adopt strategic plans. This is good practice for any organization, but especially so for an organization with new leaders every year. It is not clear exactly how many clubs adopt such plans, given that many clubs are small and may not feel the need to put a strategy plan down on paper. Yet strategic plans can be helpful, especially when clubs or districts try new innovative approaches to strengthening their membership and achieving a larger impact on their community.

Starting this year, my club – the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, has adopted a number of important and hopefully innovative changes in the way it will function. The changes range from how many times the club will meet each month to the type of service work it will engage in, and how it will aim to strengthen its membership.

As this may be useful for other clubs, I thought I should share on this blog a strategic note that describes these changes and what the club hopes to achieve in the coming year.  Maybe the note can help other clubs think about their own options.

Please do not hesitate to share feedback on the strategic note of my club available here. You can do so by commenting/leaving a reply to this blog post. Over the year I will report occasionally through the blog on the progress (or lack thereof!) made towards our objectives for the 2016-17 Rotary year.

 

Polio Immunization in Yemen

A few months ago, I shared news through this blog about the approval of a new World Bank project for routine immunizations in Pakistan which included a component on polio.  Rotarian friends mentioned to me at the time that my blog post did not mention Rotary. The reason was that the project included partnerships with organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but not Rotary International. This was because the project did not focus solely on polio even though it included a component about polio, and Rotary (legitimately) targets its limited financial resources to projects focusing on polio only.  Beyond Pakistan, quite a bit is being done in developing countries on polio through routine immunizations. As Rotarians we should be aware of this.

Yemen 2016-Jul-6-feature-cover
Cover photo: Ashwak Althabibi holding her eight-month-old son Najran, who was vaccinated as part of the campaign. Photo credit: UNICEF.

Yesterday I came across a story about another World Bank project that included a polio component in Yemen.  As this may be of interest to some Rotarians, let me share this hopeful story below, which includes links to the project appraisal document (for those who like details, this document explains how the project works). A key message from the story is that by partnering with UNICEF and WHO, the World Bank was able to maintain disbursements for this project despite the conflict situation in the country.  As a result, the project has provided critical support for the national polio campaign which has managed to vaccinate 1.5 million Yemeni children despite the conflict.

 

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“This is so critical to us. We cannot afford to lose another child!” With these words, Ashwak Althabibi, a 36-year-old mother of six children, shared the story of losing her daughter Nora last year.

“We couldn’t get her to the hospital soon enough, and by the time we found a transportation and reached the hospital, Nora was gone,” Althabibi added with tearful eyes. She composed herself to say “I just want to thank the vaccination team for their perseverance. They come on a regular basis and vaccinate all my children. It’s a great consolation for us to feel such care.”

“No transportation can get there and it is the team’s responsibility to reach this population and to make sure all their children get vaccinated during this hard time,” commented Hana Ali Nagi, a 19-year-old health volunteer in the vaccination campaign.

Since the start of the current conflict, Yemen suffered massive damage to infrastructure, such as hospitals and clinics, and the interruption of medical supplies. Many foreign health personnel have left, and even the most basic needs for a healthy existence—access to water, sanitation, and food—have become, for most Yemenis, a daunting, daily task.

Gone too are the days when the victims of war were mostly soldiers: the Yemeni conflict has been unfair to women and children, which means the most vulnerable Yemenis are bearing the brunt of the conflict.

Thousands of Yemeni children have been killed and injured in the war, and hundreds of thousands put at more risk of death from disease or malnutrition. The UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 320,000 children now face severe malnutrition, while 2.2 million need humanitarian aid urgently to prevent their nutritional status from deteriorating.

The last two decades have been a prolonged period of political instability and economic fragility in Yemen, a country with both limited natural resources and an underdeveloped institutional capacity for project implementation.

But one lesson from previous World Bank Group experience in the health sector is that government ownership, simple project design, and donor coordination should come top of the list of the ways to make things work.

Yemen’s Health and Population Project (HPP) has a simple, evidence-based outreach delivery model for health services in coordination with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), in order to procure some of the essential medications and medical supplies needed for the outreach campaigns.

This has enabled the Bank to continue its support to the project, when the war escalated and the Bank’s whole portfolio in Yemen was suspended, through channeling grants from the International Development Association (IDA – the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries) directly to UNICEF and WHO to deliver vaccinations and basic health services such as nutrition and reproductive health to children and women, respectively.

Since the project’s activities resumed in January 2016, around 1.5 million Yemeni children under five years old were reached by the national polio campaigns supported by the project, which represents about 30 percent of the whole target population nationwide.

“Conflict can have devastating, multi-generational impacts, but by leveraging our partnerships in Yemen we are able to continue investing in children’s health, which is a vital investment in the country’s future,” said Asad Alam, World Bank country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.

The outreach model aims to reach children in the places where they are living, often in remote areas that are hard to get to. It will continue to operate like this until the foundations of the country’s public health system are back in place. Simple, ready-to-go interventions are what Yemenis want to see as a practical response to their desperate need for basic health care. Health workers use different ways to deliver those services in such remote areas where camels, donkeys, or mountain climbing are usual means of transportation.

More outreach rounds for basic health services are planned, although the security situation prevents access to children in some areas. But overall, because of the problems of damaged infrastructure, fuel shortages, displacement and increased poverty, the simple outreach model of delivering basic health services is best suited to Yemen’s present situation. A door-to-door health round gives children the chance of getting vaccinated at home, with health professionals and volunteers spreading out across the country, mobilizing communities and vaccinating children.

Hopefully, soon peace will mark a new chapter, both in rebuilding Yemen and its health system, and improving the lives of all Yemenis and particularly its future, the children.

Thanks go to UNICEF for sharing real stories and photos from the field.

This story is reproduced from the World Bank website.

 

 

Evaluation is essential to assess what works and share stronger stories

Readers of this blog know that I have emphasized for some time the need to strengthen a culture of evaluation in Rotary. Evaluations should be undertaken not only for our service projects, but also to assess how our clubs meet, work, and grow – or wither away. This post is about a recent evaluation of an education project supported by my club, and how the evaluation is proving to be useful not only for the local nonprofit we worked with, but also for our club and more generally for practitioners and policy makers working in the field of education.

OWED celebration
Photo of OWEd scholarship winners with Brian Pick, Chief of Teaching and Learning for the District of Columbia Public Schools, and Dave Paris, member of the Board of OWEd.

For several years my club has supported One World Education (OWEd), a great nonprofit based in Washington, DC. OWEd runs the largest argumentative writing program in public and charter schools in the city. The nonprofit reached 5,800 middle and high school students this past school year. The aim of the program, which runs for 4-5 weeks in the schools, is to improve the research, writing, and presentation skills of the students, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds and do not do very well in school.

In previous years, our support to OWEd consisted in providing a bit of funding and volunteering at some of their events. This year, we provided college scholarships for some of the high school students (seniors) who participated in the program and worked especially hard. But we also did more. Together with a team at American University, we designed an evaluation of the program to better measure its impact. For more than 550 students, teachers collected essays written in class before and after the program. The essays were graded by professors and instructors in the Department of Literature at American University. This enabled us to assess whether the program made a difference in the writing skills of middle and high school students.

The evaluation demonstrated that the program has a positive impact. The program generates statistically significant gains in writing quality, especially for students who performed worst on the initial pre-program assignment.  The positive impact of the program was confirmed through data on the perceptions of teachers and students about the program. Two summary briefs about those evaluation results have been written and are now available for public schools and for charter schools separately.

It is clear that this type of evaluation is beneficial for the nonprofits whose programs are evaluated, as the evaluations enable the nonprofits to measure their impact, and take corrective action when needed.  The evaluations are also beneficial for our club in reassuring members that we are investing in worthwhile initiatives.

But there is more. Many others are interested in such evaluations and may learn from them, possibly generating larger impacts beyond the specific programs being evaluated. And these evaluations provide for great stories to be featured in local newspapers or magazines as well as social media, giving more visibility not only to the nonprofits and programs being evaluated, but also to the Rotary clubs that supported those evaluations.

This is what we are focusing on now – making sure that the positive results obtained by OWEd through its program are better known in Washington, DC, and beyond. We are writing short articles that document those results, and some of the stories of the students who benefited from the program.  We have secured already two placements for stories in the local media and we hope to write additional articles for national publications about the results of the evaluation. In addition, we will also prepare technical papers for academic journals. It remains to be seen whether we will be successful, but we now have a stronger story to tell thanks to the evaluation.

Finally, as mentioned, the evaluation has been summarized in two easy-to-read briefs. The two briefs, together with briefs about the work of other nonprofits operating in the field of education and skills for youth in the city, will be included in a small brief series on innovations in education in Washington, DC to be published by the World Bank. We hope that this simple brief series will help attract attention to the nonprofits doing great work in the city, while also helping practitioners and policy makers learn from the experience of successful programs.

In summary, evaluation is essential not only to help improve service projects, whether implemented by Rotary clubs or nonprofits, but also to tell stronger stories about ways to improve the lives of the less fortunate. Investing more in evaluation seems to be a win-win for nonprofits as well as service clubs.  And for Rotary as a whole, as I mentioned it in a previous series of posts on this blog, focusing more on partnerships, innovation, and evaluation seems key to achieve larger impacts.

Providing Education for Girls and Employment Opportunities for Women: Deepa Willingham at the World Bank

If you want to provide more opportunities to girls, you shouldn’t only provide them with an education – you also need to change perceptions of gender roles so that, when they grow up, girls can (among other things) fully contribute to the household’s livelihood. To achieve this, combining education with interventions for entrepreneurship and employment is the right way to go.  This messages emerges not only from impact evaluations, but also from experiences on the ground and case studies of non-governmental organizations.

PACE home-banner
PACE Universal Website Photo – Program Participants

In celebration of International Women’s DayDeepa Willingham, a Rotarian and the founder of a program called Promise of Assurance to Children Everywhere or PACE, participated in a World Bank event on March 8 about inspiring women who made a difference in the world through innovative programs in the areas of education and health.

PACE is educating girls ages three to twenty-three in a village in West Bengal, India. The school started and remains small, with a total of about 350 girls enrolled since 2003. But retention rates are at 90 percent and almost 100 girls have now completed primary school. The schools currently admits 25 students each year, well below the demand as the school receives 100 applications each year.  Admission is need-based in order to give priority to the most disadvantaged families.

What I find especially interesting is the fact that, based on community feedback, PACE has started to help women in the village find decent work through various initiatives. To help expand employment opportunities in the village, PACE is providing literacy and vocational training courses for women, many of whom go on to craft jewelry products sold locally and in the US thanks to a micro-loan.

Additional income generating activities include planting 10,000 fruit bearing trees and providing cycle-vans. Recently, an organic garden was initiated on the school’s grounds as a training facility for local farmers.  PACE has also been actively upgrading water and sanitation facilities by installing 35 tube wells and 400 sanitation units. Without safe water at home, deworming children in the school did not work as well.

Deepa explained to me that when the project started, family incomes in the village were extremely low. There are signs that this has changed for the families that have benefited from the NGO’s programs, with many families making three to four times more than what they used to  bring in (according to the families’ applications for their children to enroll in the school).

The attitudes of fathers towards their daughters have changed, as measured for example by their presence during the school’s cultural activities. Also, in the past many newborn girls in the village did not get birth certificates. This is changing simply because an official birth certificate is required for admission in the school.

Is the project cost effective? The cost for the package of services provided to girls is $375 and paid mostly through grants and other resources raised by the NGO. This package of services includes not only schooling (following a board approved curriculum), two meals per day, school supplies and uniforms, access to health care as needed, and after school enrichment programs in music, art, theater, yoga and life-skills training.

How does this compare to public schools? This is not an easy question to answer, because of complex funding by federal, state, and municipal governments for basic services as well as complementary programs (such as school meals for example). Estimates from various studies can be found through a rapid search on the web. It seems that overall PACE’s programs may be more costly than a typical public school, and also more costly than the programs implemented by low cost private schools. But the range of services provided by PACE is clearly broader, and quality is likely to be (much) higher.

As for PACE’s services for women, their cost is estimated at $175 per year. This includes the cost of the adult literacy program for reading, writing in Bengali, and accounting, as well as the vocational training program for jewelry making and tailoring.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, at least two important lessons emerge from PACE. The first lesson is that we can learn from the experience of NGOs like PACE on how to combine multiple interventions – in education, but also in vocational training and basic health, in order to make a larger impact in the life of girls by changing attitudes towards gender roles. The second, and most important lesson is that beyond the important role of the state that we often emphasize in development work, committed individuals such as Deepa can truly make a difference in the life of girls and women.

A recording of the event at the World Bank in celebration of International Women’s Day will soon be available here in case you could not watch it online on March 8.

This post is adapted with minor changes from a post published on March 8 on the World Bank’s Education for Global Development blog.

Rotary’s Family Health Days Featured at the World Bank

Today, in celebration of International Women’s Day, Marion Bunch, the founder of Family Health Days, participated in a well-attended event at the World Bank about inspiring women who made a difference in the world through innovative programs in the areas of education and health. The event was streamed online through World Bank Live, and a recording will soon be available if you missed it. What are family health days? Do these days make sense from a policy point of view? And who is Marion Bunch? This blog post answers these three questions.

Family Health days

What are family health days?

Imagine hundreds of thousands of families and individuals getting free health care for two or three days. Family Health Days makes this feasible. Individuals and families can be tested for HIV/AIDs as well as receive counseling. Testing and/or screening for tuberculosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions such as cervical and breast cancer is provided. Children receive immunizations as well as Vitamin A supplements. Some sites also include dental clinic and hygiene education as well as eye examinations. Health counseling is also provided.

The program was launched in 2011 and is now active in a half dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The program is led by Rotary in partnership with the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the U.S. Mission – including the Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the health service delivery expertise of their implementing partners – and Ministries of Health that provide services and supplies at the sites. Media partners promote the days in each of the countries. Thousands of volunteers in each country, including many Rotarians, help in various ways.

Do family or child health days make sense from a policy point of view?

Intrigued by the concept of family health days, I conducted a rapid search of the literature and found that for purposes such as screening for illnesses and child immunization, holding such days appears to make a lot of sense. This type of programs appear to be beneficial and cost effective if implemented well.

For example, Fiedler and Chuko looked at the reach and cost of child health days in Ethiopia in 2008. They found that the program reached more than 10 million children at an average cost of half a dollar per child (one dollar when including measles). This made the program cost-effective, with potential additional benefits to be reaped through economies of scope in increasing coverage at delivery sites.

Palmer and others note in a 2010 article that child health days are becoming increasingly popular, implemented in more than 50 countries at the time of the study. They conclude that the days are helping countries achieve high and equitable coverage of essential health and nutrition services. Child health days were also recognized as beneficial in a 2013 World Health Organization report on essential nutrition actions for improving maternal, newborn, infant, and young child health and nutrition.

Improvements could be made, however. In a 2012 review of experiences integrating the delivery of maternal and child health services with childhood immunization programs, Wallace, Ryman, and Dietz emphasize the importance of proper planning and awareness when implementing these interventions, among other actions to reduce the risks of logistical difficulties, time-intensive interventions ill-suited for campaign delivery, concerns about harming existing services, and overlap of target age groups with other service delivery mechanisms. The review also revealed gaps in information about costs and impacts.

On costs, a 2014 paper by Fiedler and Semakula suggests that part of the reason why costs may appear so low in some countries (US$0.22 per child in their analysis for Uganda) is because of underpayment for Ministry of Health staff and volunteer allowances. Still, the authors find that child health days are successful in saving lives, making them highly cost-effective. Vijayaraghavan and others in a case study for Somalia also find child health days to be cost-effective in addressing leading causes of child mortality in a conflict settings. They rate child health days as one of health sector’s best buys in sub-Saharan Africa.

Who is Marion Bunch?

What is also interesting – especially as we celebrate International Women’s Day and the power of women to make a difference in the life of the less fortunate, is the personal story of Marion Bunch. Marion is the Chief Executive Officer of the Rotarian Action Group Rotarians for Family Health & AIDS Prevention. She has received numerous awards on behalf of her work for AIDS. But first and foremost, she simply considers herself a mother who helps in representing the human face of AIDS. She started her work after losing her son to the disease in 1994. As she explained it in an interview. “I never thought I’d do anything about it until one day, three years after his death, I felt a tap on the shoulder, and a voice in my ear said, ‘Mom, get up and get going; you haven’t done anything, and it’s been three years.’” Since then, the reach of Family Health days has expanded every year, in close partnership with Ministries of Health in the countries where the program is running. Marion’s story has been told in a documentary film that won two 2015 Telly Awards.

What can be learned from Marion’s project?

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, at least two important lessons emerge her project. The first lesson is that we can expand access to health care for children and families through Child and Family health Days, and we should invest in the expansion of these programs. But the second and most important lesson is that beyond the important role of the state that we often emphasize in development work, committed individuals can truly make a difference in the life of the less fortunate. The theme of the event at the World Bank was “Inspiring Women of Action”. There is no doubt that Marion is such a woman.

If you were not able to watch the event live, a recording will soon be made available here.

This post is adapted from a post published today on the World Bank’s Investing in Health blog.

Evaluation of Rotary’s 2016 World Peace Conference

Promoting peace is one of six areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation. In January 2016 Rotary International held a “World Peace Conference” in Ontario, California. This post summarizes the main results of an evaluation of the conference from the point of view of participants (a paper with more detailed results is available here). The conference appears to have been successful, in terms of both the satisfaction of participants and the promotion of work on peace and conflict prevention/resolution in Rotary.

Peace conference

The World Peace Conference was one of five flagship conferences organized by Rotary in 2015-16. The other conferences are on disease prevention and treatment in Cannes, economic development in Cape Town, literacy and WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) in schools in Kolkata, and WASH in schools near Manila.

The evaluation is based on a survey administered shortly after the conference. A single email was sent to participants to invite them to provide feedback on the conference. The web link was kept open for a week. Some 211 participants provide feedback. Nine in ten participants at the conference were members of the Rotary family, and most were Rotarians as opposed to Rotaractors and Interactors. The quality of the conference tracks and plenary sessions was deemed high. The conference was considered better than previous Rotary conference attended by participants.

Most respondents rated the various aspects of the conference highly. Slightly lower marks were however reported for the quality of the food, the cost of the conference (often an issue for district conferences as well), publicity prior to the conference, and entertainment.

Open ended questions were asked about what participants liked best and least. The quality of speakers came up as the best feature of the conference, with especially high marks for Fr. Boyle, Dr. Wollschlaeger, and Claes Nobel. The possibility for participants to choose among many different tracks and sessions was also mentioned.

As to areas for improvement, a few plenary speakers were rated poorly, as is often the case with multiple plenaries. The House of Friendship did not get high marks. Some thought that the conference was too packed. A few respondents suggested that the Peace concert was too long, and that the quality of the food could have been higher. Technical difficulties, such as a late start for some sessions, were also mentioned.

Questions were also asked about the types of speakers and sessions that participants would like to see more of, or less of in future conferences. Participants would like to see more sessions on the specific topic of the conference, whether this relates to information and debates on peace/conflict in general, information and debates on Rotary’s role in peace/conflict, or sessions on successful Rotary projects. In terms of the types of speakers to invite, there is a desire in such conferences to have more academic/research speakers, motivational speakers, and government/public sector speakers especially at the international level.

Finally, questions were asked about whether participants are engaged in peace related work currently and whether attending the conference is likely to lead them to be more engaged in such work in the future. About half of participants stated being engaged in Rotary or other volunteer work related to peace, and for one in five peace or conflict prevention/resolution are topics on which they are engaged at work and in a volunteer capacity. For a third of participants, peace/conflict work is not something they are currently working on.

Almost one in two participants stated that due in part to the conference they would be likely to be working much more on those topics in the future, and for a third, they would be likely to work a little more on those issues. Many participants are also considering in part thanks to the conference implementing Rotary peace projects or incorporating peace in their Rotary work in the future. A third stated they would definitely do so. Finally about two thirds of participants did not donate to Rotary in the past for peace related work, but half would now consider doing so, some definitely.

Responses suggest however that some of the projects participants would like to work on may not be specifically focused on peace or conflict as traditionally defined (the approach at the conference in terms of what constitutes peace/conflict related work was also fairly broad). It may also be the case that after a conference enthusiasm is high to be active in the area, while the ability to actually do so in the future may be more limited.

Still, overall the conference seems to have had a positive impact on the desire of participants to be more engaged in peace and conflict related work in the future.

To access the paper with the more detailed results of the evaluation, please click here.