Free ebooks 4 and 5 – Rotary foundations and grants

Did you know that apart from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, there are close to 4,000 local Rotary foundations in the United States alone? Two new free ebooks on Rotary foundations and grants are now available in the Rotarian Economist Short Books series.  The first book provides an introduction to Rotary foundations and grants for applicants as well as Rotarians. The second book provides a directory of Rotary foundations in the United States by state and by city within each state. To download your free copy, please go here.

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Free ebook 3: What Does Service Mean in Rotary? Simple Stories of Inspiring Rotarians

The third free ebook in the Rotarian Economist Short Books series has been released. Rotary’s motto is “Service above Self.” What does this mean in practice? The book answers this question by providing examples of the work that Rotarians do. The book also explains Rotary’s “avenues of service.” The hope is that through simple stories of Rotarians at work, readers – including new Rotarians – will better understand what service in Rotary is about, and be inspired for their own volunteer work. To download your free copy, please go here.

Technical note: due to the Smashwords website features, I am listed as first author, but the correct order of the authors is the order provided in the downloadable files.

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Free ebook 2 – Partner, Innovate, Evaluate: Increasing Rotary’s Impact

The second ebook in the Rotarian Economist Short Books Series has been published. Partnerships, innovation, and evaluation can increase the quality, scope, and reach of Rotary’s service work in communities. The book suggests with case studies how this can be done. All books in the series are free and available here in multiple formats.  Please share this link widely with others for them to be able to benefit from this resource. And if you like the books in the series, please consider writing a quick review at Smashwords!

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Rotary International’s New Website and its Story on Literacy

Rotary International launched a much anticipated new website this month. The Rotary Leader January newsletter mentions five reasons to check out the new site, but I must admit that my main reason to look at it right away was the story on literacy because I knew it would feature a great Nepal project.

NTTI

The literacy story talks about the importance of training teachers. It features several great projects, but the one I know well is implemented by NTTI (Nepal Teacher Training Innovations) and PHASE, two great NGOs my club is working with together with the Rotary Club of Kathmandu Mid-Town. The aim of the project, which will hopefully soon benefit from a global grant, is to improve instructions in Nepal’s primary schools.

Below is a brief excerpt of the story as it relates to NTTI. The story is featured on the “supporting education” section of the new website:

“Before taking part in the NTTI program, one teacher relied heavily on memorization, having her students copy words off the blackboard. After training, the teacher made her lesson on animate and inanimate objects more interactive, says Ashley Hager, NTTI’s director. The teacher asked children to point to objects and describe how they were different. She then listed the differences on the board and paired students up to discuss them. As a final exercise, the class went outside to find examples in nature.

One student approached the teacher with a live ant in her hand and inquired, “This is an animate object, yes?” The teacher agreed. The child then squashed the ant and asked, “Is it still an animate object now?” Caught by surprise, the teacher asked the rest of the students what they thought, and a lively conversation followed. 

Other teachers agree that the training taught them the value of interactive teaching. “It’s transformed my way of teaching and given me brilliant ideas to employ the best teaching practices I have learned,” says Goma Khada, who teaches fourth grade at Shrijana Higher Secondary School in Thumpakhar.”

The literacy story is available at the following link (https://www.rotary.org/en/teaching-teachers-key-literacy). If you would like to contribute to the global grant, let me know!

This story is just one of many great stories on the new website. Stories are provided for each area of focus of the Rotary Foundation. Other stories focus on what it means to be a Rotarian or other topics of interest to clubs. So please check the new website out!

And just for the sake of completeness, let me end by mentioning that the five reasons highlighted in the Rotary Leader January newsletter to visit the new website are (1) Better organization; (2) Improved readability; (3) Compelling storytelling (what I just focused on); (4) Prominent calls to action; and (5) Enhanced metrics.

 

Free ebook series: Let me know your ideas!

Next week, as I take time off from work, I will start working on a series of free ebooks for Rotarians and others interested in service work. The ebooks will be released in coming months. If you have ideas or know of projects that I should cover in this new series, please let me know by commenting on this post or sending me an email.

Strengthening Rotary

A first set of ebooks will be about Rotary and ways to strengthen the organization. Let me give three examples.

First, I will provide estimates of the footprint of Rotary, starting with data from the United States. For example, Rotarians know about the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. But they often do not know about the richness of the activities implemented by club foundations and how much Rotary as a whole contributes to “serving humanity”, the theme for this Rotary year. I will provide estimates of our total contribution – which is large. My hope is that these estimates can then be used to better tell our story.

Second, I will advocate for the need to invest more in partnerships, innovation, and evaluation in Rotary. I will argue for such investments, and share examples of great projects that have achieved impact in each of the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation as well as polio through partnerships, innovation, and evaluation.

Third, I will share experiences of successful Rotary clubs, starting with my own and how we succeeded in doubling our membership in six months since July thanks in part to changes adopted at the beginning of the Rotary year. I will share lessons learned that I hope will be useful to other clubs.

Project Design in Areas of Focus

In addition, ahead of the Atlanta Rotary International convention, I will prepare a series of short ebooks providing basic facts as well as good practice advise and great project stories about our areas of focus for service work (fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and promoting peace).

The hope is that these ebooks will help Rotary clubs and districts as well as other organizations choose and prepare great projects by building on the experience accumulated not only by Rotary (including Rotarian Action Groups) but also by other organizations.

Let Me Know Your Ideas

If you know of specific projects that I should cover in this new series of free ebooks, or more broadly of successful initiatives taken by clubs or districts that I should be aware of, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

You can do so by sharing a comment on this post or by contacting me by email if you prefer (through the Contact Me page of this blog).

Thanks!

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.

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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.