Update on ARI program review
I have been fortunate to be able to work with ARI since the beginning of 2013 on a program evaluation. and we have had the collaborative support of the Fetzer Institute for this 1.5 year review of a rural leaders training program that has been going on for 40 years!
I have just completed a year long process of interviews, surveys and material review. The core goals was see the impact of the training program on graduates but we focused on many questions relevant to the development of ARI and to the goals of Fetzer.
Interviews and discussions were on the following themes: participant motivation, leanrings, how the training impacted thinking and behaviours, learnigns which could be used upon return, and graduate stories and how the training program’s values promote greater tolerance. This was also a chance to get feedback on the curriculum, recruitment and selection, organizational systems and to update contact information.
We developed a core of questions on these themes for each group: participants, graduates, volunteers and staff. The initial interviews in April 2013 were integral as we aimed to find out more about each staff and participants relationship to and perception of the organization, training and expectations. Such initial visits and interviews in Spring 2013 were also aimed at developing rapport and trust so that subsequent interviews and contact would yield deeper and more meaningful results.
The target number was for feedback was set at 100 grads and 100 participants, with at least 25 being in depth. After one year the totals are more than 120 participants data sources, and more than 135 unique graduates interviews (110) and surveys (68) from and plus at least 10 staff and former staff members from persons at different levels of the organization
Through my trips to Sri Lanka in January and the Philippines in April 2014, I was able to develop a deeper, richer understanding of the value of the ARI training program. Gettin
g the stories directly from the graduates as well as seeing where and how they work was instrumental in connecting many of these themes which arose in the graduate interviews completed in Sept at the time of the 40th anniversary celebration, the feedback given by email and the discussion had with graduates on the phone in Fall 2013.
April 3-17 I traveled through the Philippines starting the center then heading north for the ARUGa meeting finishing my visits in Mindanao. I am very fortunate to have been welcomed so warmly by graduates in the Philippines where I immediately felt at home and was taken to their work places be they farms, churches, NGOs or educational groups. Being there for the graduate association meeting also allowed me to not only meet many people at once, do many interviews but also to see the how the graduate association functions and understand their importance. Such networks show that not only do graduates support each others work but that they also continue to learn from each other and enhance impact the impact of their work at the local community level and more broadly at regional or national levels. We spent one day with graduates getting information about their works challenges and sharing resources and then the following day visiting a number of sites. The GA concluded with a short session planning the next meeting.
Now is the difficult work begin – currently I am groups the data with hopes that through the summer I can produce reports – both internal and external for ARI. On July 1, I will give an overview report to ARI staff and in Sept give a more public report. Graduates will have access to the public report once that is ready. At the same time we are looking into several outside opportunities to not only share the information from this assessment but to broaden the reach of ARI by showcasing the learnings and impacts of the ARI graduates.