The question of impact has long been a concern for all of us within AVSI.
Fundamentally, we need to ask ourselves, what kind of development are we looking for?
At the project level, AVSI sets clear targets and aims to meet and exceed those targets, staying true to our method. But the impact we hope to have goes well beyond the success of an individual project.
Over the longer term, AVSI aims to put into place the conditions that favor the emergence of "subjects". By subjects we mean local actors, individuals & organizations, capable and energized to take seriously the challenges they face and work together towards long-term solutions. Subjects are individuals aware of their infinite dignity and motivated to work towards greater well-being and opportunities for themselves, their families and their community.
Research & Evaluation is one way in which we explore & judge the impact we are having.
The 1st question is how can we measure this change?
Research is an opportunity for us to better understand the reality in which we live & work. Quantitative measures can be powerful tools to inform decisions, but they must be carefully considered alongside qualitative measures otherwise we risk cutting out a part of the picture. Sustainable, long-term change depends on human freedom and relationships, and measuring it requires the flexibility and well-roundedness of human intelligence that strives to take every factor into account.
The 2nd question is what has made this change possible?
Evaluations are increasingly used not only to verify the progress of work done, but many have as their primary goal to find models to scale up or replicate in other contexts. The risk in proposing the inputs or ingredients of a perfect model is that we forget the human factor.
It is not enough to study the technical conditions of a good practice, because every strategy or technique must be put into action, not by robots, but only through the involvement of individual persons. We cannot forget the hard to measure, but decisive conditions that determine the success or failure of a project: the capacity to creatively face reality, the relationships and culture of each person involved, and the free commitment of individuals.
At AVSI, we recognize that evaluation is one of the necessary tools to translate our experience into knowledge and growth, ensuring that the resources entrusted to us, both human and material, can live up to their full potential. Convinced of the transformation we have seen with our own eyes in the families and communities with whom we have worked for over 40 years, we are committed to applying the latest scientific tools to better document and share methods that work.
In the dynamic realities in which we work, we find Monitoring and Evaluation is not a matter of taking ready-made forms and checking off boxes. The purpose of our projects cannot be limited to resolving a specific problem, though this may be easy to measure, but rather is to enable men and women to live out the full stature of a human person. We have observed that this is the result of an educational path,and is documented in by the increasing ability to face reality and to work toward an ideal for their lives.
In conclusion, development is not fundamentally a question of money or techniques or theories, but rather of a human at work with his or her reason and freedom.
In the continued effort to enhance our research methods, we partner with individual researchers, research centers and universities. A few of the institutions with whom we have worked are:
In the US:
- Innovations for Poverty Action
- University of Notre Dame
- Columbia University, Child Protection in Crisis Network
- University of Oregon
Primary Education in Uganda
Evaluation of changes in child well-being and future opportunities for primary students as a result of AVSI's educational programming in Kitgum and Gulu, Uganda, from October 2008 - October 2011 with funding from Fondazione 4 Africa and Fondazione de Agostini.
Primary Education in Burundi
Final project evaluation “Improving the quality of life and development capacity of vulnerable households by strengthening the primary education system” in Kayanza and Ngozi provinces.
Early Childhood & Family Approach to Primary Education in Ecuador
Qualitative & quantitative studies of the AEDI (Acción Educativa Integrada) program in Ecuador,
including indicators for child and family outcomes.