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Part one of two.

I’m writing this in Antigua, West Indies while I’m here as part of my Rotary service project. We are putting computers in schools, as we have for many years, my wife is leading the initial teaching at a new sewing center (our fourth), and most importantly, kicking off a round of teacher training seminars.

I say “most importantly” because training and sustainability are Rotary International’s new mantras. No longer will they fund Global Grants just “giving stuff,” whether the stuff is computers, books, equipment, a well or a water purification system. There has to be a proven plan for the project to sustain itself.

I think too often they have seen “stuff” delivered and after the International partner leaves nobody knows the effectiveness of the stuff. Computers sit unused, books sit in boxes and when a part goes bad a well becomes useless. A business wouldn’t stand for this.

When we started our projects 10 years ago we fell into the above category. We delivered computers and left, hoping they would be used and used correctly. Since then we got smart and realized we needed to have metrics to show the value we’re delivering. Three metrics we were able to use were:

  • Statistics showing the passing level of Antiguan Primary public school students on their entrance exams (to Secondary school) increased by 50% from the first year we worked on our computer labs to the fifth year (a 12% increase in the private schools, which started out at a much higher level).
  • In 2014 third grade students receiving a dictionary increased their proficiency by an average of about 15% from February to June, even with a much tougher second test in June.
  • We’ve tracked the sewing students advancement from beginner to making clothes for their family to selling items.

More on this next week.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make a great excuse.” Thomas Szasz

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