I haven’t really talked about what I’m actually doing here in Peru in my prior blog posts, so I thought I would do that this time. The short answer is that I’m here doing evaluation work for the NGO Eagle Condor on their efforts to promote self-reliancethrough classes they teach from a program developed by Interweave Solutions, as well as through giving micro-loans. Since micro-loans still haven’t been given in the areas I’m working in, I’m mostly working based on the actions taken in the classes.
Teaching The Classes
As noted above, the classes are all about helping people become self-reliant or self-sufficient. It focuses on 3 areas:
2. Personal or home life
1. The program promotes greater self-reliance within the community primarily through organized service projects and association with each other in the classes. Each group organizes a service project that they want to do to help strengthen and improve the community in which they live. For example, when I was out in Iquitos, I found out that one of the groups helped paint a local school.
2. The focus on personal and home life mostly involves making sure people don’t neglect anything important in their lives. A popular tool they use is called the “Wheel of Life,” where participants decide on 8 things important to them in their lives, and rate themselves from 1 to 5 on how well they are doing on each. When all 8 points are put on a circle, and when you connect the dots, it makes something like a wheel. The idea is to improve the weak areas to make your wheel more round.
3. Most of the classes focus on some aspect necessary to improve one’s business. The facilitators teach the participants how do budget and keep records of incomes and expenses, marketing, setting prices, forecasting cash flow, deciding on products to sell, improving manufacturing and administrative processes, and creating a business plan.
A few other things come into play as well, such as separating business finances from personal finances, learning the importance of saving money, and of course the micro-loans if it’s beneficial and prudent to receive one.
Observing The Classes
My part in all of this is to attend the classes, observe, and take notes. I note
1. How well the teachers apply the prescribed system of teaching the material
2. How well the participants participate and seem to understand the material
3. Anything else that seems interesting
1. The teachers use a technique that we call FAMA. It stands for “Fact, Association, Meaning, and Action.” The idea is that the teacher presents some sort of “code,” like a picture or a story, and gets the participants to run through the FAMA.
For example, the facilitator might show a picture of a boat and ask them what they see. This is the “fact.” Then, the facilitator will ask some questions about how the boat and the ideas related to the boat connect to our lives (perhaps the boat was in disrepair. Sometimes our businesses are in disrepair.) Then, the participants decide on what that might really mean (“I wouldn’t get into a boat in disrepair, so I shouldn’t expect people to support my business if it’s in the same shape”) and what to do (“I need to repair my business!”)
2. I also take notes on how well the participants seem to understand the material and participate in the class. I find more about their understanding from the quizzes and interviews I’ll describe later, but sometimes you can see exactly what makes something click or prevent something from clicking.
3. In one of my sociology classes, they used this video to teach us that we need to try to pay attention to everything since you never know what might be important:
As such, I take note of things such as the environment, the words that people use, how many people come, and anything else I can find that seems like it maybe might someday possibly become sort of important kinda.
Meeting With Participants
Over the course of the two months I’ll be here in Piura, I’m going to be interviewing (hopefully) all the participants of the program. I’m going to be asking them questions to help gauge their
|Piura is a bit of a desert|
1. There are a few things I want to know concerning their understanding. I’m interested not only in whether or not they understand the content being taught in the classes, but how well they understand the purpose of the classes and the NGO, and how well they understand what they really need, and how well they understand their own vision for the future. Hopefully this information will help Eagle Condor communicate more effectively, and find out more about what the residents actually need to become self-reliant.
2. When it comes to participation, the interview is designed to uncover the influences for and against participation. I’m looking to find out why people come or don’t come, why people answer questions or don’t answer questions, why people invite friends or not, etc.
3. With application, I ask the participants questions relating to different things we hope they’re doing as a result of the class. Are they actually improving their business? Are things different now that they’ve learned a bit more about their own lives? Do they think the tools we give them are important enough to use?
This might be the least enjoyable part of the whole experience. I record each interview, and then have to type out everything that we said in the interview so that I can code everything later. This takes long enough when everyone is speaking English, but I have the joy of doing this all in a second language (in which I have received no formal training beyond my 9 weeks in the Missionary Training Center.) It’s working out well enough, but it takes forever.
|View from the house|
This part of the study is pretty straight forward. Each topic that we teach has a quiz associated with it so that we can see what people are understanding and what they’re still confused about. If lots of people are confused about the same thing, we probably need to teach it differently.
With all of this information we’re gathering, we hope to not simply improve the understating, participation, and application of the principles, but ultimately help them better become self-reliant. With a dash of luck and enough time, Eagle Condor will hopefully be able to see what correlates with self-reliance, and what doesn’t.
For example, maybe everyone will miss a question on one of the quizzes, but people will become self-reliant anyway. Perhaps that item wasn’t at all necessary to aid in someone’s self-reliance and can be ignored. Or maybe there’s a task that everyone that became self-reliant did, and everyone that didn’t become self-reliant failed to do. If that’s the case, Eagle Condor will need to make darn sure that everyone does that task and focus heavily on it.
|The facilitators and I|
All this information may help everyone nail down exactly what “self-reliance” is. “Self-reliance” is almost invariably supported, but hard to define. Eagle Condor uses 5 categories to help triangulate the level of “self-reliance” a person has:
1. Wise management of resources
2. Ability to obtain skills and education
3. Ability to obtain gainful employment
4. Level of preparation for future needs
5. Ability to take care of physical and emotional needs
All of these points make sense, but not all are easy to measure. I could go deeper in to each of the points, but I don’t think it’s necessary for this blog post. The important thing is that, although we have a top level understanding of what this “self-reliance” thing is all about, we don’t have all the details nailed down yet, so there’s plenty of work to do.
|Supervising the Help Intl. painters.|
While I’m down here, I get to do some other things as well. Some volunteers with Help International came and helped us paint an elementary school in the city where we’re working and I helped as well. I’ve also been able to do some of the touristy stuff, such as the things I talked about with Quistocoche. I’ve also been able to attend a government meeting to help coordinate local NGO’s.
|About half of the rambunctious crew|
And of course, no international development trip would be complete without being able to play with crowds of children. All the kids at the elementary school were obsessed with finding out how to say certain things in English, and all of the kids in the picture were obsessed with showing me things, and then climbing all over me for an hour between painting the school and observing one of the classes. Good times!
There’s plenty of adventure ahead as well. Living in a completely different culture for a while is good stuff.