At GlobalGiving we get excited when we see an organization coming up with new attempts to address real problems that the community itself has identified. Generally, GlobalGiving believes that this spontaneous generation of possible solutions is what’s missing in how development generally happens. We get excited when we can observe an organization evolving solutions over time after listening to the people it serves, acting on that feedback, learning from the results, and repeating the process.
In May of 2010, I visited a great organization in Kenya called Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP) which means “Youth Together in Peace” in Swahili. It started as a football club in 2003 and has evolved into an instrument for social change. We originally met VAP through a Nike-sponsored sports for social change network and conference held in Nairobi in 2007. VAP works with youth in the Eastlands area of Nairobi, which can get pretty rough. Eastlands is home to a large community of Somali refugees, and has been a fertile recruiting ground for terrorist groups linked with the Somali Al Shabaab organization. Eastlands is the perfect place for a great organization to make a huge impact on a very vulnerable youth population. VAP uses soccer as a tool to engage youth in programs relating to life skills, HIV/AIDS, and reproductive health with a focus on helping vulnerable girls.
My visit in 2010 was in connection with VAP’s participation in GlobalGiving’s Storytelling Project. We approached them to be a part of our early experimentation, and they were enthusiastic and engaged. I attended a session for coaches getting trained up in collecting short narratives from program participants. In the end VAP collected over 100 stories from girls participating in their program. From those stories VAP learned that sexual violence was an even more prevalent problem than they had imagined and that girls were willing to talk about their experiences. In response, VAP launched a program to enhance girls’ self-esteem – the Miss Mrembo Tournament – a combination soccer tournament, beauty pageant, and educational program involving peer educators and counselors from Nairobi Women’s hospital.
VAP continues to demonstrate its commitment to learning and improvement. I recently became aware of the scorecard VAP created to monitor and evaluate its programs. They worked with an umbrella organization called Grassroots Soccer to establish a monitoring and evaluation framework to capture changes in behavior among the girls participating in their programs. The scorecard is engineered in Salesforce and captures metrics in a way that helps VAP move from counting outputs to capturing outcomes.
VAP continues to evolve its programs based on feedback and community needs. They launched a vocational training program in 2013 to help girls obtain marketable hairdressing and beauty skills and they consistently look for ways to validate their approach. In a recent newsletter to donors VAP described how it is linking up with researchers evaluating the potential of HIV oral self-testing. Yet again, VAP is demonstrating its commitment to experimentation and learning. They are considering including HIV oral self-testing in its annual Kick & Test soccer event and they are willing to work with evaluators to maximize learning and to share results.
Currently VAP works with more than 2,700 participants in its HIV “Skillz” program and 1,200 girls in its “Mrembo” program. They have participated in various funding opportunities with GlobalGiviung, but they are still a small organization with modest funding needs. GlobalGiving’s existing Partner Rewards system ranks them as Leader – one step below the top ranking of Superstar. In GlobalGiving’s new Effectiveness Dashboard, VAP ranks very high in Listening, Acting, and Learning. In early 2015, GlobalGiving will link these two ranking systems in a way that creates more visibility and status for organizations like VAP that demonstrate a commitment to the Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat cycle.
GlobalGiving has helped VAP at various points in its learning journey, but VAP independently seeks out learning opportunities on its own. VAP provides a great example of the organizational behaviors that GlobalGiving believes will ultimately lead to better human outcomes. While we don’t know for sure what kind of lasting change VAP causes in its community, we do know that more and more individuals are being helped with issues that the individuals themselves have identified as problematic, and those efforts link nicely with what development experts believe to be key levers for improving human development. GlobalGiving is placing its bet on organizations like VAP to be the drivers of real change.