As Soccer Without Borders continues to evolve, we are constantly asking ourselves two major questions: How much of an impact are we making? And how can we improve our program? This is where Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) comes into the picture, and why I got to spend four months in Uganda alongside the incredibly dedicated program staff working to make a difference in the lives of refugees in Kampala.
By keeping track of who our program participants are- which country they are from, what language they speak, how old they are, etc.- and how often they attend the program (monitoring) we can see details of who we are impacting, how often, and how participation changes over time. By inviting feedback on the program from our participants, parents, and staff members we can create avenues for program improvement. Together, these lead us to a place where we can analyze these data together against our goals and comparison groups, and evaluate our impact. On the surface, this may not sound as fun as the direct-service element (coaching, teaching) of working with youth, but for nerds like me, or for organizations like SWB who really want to refine our program and make it the best we possibly can for our participating youth, this type of work is incredibly valuable!
During my M&E fellowship in Uganda, we focused on three specific M&E goals:
Improved monitoring systems: We were able to register over 300 participants in our English and life skills classes as well as our soccer teams, into a new database called SportUp. SportUp allows us to track basic demographics (name, photo, home country, language spoken, age, etc.) as well as program attendance, all via a convenient web program and phone/tablet application instead of Excel sheets and notebooks.
Feedback through youth survey: We conducted interactive surveys with over 100 youth participants in the classroom and on the soccer field to assess the program, inviting input about their school work, English skills, soccer skills, goal setting, connectedness to the program, trust in the SWB staff, and more.
Self-assessment by program staff: We have two main tools to provide a structured way for the local staff to assess their implementation of the SWB program model: the new coach self-assessment called the FAMILY Framework and program rubric. We were able to train the local staff on the new self-assessment and check our progress against our 2016-2017 rubric goals while having a staff pizza party provided by the SWB main office because of our successful SportUp implementation.
All of this data provides a feedback loop for program improvement. If we know participation and feedback trends, staff can adjust their plans and work to better support our participants. Only by doing M&E work can an organization measure its impact and enhance it. As they say, what gets measured gets results! We are looking forward to fully implementing the new FAMILY Framework coach self-assessment and observation tool to continue to improve our coach quality, and incorporating ways to better track results of our English language programming through SportUp, and overcoming some technical and internet limitations with the online system.
On a personal note, it was an incredible opportunity to get to work alongside the local staff in Kampala. They are a group of bright and passionate people from the U.S., Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo who are doing all that they can to better the lives for refugee children and youth in the surrounding communities. I am happy to have been able to help even a tiny amount in enhancing what they do there!