Help us meet our goal of raising $50,000

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning experiences

Heidi and I have learned a tremendous amount over the past few years, specifically in regards to finding solid NGO partners in other countries. We have screened no fewer than four organizations to potentially partner with in Pakistan, and all those partnerships have fallen through for one reason or another, some at the last minute. We have learned that we need a better way of screening candidates, and so we are beginning to network with other US-based nonprofit organizations in an effort to utilize their contacts in other countries.
In an effort to provide you with more details about the direction our organization is taking, I am going to publish some excerpts from a grant proposal I recently sent off.
-Lizzy Scully

Mission, Vision, and Objective of GEI

Mission: The mission of GEI is to expand and support educational opportunities for underserved females in remote and undeveloped regions of the world.

Vision: Girls Education International (GEI) envisions a world where educational opportunities for women and girls are equal to those typically afforded boys and men, and thus provide the foundation for healthier and wealthier societies that reflect their unique cultural differences.

We fulfill our mission by collaborating with and funding local, predominantly female-staffed Non-Governmental Organizations that wish to develop and implement school-building/renovation projects, scholarship programs, or other congruent educational programs. GEI promotes local ownership of programs by the established community to ensure that programs respect existing culture and values, allowing for synergy and sustainability long-term. Currently, programs are focused on the mountainous regions of the world with school-aged girls, but GEI will consider all compelling female-based educational projects consistent with our mission.

Articulated theory for social change

Girls Education International will improve existing efforts at educating underserved girls by utilizing locally or nationally cultivated educational development models and by supporting the female social entrepreneurs who initiated those models. We believe in offering women and girls the chance to develop educational models tailored to their values and cultural needs, and then giving them the funding to implement those models. We believe that by empowering and challenging women with opportunities, we are unleashing the creative potential of 50 percent of the worldwide population.

Additionally, by focusing on models targeting girls’ education, we are perpetuating female empowerment. Give a woman a fish and she will feed her children for a day; teach her how to fish and she will feed and clothe her children, extended family, and community for the rest of her life. As Kofi Annan stated, “There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition and promote health – including helping to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

Program design

Screening candidates: We rely on a network of professional and personal acquaintances when searching for potential NGO partners in the countries in which we desire to work. We look for NGOs that have already partnered with other organizations and that have existing, proven, and successful models. We don’t require that these models be focused exclusively on girls’ education, but rather that the NGOs have illustrated social entrepreneurship in developing and implementing locally-styled programs that promote education, and that they desire to develop and implement female-focused educational models.

Once we establish a rapport with an individual representative of that organization, typically a program or executive director, we rigorously screen their organization. During our screening process we establish: whether or not we share a congruent desire to educate girls; the potential for 100% transparency in regard to fund transactions; and whether we can endorse that organization through in-person examination of their facilities, government issued certifications, and consistent, ongoing dialogue. Additionally, we submit a lengthy list of questions to assess the organization; we communicate with that organization’s existing partners; and we establish personal contact with a representative of that organization. We strive to make personal contact when it is affordable, but often rely on professional and personal acquaintances to make those initial contacts. We provide these acquaintances with specific directions and evaluative questions to bring to the table with our potential partner, and we rely on their personal expertise and opinions.

We then summarize the information that we have gleaned and bring it to our board of directors for final approval. Further questioning via email and/or phone is sometimes necessary.

Developing programs

We follow the lead of our partner organizations and rely on their expertise in program development, but we also completely review the project plans and budget proposals. We evaluate programs together, utilizing the expertise of our board members and research we done by other reputable NGOs, such as USAID, UNICEF, etc. Key issues we want to understand are: what are the primary goals of a project; what plans are in place to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project; and in what ways will the project be evaluated for success.

Tangible results and future evaluative measurements of success

In addition to providing scholarships for two Nepali girls, who maintain good grades and are on track to graduate from high school, we have implemented one year’s worth of a scholarship program for 46 Liberian high school girls and one middle school girl. Short-term measurements of success for that program include: the current 100% retention rate of girls and the fact that all our girls have maintained a C or better average. Further evaluation of the program will require additional years of operation. However, we have long-term measurement strategies in place based on the past evaluative measures of success implemented by our partner, Common Ground Society (CGS).

CGS has supported a total of 5000 children with more than a half-dozen programs, including a scholarship program for 100 girls and an after-school reproductive health care program for 80 of those girls. One hundred percent of those girls in their scholarship program graduated from high school, 10 of the girls went on to college, and one was hired to work as an administrative assistant at CGS. The after-school program was deemed successful because 80-85 percent of the girls who attended used contraceptives compared to 0 percent prior to the program. Future evaluative measure for our joint GEI-CGS program include: 100 percent graduation rate for our girls, 90-100% remain unmarried and childless until after school, and 10-20% get jobs or additional education. Plus, we set a goal of establishing an endowment fund that will allow the program to be self-sustaining.

Far-reaching results of the GEI model

What happens when you empower women with the resources and support to develop models that support girls’ education? We believe we stretch imaginations, help women to realize new possibilities, and inspire them to expand their work.

On a national and global scale, the overwhelming research illustrates that when given the chance to express or empower themselves on a local scale, most women will take that chance and run with it. For example, a 1995 World Bank Study showed that with each additional year of schooling a girl has, her earnings will increase by 15 percent compared to 11 percent for a man, while a 1997 USAID study reported that women who can read, write, and earn money create more social change through organized and collective actions. I believe the GEI model can offer not only simple educational opportunities to individual girls, but it can create a virtuous cycle of ongoing female empowerment.

Financial support

We plan on raising funds for our programs through events, grants, year-end giving letter campaigns, and the cultivation of donors. We will occasionally do one-off projects, such as paying for the construction of schools, which will then be maintained over the long-term by our partner NGOs, local communities, and national governments. However, with regard to our scholarship programs, long-term financing includes ongoing fundraisers; cultivating long-term sponsorships by individuals for specific girls; and raising funds for endowments, the interest from which will sustain scholarship programs.

Over the next two years, our administrative costs will be about 50 percent of our total income, but by year three that will decrease to 30 percent, and then by years four and five administrative costs will be between 10-15 percent of our total income. Years one and two, all of the money we take in will be paid out for administrative costs and our programs, but by year three we plan on establishing the first of many endowment funds, designated per country to ensure the longevity of our scholarship programs. However, donors can request that funds be funneled directly toward a program rather than toward administrative costs, and their request will be honored.

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