READ (Rural Education and Development) Global brings together education, enterprise, and community development to create lasting social change in rural communities in Nepal, India, and Bhutan by building Community Library and Resource Centers (READ Centers) and seeding community-run enterprises to ensure long-term sustainability and success of the centers.
The Need and Impetus for the Project
READ staff witnessed substantial changes in individual communities and community members because of the READ Centers. However, READ had not ever had the means to systematically demonstrate those positive outcomes; they had no evaluation framework. In 2012, READ engaged LFA to develop a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system for READ Global and to develop their internal staff capacity to implement ongoing M&E efforts. Our ultimate goal with the M&E system for READ was to:
Provide internal feedback loops about how to improve the READ model to benefit community members and how to successfully replicate the model; and
Equip READ to demonstrate the measurable impact that READ Centers are having in their communities.
To launch into our partnership with READ, the LFA team met READ staff in Nepal at their annual gathering. LFA met staff from all three countries in person, heard staff share in their own words the changes they see in READ communities, and captured ideas for the data-driven story they wanted to tell with an M&E system. Following that gathering, LFA visited a sample of READ Centers in Nepal and India to see READ Centers in action and to learn more about the READ Centers' impact for community members.
Based on the information we gathered during the site visits and meetings with staff, LFA developed an organizational theory of change, three country-specific logic models, a comprehensive evaluation plan, data collection instruments, a data system, and an evaluation implementation manual. In addition to evaluation planning, LFA: provided technical assistance to field test the evaluation; conducted analysis of the data; produced an evaluation report; facilitated READ staff’s reflection on the results; and refined READ’s M&E system to incorporate everything the LFA team – and READ – learned in the process..
The cross-cultural, trans-national nature of the work meant that LFA intentionally made every process as collaborative, interactive, and participatory as possible. Our emphasis on inclusive collaboration greatly increased buy-in and understanding at every staff level across the three country offices, and provided ample opportunities for us to hear feedback and input from staff to ensure cultural and organizational relevance of everything we developed.
The Results: Learning for Action
As a result of this partnership, READ has developed skills and frameworks for monitoring and evaluating their outcomes. They can show their successes to funders and other relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, READ can:
- Collect outcomes data;
- Reflect on the outcomes they achieve in terms of their organizational impact goals;
- More clearly communicate about their work and outcomes to tell the story of impact across many sites, diverse populations, and countries.
In 2013, READ Global won the $100,000 Lipman Family Prize of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Reflecting on the prize, READ's Executive Director, Tina Sciabica, exclaimed “Without our awesome theory of change and evaluation plan, this probably would not have happened!”