Institute for International Cooperation and Development

IICD Michigan was incorporated in 1997 as a not-for-profit organization in the state of Michigan. IICD Michigan is an independent research non-profit. The Internal Revenue Service has determined that IICD Michigan is an organization as described in the revenue code 501(c) 3. This means that IICD is exempt from federal taxation of its activities and that donors can deduct donations to IICD from the income declared in their tax return. The organization will not discriminate by race, ethnicity, national origins, religious belief, gender or orientation.

        

 

 

About IICD

IICD Michigan

 

 

Introduction

 

         Institute for International Cooperation and Development (IICD) is an organization that as one of its activities prepares mostly young people to work as development instructors in overseas development projects in poor nations in Africa. The mission of IICD is to inspire and empower ordinary people to take action against world wide poverty and to cultivate social change toward a sustainable future. IICD does so through the Development Instructor Program. In order to strengthen the program and to develop solutions to global issues, IICD carries out research in relation to and integrated into the Development Instructor Program.

         The educational development research of IICD is carried out as an ongoing action research into the training of the development instructors. Additional action research is conducted so as to evaluate the results and effects of the development instructors, upon the development process, with the aim of improving: (1) the recruitment, (2) the elements of the training, (3) the layout of the overseas development work, and (4) the development education carried out by IICD for the enlightenment of the general public on the issues facing the poorer nations of the world.

         Whereas theoretical knowledge will continuously be gathered, analyzed and published, the driving force for the participants is the desire to do good and be part of confronting the global development issues. In that sense the action research is not an academic ivory tower exercise but a very realhere and nowaction for the good of their fellow human beings and themselves.

         The research approach of IICD can be best described under the broad category of Action Research. IICD has practiced indirect action research since its first program started in 1999. In 2007, we initiated with a direct research project. Action research is a scientific work method whereby persons and groups can evaluate their own practice and improve it continuously. This method has become an important tool in the training of development instructors at IICD. We are using this method in a systematic way that includes data collection, analysis, conclusions and improvements in an ongoing process of hypothesis formulation and verification/falsification. As the development instructors are active participants in the research into their own development, actions and the effects of their actions, the research at IICD can be defined as Participatory Action Research (PAR).

 

PAR in IICD

 

         At IICD, the research is ongoing through the entire 18-month program. The action research methodology chosen includes a significant element of participant observation, which is the classical method in anthropological science, as well as the more hard fact sociological questionnaire based research methodology measuring attitudes and actions based on the subjective statements of individuals directly or indirectly involved in the social interactions and the social system under study. 

         Each individual will fill out a questionnaire at specific times in each period of the training, the service period and the conclusion of the program. The questionnaires are used to light up the reflective cycle. From the data collected and the constant evaluation of the development of the participants and their teams, we verify or falsify the hypothesis stated for the research.

 

Findings during 2014

 

         The basic hypothesis under study in 2014, as in previous years: it is possible, by a training program that includes extensive international and national practice to transform the participant, in essence making him a better and more capable person while at the same time improving the world we live in.

         Data was gathered from the 60 participants who started the 18-Development Instructor program during 2013-2014. Using standardized questionnaires given five times with 3-month intervals from the starting date. This procedure is in line with the data collection procedures presented in the document Educational Development Research Concept of IICD in June 2007 (see attachment 1 about the data collection and reliability and validity of data).

 

 

Data presentation and conclusions

 

Data set 1: Start of program. Number of participants who started the program education background, sex, and their main motivation for participation for each of the years 2013 and 2014, and absolute and relative totals for the years:

 

2013

2014

2013-14

%

Educational background:

Bachelor degree

23

17

40

67%

High school degree

14

6

20

33%

Sex:

Female

19

13

32

53%

Male

18

10

28

47%

Main Motivation:

Personal experience

19 (51%)

12 (52%)

31

52%

Do good and help others

18 (49%)

11 (48%)

29

48%

TOTAL

37

23

60

100%

        

         Conclusion on data set 1: 60 participants joined the program, 28 (47%) completed or are currently in the program, while 32 (53%) discontinued.

         Seven out of ten participants who started the program had a bachelor or higher degree. There were more females starting the program. One out of two joined the program to do good and help others. Of the 32 who discontinued with their program, 53% mentioned that doing good and helping others was their motivation to come to IICD. In this case motivation does not anticipate finalizing the program. 

 

Data set 2: After 3 and after 6 months. Average participant personal capacity development ratings for each of the 12 capacity dimensions after 3 months and after 6 months of training for 2013-14:

Skills Parameters

Rating after 3 months

Rating after 6 months

Change in rating +/-

1

Ability to plan

3.6

4.8

1.2

2

Ability to work efficiently

4.4

5.1

0.7

3

Ability to take decisions

4.6

5.2

0.6

4

Capacity to communicate

5.6

4.4

-1.2

5

Skills of handling economy

4.5

4.9

0.4

6

Personal flexibility

4.8

4.5

0.4

7

Reliability and honesty

5.5

5.6

0.1

8

Ability to keep agreements

5.3

5.4

0.1

9

Taking responsibility

5.1

5.6

0.5

10

Readiness to reach out to team

4.2

4.7

0.5

11

Care for well being of others

4.4

4.4

0.0

12

Ability to build relationships

5.0

4.9

-0.1

Total average

4.8

5.0

0.3

Total INDEX

57

59.5

2.5

 

        

         Conclusion on data set 2: The data show that on average the participants improved somewhat on most of the skills (parameters) measuring personal capacity from month 3 to month 6 of the training.

         Considering that a significant number of participants left the program between 2013 and 2014 (53%), the low improvements may indicate lack of interest in the program, rejection of challenges, partial involvement with team mates and program, ergo little development.

         The two set of skills where we see decrease between the first 3 months and the second 3 months (ability to build relationships and capacity to communicate) might also be indicators of low interest in the program, in the team and in personal development.

         We also see that the first 3 months they rated themselves high, which may lay little space for improvement in a scale from 1 to 5. This may also indicate a betterment in the process of enrollment.

 

Data set 3: After 9 and after 12 months.

         As stated in previous reports:

         Questionnaires 4 and 5 are filled in at the mid-point of the service period in Africa and upon return to the Institute after the service period.                   Questions are of a qualitative nature asking participants for narrative statements and thus well suited for debate but less so for statistical analysis.                  Main questions ask about results achieved, impact of the work in Africa and personal lessons learnt. To provide an example of responses, we have summarized answers to questionnaire 4 and 5 from the 17 participants who completed their service period during 2014 (and completed questionnaires).

 

Results Achieved

Impact of work

Lessons learnt

2 participants at education project we do more teachers

Started adult literacy campaign at each community school

Teacher training to improve sanitation at the school

 

Girls empowerment campaign

Teachers more confident about their classes

More schools enrolled to the project

 

More communities mobilize to embrace the pre-school and improve it

Social projects require time

 

Education is the most important

 

Libraries are good for development

3 participants at HIV prevention project total control of the epidemic

Community garden

Playground from recycle materials in the community

 

Talked to many people about HIV and AIDS

 

Established libraries

Hundreds of people informed about HIV AIDS

 

Families benefited from the garden improving nutrition

 

20 communities had access to libraries and information about HIV/AIDS

It is important to find different ways to get things done and try them all

 

People have a lot of power

6 participants at teacher training college

Improved food production, hygiene in kitchen and menu

Set up of internet network at the school

 

Library improvements

 

2 preschools reopened

 

Gave workshops and clubs

 

Planted trees

 

Improved internal organization

Training of future pre-school teachers in English, planning and communication

Establishment of better sanitation habits improving the general health

 

Preschool children have the chance to learn

 

Knowledge about nutrition

 

All organizational areas of school improved

Patience and perseverance are keys to teach development

 

Not everybody is ready to change

 

Nutrition matters

 

Students need to learn planning skills

 

We are role models so we need to teach with the example

 

Need to use local resources

 

Cultural understanding

 

Understood students reality

 

2 participants at Food for knowledge

 

Built a classroom with recycled materials

 

Recycling campaign

People can use recycled materials

 

Children have a classroom

How to fundraise materials locally

 

Importance of teamwork

2 participants at Childrens Town

Improved vegetable production. And chicken and goat production

 

Organized library and set up playroom

 

Taught children about hygiene

Steady input of protein into the diet of the children

 

Children were mobilized to use the library

 

Children understood importance of hygiene, avoiding sickness

Need to involve community in work to ensure sustainability

 

Simple actions can have great consequences

2 participants at National Headquarters

Fundraised for better health facility

Better health facility in community

Stick to your goal

 

Plan, and never give up

 

Conclusion on data set 3: The statements from questionnaires 4 and 5 show the positive impact that working in Africa has for the DIs. They manifest empathy and a commitment to do good for the people.

         We can see that the lessons learnt do not change dramatically based on the projects they were at; on the contrary, there is a bottom line that shows how important it is for them to acquire planning, communication and organizational skills.

 

4. Testing of the main hypothesis

 

It is our conclusion that the data collected strengthens the main hypothesis for the following reasons:

 

  • The data confirm that the training program improved the capacities of the participants (i.e. their capacity scores improved by 4% between month 3 and month 6, a period when they were in the program 24/7).

  • The data show many positive results achieved and impact of the work that improved the conditions for local people and communities, that the participant improved understanding on development issues in poor communities in Africa, acquired skills, and strengthened their personal commitment to doing good.

 

 

The data built on personal questions. This methodology may have a bias towards expressing what participants expect that others want them to tell – and naturally their responses were subjective. However the IICD staff interacted with the participants during the training program assisting the participants to justify their responses (and thereby limiting the subjectivity of the responses) – this would tend to limit the bias.

 

 

5. Examples of actions taken

 

         Program and Execution

 

During 2013 and 2014, IICD has developed the execution of the program and of different elements of the training. The motivation behind such developments comes from the interest that the development instructors show and from the necessity the staff feels of getting them more involved with the growth of the organization.

An example is the improvement of the responsibility areas. The responsibility areas were expanded and revised according to the new objectives set by staff and participants.

After evaluation and discussions, staff and development instructors, decided to reformulate the responsibility areas; some were written again from scratch, some got a new title, and others were created and rejected after evaluations. Another decision was to change the way the responsibility areas were grouped together, in order for all elements to be covered perfectly, and to enable all participants to take their areas seriously and grow with them.

The result of this action was very positive. Most of the development instructors embraced their areas much more after they were part of discussing and creating them. However, some used the opportunity to stay in their comfort zone and reject challenge.

 

Extracurricular Investigation and Outreach

 

Volunteering in the first and last period of the program has been a way for IICD’s staff and participant to learn and engage with the local community. During 2013 and 2014, actions were taken to strengthening our cooperation with local organizations and to provide the development instructors with more experiences and learning opportunities.

The February and May 2013 Teams were the first ones to volunteer as counselors in the Greensky Hill Youth Heritage Camp for Native American Youth. This Camp is offered to Native American youngsters, to come together with the elder of their Tribe and learn about their roots and traditions. Unfortunately, even today these young people suffer from discrimination at schools and in their local communities, is for that reason that the elder and other Native American organizations had decided to provide the youth with spaces (such as this camp) where they can be empowered and feel proud about who they are.

The development instructors, who volunteered in the Camp, had already been in Africa, which means that they had a deep understanding of cultural differences and the struggles that some groups of people face today. They found the opportunity of becoming counselors in the camp as a great way to serve and to put in practice all what they have learned as development instructors. They volunteer for 7 days and their task was to accompany teams of campers through the days and activities planned for them. They had to camp with them and make sure they were participating in the camp and taking care of their responsibilities.

During the evaluation back at IICD, all development instructors expressed big satisfaction and deeper understanding of the reality in the United States. They were motivated, prepared to do more for others and willing to learn more about Native American culture.

 

Actions Overseas

 

The development instructors undertake responsibilities at the projects abroad that many times are bigger than their expectations. The staff at IICD keeps close contact with them to evaluate and support them while designing their actions plans. For example, a participant serving at a Teacher Training College in Malawi, writes in one of her monthly reports:

Summarizing, from Monday to Thursday I visit 4 primary schools; I give classes to the kids and I meet with the youth clubs. Unfortunately, I cannot work with the Literacy Clubs for adults, because I am just one person now, so I need to only focus in just one group. However, I am supervising the literacy clubs so they run correctly. 

With the kids in the preschools, I play a lot of games, I organize sports, and I teach and learn together about the world, hygiene, values, etc. I really enjoy my work here.

This example highlights two important results. First, how a development instructor is using her skills as community leader to mobilize and to support people (in this case youth clubs) in their efforts to develop and change; and second, that it is challenging for a development instructor to be alone at the project.

After evaluating this case together with the participant, IICD has decided not to allow development instructors to be alone at the projects, and to relocate them if it is necessary. This action has been decided thanks to the experience acquired and the systematic evaluation that has proven less efficiency and productivity when development instructors are left alone.

A different development instructor working at a project in Malawi called “We Do More Teachers” presents another example of research and action. She writes:

This project’s goal is to improve overall for both boys and girls their school experience. We had ideas to involve the people, parents and the schools together to build rope pumps, then later on to build gardens. The first step with our project leaders was to observe 5 schools just to get ideas of what we needed to improve. After this day of observing we were overwhelmed, a feeling that I get a lot here. The schools needed things like desks, new floors, paint for the walls and entire buildings were needed. Yes, now we have a big challenge, let’s make a plan of action to start making progress towards even fixing ONE thing

        

         This testimony helps us realize that the training period is teaching the development instructors to assess and act. It also shows the awareness of the DI who is already planning to involve people in the research and in the action processes.

         The conclusion of this development instructor also shows the impact that the practical period in Africa had, and what considerations she has regarding her own learning process. She writes:

 

As a DI you come [to Africa] with ideas that you will be saving the people and teaching them the correct way. But the reality is that you will be the one doing a lot of learning. Here in Africa your mind changes so much, you learn to keep positive (…) I am happy for the 4 months that I’ve had here. I feel like I have learned so many things to help me to be better in many ways, I can see and feel how my capacity has increased. I want to continue to increase my capacity, take more responsibly and take the initiative as much as I can. I am thankful for everything, every challenge. We all have capacity to change something, no matter our experience, age, nationality, position.