(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

That's about as good as it gets

The last class was the best one I've had in Romania.  What made it so good?

Well, the first hour and a half, my class met with another class so I could guest lecture on a subject that I am passionate about: social entrepreneurship. Main point:  Social entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs with a social mission, connect the social service needs of the community with donors' interests and values.  Sub-points:
  1. While profit may be motivating to entrepreneurs, the mission is central with social entrepreneurs: Making a difference in community needs.
  2. Social entrepreneurs need to thoroughly understand the needs of the community; graduate school is a good context to understand needs.
  3. Social entrepreneurs need to know the best practices to meet those needs; grad school is a good context to learn what works.
  4. Social entrepreneurs have to show impact, how their program makes a difference, so program evaluation is a necessity.
  5. Donors, people with money, are people just like the rest of us who want to make the world a better place.  Their skill is in making or managing wealth; they need us people who are skilled in understanding the factors causing the social problems and in designing interventions that have an impact on the social problems.
  6. Social entrepreneurs show initiative to understand the problem, create a solution that makes an impact on the problem, and communicate with potential donors. Don't just stand there: mission driven action.
  7. An untapped donor resource in Romania is Corporate Social Responsibility; many multinationals are relocating to Romania and few social service agencies are partnering with them to make Romania a better place.
Students were engaged in discussion, had some good ideas. I hope some of them start new NGOs to address community needs; that's my desired impact.

I then went to my class, Program Evaluation. They were supposed to attend the guest lecture, but another professor kept them late and they decided to wait in the hall.  However, I had high attendance day, six of eight students.  Two students were there for the first time; it's only the next to last class of the semester. As I arrived in class I got a text from my guest NGO speaker that she was not able to come, so I created a "Plan B" on the fly.

Following the "Show one, do one, teach one" pedagogy, I asked the students who had attended previously to teach the two newbies how to analyze a NGO's mission, objectives, program activities, and intended outcomes in a logic model.  I passed out brochures from NGOs that I have collected, and based on some pretty scant information in the brochures, they created logic models (week 2 topic). They presented the logic models they created; like, stand up at the front of the class and talk about what they know.  Then we discussed how to evaluate if they are ready for a program evaluation (week 3 topic), and decided that two could potentially benefit from a program evaluation, the third would benefit from clarifying its program intent and objectives.

Then two students, one newbie and one who has come half the time, told me they had to leave early (an hour early).  "Let me have ten more minutes and let's see what we could do to evaluate one of these programs" (tonight's topic). 

It was pretty easy to do a performance evaluation on a photo exhibition to support a domestic violence prevention NGO (how many entries, how many visitors), and more difficult to do an impact evaluation of whether their objectives were met (content analysis of themes of the photos to evaluate if they communicated non-violence; response cards from visitors to evaluate the extent of supportive attitudes).  The key is "ease of use" matched to the "program intent." Hey, in ten minutes, we had a pretty good evaluation plan.  And everyone left early and happy.

Good teaching/learning makes me want to dance!

I'm definitely reinforcing "the glass is half full" mode in my mindset; my experience of higher education here has lowered my expectations.   I'm sure there are good reasons for all of the "half empty" behaviors, I just haven't learned to appreciate them.  Enough of these nattering nabobs of negativity!
  • I had students who showed interest in what I had to offer!  
  • I had students who did what I asked in class!  
  • I had students who talked about what they are learning!
  • I got to understand what students understand!
  • Teaching/learning was happening! Can't have one without the other.

As Jack Nicholson said in the movie, "that's about as good as it gets, folks."

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