• Started a reading project. Like a book mobile but in homes. Run by volunteers.   Parents are hesitant but children are excited to be able to read.
  • Pharmacy – We purchase two advanced first aid kits. Several community members completed training. Community now trying to determine where they should be located and how much to charge so that supplies can be replaced.
  • Road. The road is impassible during the raining season and hardly useable during the dry season. About 3.2 miles in length. The road is used to attend High School, to get to work, to conduct trade, for medical care, etc. The road serving the community is in two municipalities. After about a year of effort, the two mayors agreed to conduct a survey of the road. They then promised to design the road and to prepare a cost estimate. They promised to have this done by the end of June 2015, but have failed to do so. The community is in regular contact with the mayors, the respective municipal councils and other government agencies to remind them of the promises and to advocate for the completion of the studies. While that has been very frustrating, it has been an opportunity for the community to learn how to advocate for themselves. This is a major accomplishment. It is also important to remember that while by our standards things seem to be moving slowly, we also need to remind ourselves how long it would take to build a new road in our country, if we were starting at the initial concept stage.
  • The community has a laptop computer so they can more easily communicate with the outside world.
  • The community has incorporated in their curriculum a program on entrepreneurship. This is for the upper grades of the elementary school and is in its second year.
  •  Opportunity International is an international organization focused on micro-lending, but in Nicaragua they are exploring a new approach to improving the agricultural practices of poor rural farmers and in providing them with alternative markets for their products.
We are developing a program of formal evaluation.
It is easy to evaluate projects, the difficulty is in evaluating building human skills and capacity.
We participated in a class on evaluation conducted by the Acumen Fund. We complained to them that they were only tracking projects, not the building of human capacity. While we don’t take responsibility for it, six months later Acumen changed their model of evaluation to include capacity building. See attachment.
We have seen this new approach as one that is being adopted by many service organizations in the past year or two.
In Rotary we have relied on a grant project model with an emphasis on process rather than evaluating the effectiveness of the outcome. It is hoped that what we have learned about the evaluation process can be replicated in other Rotary activities.
We knew this would be a learning process. From the beginning one of our goals was to learn from our experiences and to then modify our work plan accordingly.
The Aspen Institute has been reporting on Complex Adaptive Systems. “They are emergent and self-organizing. They learn from experience and from internal communication, and they change and adapt over time. Feedback and communication across the parts of the system is vitally important to these functions. They do not have a command center which directs all agents; instead, control is distributed throughout the system. What matters is not the individual parts that make up the Complex Adaptive System, but the relationship between the pieces.”   This is very descriptive of the system that has been created by the Nicaragua Initiative.
Larger lessons
Celebrate the small wins. While the lack of progress on the road is frustrating, if we take the time to pause and reflect, there is much to celebrate.
Progress is not always easy to see. As people build capacity and learn skills, it is often hard to see and to measure, even though this is where real and sustainable progress occurs.
We will make mistakes, but we will also learn from the experience.
We need to be patient. In our culture we expect immediate results, but as we work to assist other cultures to learn and adapt, this takes time.