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Controlled Quality

How Vivamos Mejor checks the impact of its projects

Vivamos Mejor has consistently used a monitoring and evaluation system with clear, measurable targets for many years. In addition, we have regularly checked the impact of our programmes by means of independent studies at Swiss and local universities since 2012. This has led to our being the only Swiss aid organisation to win the SDC/NADEL Impact Award for a second time.

Thanks to our impact assessments, we know that children who have taken part in our pre-school programmes achieve significantly better marks than those who have not – even four years after – and are less likely to stay down at school. We can also prove that supplementary psychosocial development work leads to considerably higher completion rates in vocational training projects.

The findings of these impact studies help us to optimise our programmes and thus do more for people in Latin America. The following studies can be found on this page:

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In 2018, Vivamos Mejor commissioned researchers of the University of Lausanne and the Universidad de los Andes to carry out a Randomized Controlled Trial to understand the impact of our approach combining vocational training with youth empowerment. Youth empowerment in our context consists of psychosocial support, soft skills training, peace-building skills development, and labor market placement.

The study aimed to find out whether this combined intervention would help disadvantaged young adults in their personal development in terms of mental health resilience and better labor market integration. The results indicate that the youth empowerment program offered important complements compared to stand alone vocational education and training:

Positive effects on mental health
Participants of the combined vocational training approach, showed more mental resilience than the participants who only did the vocational training and the control group. During the extreme stress period caused by Covid-19 pandemic, they were more resilient than the rest of the participants.

Positive effects on income
Results show a clear trend that Youth Empowerment program has a positive effect on formal and informal earnings and labor market participation. They make more money, irrespective of the fact whether in the informal or formal labor market.

The results provide the basis to further improve our approach, raise awareness among local authorities and share our experiences with other organisations.

In 2017, Deborah Kistler, a PhD student at the University of Lausanne, conducted a scientific research study on pre-school programmes in Colombia. She explains the targets, functioning and results of her impact study in a simple and comprehensive way (video available in German). 

To examine the progress of protégés participating in our impact study, we asked ourselves the following questions:

  • Did the improved quality of pre-schools have a short-term impact on children’s cognitive, psychomotor and psychosocial development?
  • Did the improved quality of pre-schools have a medium-term influence on children’s academic performance and educational success?

For children from disadvantaged families, especially if they grow up in medium- to low-income countries, the conditions required for their healthy development are rarely met.

In many cases, they receive insufficient support for their cognitive, emotional and social skills. Their families have limited financial means and often resort to violence in their upbringing. A pre-school education of suitable quality will offset this and work towards creating equal opportunities at school. 

Infants from impoverished families in Colombia do have access to care outside of the family, the so-called hogares comunitarios – pre-schools in which local women look after up to twelve children of pre-school age at their homes during the day. However, these care facilities are very unsatisfactory, as the carers themselves have an incomplete education, and their work can thus be seen as more supervisory than dynamically supportive. As a result, the children are not prepared for school when they enrol. They will often have to stay down a year or may even drop out altogether.

Our projects aim to counteract this and improve the quality of pre-schools. To this end, we provide the following training:

  • Subject-specific vocational training with an official qualification for day-care mothers
  • On-the-job training, so that day-care mothers can learn to implement the educational model in their daily routine
  • Monthly parental education workshops on topics such as mentoring, education and child development
  • Monitoring of children enrolled in school to ensure they regularly attend school.

The impact of 13 years of project work in Brazil

Between 2008 and 2020, Vivamos Mejor implemented 13 projects in Brazil that made water more readily available and improved agricultural production for smallholder families. We also helped to give smallholder farmers access to new sales channels and empowered them to organise themselves as trade associations. To assess the impact of the programme in Brazil as a whole, in 2020 we evaluated the monitoring data gathered over the entire period.

The impact we have achieved has enabled 7,736 smallholders from 90 communities to lead a more self-determined life and has offered them an alternative to migration to the big cities. The evaluation thus confirms the positive results of the independent project impact study conducted by HSG St. Gallen in 2014, which attested to a positive influence on the living standards of smallholder families and improved cost-effectiveness.

Holistic Approach leads to Sustainable Results in Guatemala

A PhD student at the University of Kansas conducted an independent evaluation of all aspects of the Balanced Diet for Maya Children project (2017–2019). The assessment confirmed our holistic approach: the three components of the project – nutritional advice, improvement of cultivation practices and promotion of hygiene measures (described in greater detail below) – had a positive impact on the nutrition and health situation of 125 Maya families in the three village communities of Pajomel, Chuitzanchaj and Laguna Seca.

Families learned in playful workshops what proteins, carbohydrates and trace elements are used for and which foods contain them. Experienced indigenous social workers showed the mothers in cooking courses how they could integrate the new harvest products into their dishes. They imparted knowledge about age-appropriate nutrition for children and promoted breastfeeding in accordance with WHO recommendations.

Corn is the most important basic food. However, overused soils, extreme weather events as well as outdated farming and storage methods provoke harvest losses. An agronomist and a technician helped families with practical training to manage their cornfields more sustainably and to increase their yields. We thereby specifically promoted local, nutrient-rich products. The agricultural specialists also helped families improve their poultry farming, thus enabling them to eat protein more regularly.

In culturally adapted courses, indigenous social workers trained hand washing, personal hygiene and teeth brushing with the families. They supported the mothers in gradually improving household hygiene and keeping drinking water and food clean. Mistrust frequently prevents families from visiting their local health centres. In workshops, a doctor therefore showed them the importance of vaccinations, additional nutrients and monitoring growth.

The improved nutritional situation is not directly reflected by a reduced rate of chronic malnutrition in children between 0 and 5 years, but the rate did fall among babies under 6 months of age. However, the number of cases is still too small to classify the result as significant, which is why we shall continue to monitor development. It shows that mothers apply their new knowledge and that the foundations have been laid for rates to fall to a medium level in the entire age group.

External Evaluation of the Relevance of our Reading Promotion Programme in Nicaragua

Nicaragua has been in a socio-political crisis since 2018. Many children have direct experience of violence  or live in tense domestic conditions. For this reason, in 2019 we launched a two-year project that uses books and story rooms to bring back a sense of normality and structure to 6,700 children particularly affected by the crisis.

An independent local educational expert conducted a qualitative, external interim evaluation of whether our project constitutes a relevant and meaningful offer for children, and whether it has been implemented in an efficient, relevant and effective manner.

Vocational Training Master Study in Colombia

For her master’s thesis at the HSG St. Gallen, student Tonja Iten conducted an economic analysis. On site, she researched not only the usefulness of the “Work for Internally Displaced Women” project in Bogotá for project participants and employers, but also  the cost and efficiency of the project. Relevant influencing factors were included in the evaluation. Iten interviewed and compared 25 out of 140 beneficiary women as well as 25 women from a control group.

The result: compared with the income from the intervention, the women’s earnings increased considerably more than those of the control group.

The comparison shows an increase of 93 per cent. The likelihood of being employed increased by 48 per cent. On average, the women were much more satisfied with their job content, wages and social benefits, while the control group saw a slight deterioration in these areas. In terms of a cost-benefit ratio, the project performs above the average, especially compared to studies of other job market programmes in Latin America. Tonja Iten’s study thus confirms that Vivamos Mejor is on the right track and should repeat this form of intervention in similar projects.

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Many people who were displaced from the country in the Colombian civil war have sought refuge in the Bosa district of Bogotá. However, it proved to be difficult to earn a living in the impoverished area. This is where the “Work for Internally Displaced Women” project (2012–2014) implemented with our local partner Apoyar began. Beneficiaries were trained, while their children received external care. In addition, they were placed in the formal job market, and some women founded a social recruitment agency. The interventions truly improved the situation of the participants. A master study conducted by the University of St. Gallen provides evidence, confirming the project’s great relevancy and effectiveness as well as high donation efficiency rates.