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Controlled Quality

How Vivamos Mejor checks their project impact


Vivamos Mejor has made consistent use of a monitoring and evaluation system with clear and measurable targets for many years. In addition, we have regularly checked the impact of our programmes with independent studies at Swiss and local universities since 2012. This led to us being awarded with the SDC/NADEL Impact Award for the second time as the only Swiss Aid Organisation.

Thanks to the impact assessment, we know that children who have taken part in our pre-school programme obtain significantly better grades even four years later and repeat the school year less often. 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 learn to optimise the programmes and thus do more for the people in Latin America. The following studies can be found on this page:

Insight into a Completed Pre-school Programme Impact Study

In 2017, Deborah Kistler, 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). 

We asked ourselves the following questions to examine the development progress of protégés within the framework of our impact study:

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

Children from disadvantaged families often have difficult development requirements, in particular when growing up in medium to low-income countries. In many cases, their cognitive, emotional and social skills are poorly supported. Their families have limited financial means and often resort to violence in their upbringing. A suitable qualitative pre-school education offsets this and increases equal opportunities in school. 

Infants from impoverished families in Colombia have access to care outside of the family, the so-called hogares comunitarios. These are pre-schools, in which women from the neighbourhood look after up to twelve children of pre-school age at their homes during the day. However, these care facilities are very unsatisfactory. The carers themselves have an incomplete education and their work can be seen as more supervisory than dynamically supportive. As a result, the children are not prepared for the requirements at school when they enrol. Repetitions and dropouts shape their school years.

We want to counteract this with our project work and improve the quality of pre-schools. For this purpose, we have carried out the following activities:

  • 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 into 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.

Ongoing Vocational Training Impact Study in Colombia

A PhD student at the University of Lausanne, in collaboration with the Columbian University of Los Andes, conducts research through a RCT-Study* on the medium-term impact of our vocational training approach on income, level of education and personal development of young people.

The selection of study participants, the survey of the initial situation, and the training of the different study groups has been successfully completed. Thanks to the impact study, we enable an additional 100 disadvantaged people and young adults a one-year vocational training. We expect the survey of the medium-term impact in the course of 2021 and the publication of results in 2022.

*In a randomised controlled trial the results in the study group are compared with a control group. The decisive factor here is that the allocation of the participants to the different groups is randomised. Differences arising through unconscious distorted allocation are thus expected to be ruled out.

Holistic Approach leads to Sustainable Results in Guatemala

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

Families learned in playful workshops what proteins, carbohydrates and trace elements are used for and what foods contain them. Experienced indigenous social workers showed the mothers in cooking courses how they can 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. Overused soils, extreme weather events as well as outdated farming and storage methods provoke harvest losses, however. 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 and nutrient-rich products. The agricultural specialists also helped families improve their poultry farming so they can 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. A lack of trust prevents families from visits to their local health centre. In workshops, a doctor therefore showed them the importance of vaccinations, additional nutrients and growth monitoring.

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

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

Nicaragua has been in a socio-political crisis for almost three years. Many children have experienced violence up close or live in tense domestic conditions. For this reason, we launched a two-year project in 2019 that uses books and story rooms to bring back a piece of normality and structure to 6,700 children particularly affected by the crisis.

An independent local educational expert conducted a qualitative, external interim evaluation on whether our project constitutes a context-relevant as well as a meaningful offer for children and whether its implementation is efficient, relevant and effective.

Vocational Training Master Study in Colombia

The student Tonja Iten carried out an economic analysis for her master’s thesis at the HSG St. Gallen. There, she conducted research into both the usefulness of the project “Work for Internally Displaced Women” in Bogotá for the project participants and employers as well as cost and efficiency of the project. Relevant influencing factors were included in the evaluation. 25 of 140 beneficiary women as well as 25 women from a control group were interviewed and compared.

The result: In comparison with the income from the intervention, the women’s earnings increased considerably more than that 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 here. In terms of cost-benefit, the project performs above the average, especially compared to studies of other job market programmes in Latin America. The study confirms Vivamos Mejor thus to be on the right track and to repeat this form of intervention in similar projects.

Arbeit für intern vertriebene Frauen


Many people who were displaced from the country in the Colombian civil war seek refuge in Bosa in Bogotá. Earning a living in the impoverished area is proving to be difficult, however. This is where the project “Work for Internally Displaced Women” (2012-2014) implemented with our local partner Apoyar began. The beneficiaries were trained and 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 of the University of St. Gallen provides evidence; it confirms the project’s great relevancy and effectiveness as well as high donation efficiency rates.

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