Columbia Business School team measures for success

Dear Friends,

  Since 2014, KCE has partnered with the Columbia Business School’s Pangea Project to develop measurement and evaluation tools for our boarding school program. I am pleased to share Robert Terrin’s blog from his visit to Enoosaen, Kenya. Robert was part of the third student team from Columbia University who worked on a monitoring and evaluation strategy to capture and analyze the impact of our boardingschool on vulnerable girls in Kenya. The Pangea team tested a written survey with girls at our boarding school and girls at a nearby publicschool to assess attitudes about girls, their potential and their dreams. I am happy to report that the preliminary results show we are making a difference in the lives of girls in our community. Please read Robert’s blog and share with your network.




Written by: Robert Terrin

The Team

When our team signed up for a project with the Kakenya Center for Excellence through the Pangea club at Columbia Business School, we were excited about this great project. We were tasked with measuring the effect the boarding school had on their students’ confidence, leadership and health awareness. Our team, even with many years of experience in problem solving and analysis, would face a difficult challenge: how to evaluate and quantify the impact that is easier to feel than measure.

Before graduate school, I worked with the White House Office of Social Innovation and the investors who created the Global Impact Investing Rating System, but I faced a new challenge in measuring, first hand, the impact at the community level. Aanchal Saxena’s detail-oriented mindset and engineering background, as well as familiarity with previous Pangea projects, helped prepare our systematic approach. Matthew Brownschidle’s quantitative background and strong analytical skills would prove invaluable in crunching the data. Finally, Mariana Perido, our fearless leader, applied her consulting background to orchestrate all of the communications and logistics. Together we were confident we could produce a valuable evaluation process and meaningful impact measurements.



Planning for success

During our visit to Enoosaen, we knew we only had three days to meet with community leaders, school administrators, teachers and most importantly, students. We were welcomed by Madam Gladys who manages the school. Moses Dapash, KCE’s talented program manager in Enoosaen, the local chief and the principal of the large public schoolnext door to KCE were important to our success.

We immediately determined that we needed to simplify our survey and evaluation strategy to focus on establishing an easy to use tool that would be feasible for the team on the ground on a widespread and regular basis. Before we arrived, we thought that a more complicated survey and lengthy one-on-one interviews were the right way to go.

To test our strategy, we visited a nearby public school to test our simpler survey. The children were excited and eager to help, which helped us gain key insights about Maasai culture and the thoughts and attitudes of 8 to 12-year-old girls. Based on what we learned, we simplified the questions that did not seem clear enough and asked more direct questions to assess the girls’ attitudes and confidence.

As we prepared for the survey with girls at KCE, we planned the way we would arrange the classrooms and introduce the survey to students; we focused on delivering clear instructions and ensuring impartial results.

Starting with grade eight, we selected 20 students at a time to complete the brief survey. Luckily, the students had just started their school year a few weeks before we arrived in January, which meant that grade four girls’ attitudes, confidence and knowledge would provide good data that would track the change and impact as they are exposed to more and more learning, mentoring and leadership training through KCE.

My favorite part of administering the survey was demonstrating that it was not an exam by introducing ourselves and getting to know a bit about the girls. We talked about favorite animals (cows were the overwhelming winners!), what we liked to eat and even had jumping contests. As we worked with the younger grades, the effect KCE has had on the girls became increasingly evident, but we did our best to remain objective and wait to see what the data revealed.

After a long day of data collection, we were ready for a break and some fun! Mariana and Aanchal were a big hit with the girls who had all sorts of questions about life outside of Kenya and especially liked their hair which was different than theirs. Matt and I played jump rope but couldn’t compete with the nimble-footed girls who sang and jumped much better than we did. We ended the day with a game of volleyball. It was great to see that the Kakenya Center for Excellence not only enriches their students academically and emotionally, but physically as well.

We were sad to leave after such a short visit and just as we were getting to know the girls.  Once we left, the data analysis phase began.




Measuring success

As we left Enoosaen, we knew we had a lot of work ahead to analyze the data. Matt, our Excel whiz, built a spreadsheet that automatically processed the data. What we found was astounding. We would like to leave you with these impressive findings:

  • 100% of KCE girls want to attend university
  • The percentage of girls who believe that men should work and women should take care of the kids and home fell from 90% (grades 4 & 5) to 50% (grades 6, 7 & 8)
  • 92% of girls in grades 6, 7 & 8 believe female genital mutilation is not necessary to become a woman
  • The most common career aspirations are doctor, pilot and teacher
  • 95% of girls want to be a leader in their community


Celebrating 2nd Classroom, Planning Campus Expansion

Dear Friends,

I hope you all had a wonderful summer.

I’m pleased to announce that our second classroom building has been completed!  Thanks to the support of Social Initiative, our three new classrooms and library will enable our students to have the dedicated space needed to study and excel in an environment conducive to learning.


Our New Classroom Building

As more and more families begin to witness the success of their daughters at KCE, the demand for our services grows.  In 2014, with the needs of our community in mind, we purchased land and began visioning a concept for a new K-12 private school.

This summer we were fortunate to have some of our design team visit KCE and the new site.  The architects are committed to involving our students, staff and community in the design of our second school.

I hope you enjoy architect David Dewane’s first impressions and insights of KCE in his blog below and I look forward to sharing with you more information about this new and exciting endeavor as we move ahead.



By David Dewane

In August of this year, I found myself standing next to Kakenya in the portico of the newly constructed KCE classroom building. From our viewpoint, the whole campus was alive with activity. The workmen were putting the final touches on the building and dismantling the scaffolding.  A group of teachers sat on a bench with some students, taking tea and chatting in the shade of a young acacia tree.  Across the rest of the yard, numerous groups of girls had formed for a variety of purposes, some to play, others fetch water, wash dishes, or just relax.  There was also a universal display of the most prominent attribute the girls express: a strong and abiding affection for one another.

“I’m glad you are here,” Kakenya said.  “It is important that you get acclimated.”

As a member of the team focussed on design of the new campus, I was in Enoosaen to listen and learn, document the existing campus, and visit the new site. The first observation was the girls themselves. They are simply incredible.  From the first they are warm and welcoming, curious and thoughtful, humorous and engaging. As a group they seem to glow, and as individuals they are humble and friendly, each possessing an agile intellect. These girls face enormous challenges and bear them with grace. A genuine appreciation for their teachers is clear, and their love for one another is that of a second family.

One question about these girls was stuck in my mind: Why do KCE students perform so well academically compared to their peers? I repeated the question to everyone I met, and I received a variety of answers. The administrators explain that success comes because the program is well supported. The teachers think it is because each girl has her own book (a rare condition in Kenya). The girls themselves point to the school rules, which state every girl must participate, filling them with courage. Another KCE staff member believes it is Kakenya who inspires the girls to work so hard. Kakenya herself offered an answer that encompasses all of these reasons. “When a girl succeeds,” she told me, “it is not because of the individual, but because of all those who have helped her.” Success, in other words, depends on the community.

This is critically important information.  When thinking about the new campus, it is important to step back and ask what role should the building play?  What scenes could it create?  What does it trigger?  How can it advance KCE’s existing strengths? As a foreigner, there is an unavoidable dilemma that always accompanies working abroad: should the project be a western import (like an iPhone or a Mercedes), or should it strive to be as locally rooted as possible?  If our starting point for this project is a scheme that continually reinforces a sense of community, than it seems we are fortunate enough to be rooted in a universal value.


Kakenya, Staff and Architects Touring the New Land


2015-08-22 11.46.00-2

Students Enjoyed Sharing Maasai Culture with the Design Team