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