Inclusive, Enabling Communities

Inclusive, Enabling Communities
Learning Brief


Seven Passes Initiative

Improving programme service by first learning more about the target community – good reasons for conducting a baseline study

Category: Inclusive, Enabling Communities | Caring and protection of particularly vulnerable groups | 20 January, 2014 - 16:00

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Project background

The Seven Passes Initiative provides academic support, recreational opportunities, career advice and connection to post-school training and job opportunities to the children of Touwsranten/Hoekwil and surrounding farming communities. Seven Passes has been offering after school educational support to children on farms and in the small community of Touwsranten for five years. This includes after-school homework supervision classes, structured activities during the school holidays, and general career information and advice.

In this learning brief they discuss the importance of conducting a baseline research study in order to better understand the community’s needs and challenges and so to improve the programme’s objectives and activities. Seven Passes highlights the usefulness of these research findings to shape evidence-based decision-making, and they point out the unexpected benefits that such a research project can have for programme marketing and awareness creation.

Identifying household challenges that hinder educational support

Early on in our community work we observed that children who came from warm loving families and whose parents were supportive and believed in the value of education, did well at school, and had a greater chance of going on to tertiary education. The problem was that many parents in the community we serve – as much as they loved their children – had not had good school experiences themselves and were too busy or tired to give their children the needed educational support in the evenings. We also observed that many parents and children in our community have low self-esteem. This has a negative impact on parenting and on the ability of children to achieve success in life. Being a parent is very difficult, but it is especially difficult if you don’t feel very good about yourself. After identifying these household challenges that hinder educational support we wanted to help parents and children get the support they needed.

Partnering with academics to find solutions to household educational challenges

Even though we knew some of the challenges listed above, it was not easy to find ways to change people’s situations and tackle the issues, especially since we needed to focus on our core business – supporting children and young people in their educational development.

During 2012 we were able to form a partnership with Dr Cathy Ward, from the Psychology Department at the University of Cape Town and the Institute for Security Studies. Dr Ward is part of an international team of academics who are developing a programme to support positive parenting. She was familiar with our organisation and was very supportive of what we were doing and agreed to help us conduct a household survey of parenting in our target community. The goals of the study were to better understand our target communities needs and challenges and use the findings to frame the future activities of our organisation. Partnering with a reputable academic gave our study a sound methodological basis and strong theoretical rationale.

Fund raising

Because we partnered with a reputable academic and had a solid proposal, we managed raise some funds to undertake this study of parenting and families in our community. This helped us learn more about our community and know the kinds of challenges parents and children face.

Gathering baseline data at the community household level

Before we could even start conducting the survey we needed basic information about how many families and children there are in the community. This information was not available from any official sources and so we needed to go out and collect it ourselves.

Over a period of a few weeks, two of our facilitators went from house to house in the community. They introduced themselves and told everyone they spoke to about the Seven Passes Initiative. Some families knew about the organisation and had children who attended the homework classes, but many did not know about us. We could use this opportunity to market our services. The response was very good. Parents were pleased to hear about the homework classes and glad to have personal contact with the organisation. They were also vey generous with their time and information.

In this way we were able to establish a database with contact and demographic information about all the households and families in the community.

Survey development

We used the information collected in the house-to-house visits to inform a more detailed survey of all households with children in Touwsranten and then we went back into the community to ask people to take the survey.

Survey outcomes

This research study has been an important exercise for many reasons.

  1. It has provided basic demographic characteristics of our community. For example, we now know how many children in which age groups live in our community; the family structure of households; gender composition; how many families have enough to eat, and how many do not; etc.
  2. The survey findings provide detailed information about the stresses children and adults experience; and about the way in which people parent in our community.
  3. We can use this survey information to design new evidence-based interventions to support and develop positive parenting practices.
  4. We are using these hard findings to motivate for funds to implement a feeding programme that will form part of our homework classes.

Finally, this study had the unintended, but positive outcome, of helping us to strengthen our relationships with families and parents in the community because our facilitators went door-to-door and spoke with people. In the long run this will help us to have better communication with parents and gives our organisation credibility.

Conclusions

Seven Passes conducted a baseline research study in order to better understand the community’s needs and challenges. They have found the evidence useful to improve their programme’s future objectives and activities, but they also gained an unexpected benefit of being able to market their organisation and create awareness for their services in the community the serve.


 


Bester Road, Touwsranten, Western Cape South Africa


 (044) 850 1039


 www.sevenpasses.org.za

In Short

This learning brief explains how the Seven Passes Initiative conducted its baseline research study in order to better understand the target community’s needs and challenges. Seven Passes highlights the usefulness of the research findings to shape evidence-based decision-making, and they point out the unexpected benefits that such a research project can have for programme marketing and awareness creation.


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