We run a rigorous M&E process during and after the programme that helps us to assess the impact of our work and continuously refine the programme.
There are six points of evaluation for each cycle drawing on the perspectives of all key stakeholders: the beneficiaries themselves, the mentors, the beneficiaries’ parents/carers (where possible) and the participating schools.
We consistently receive testimony that the beneficiaries experience increased confidence and self-awareness, a belief in themselves and their abilities to make a difference, more community-mindedness, increased environmental awareness, and more focus and direction related to higher education and career choices.
In the words of Sam, one of our UK beneficiaries:
“I know it has been many years since clouddog … That journey for me was like a stepping stone into the real world … it gave me confidence and completely changed my state of my mind … my life completely changed, I went from hanging around street corners with no plan and little ambition yet now I own my own business and go to university …”
Several beneficiaries have claimed that the clouddog experience inspired them to pursue a university education or motivated them to alter their course of study to one more environmentally minded. Furthermore, alumni have reported the clouddog experience was a catalyst in gaining an interview or securing a place at university or an employment position for it enabled them to distinguish themselves from other candidates and to give evidence of leadership, teamwork and contribution to the community.
Given the small size of our programme cycles, we have determined it most effective to run our M&E with an internal focus. Often given the ‘softer’ nature of our impact, our ability to interpret the efficacy of our programme is in large part dependent on the stakeholders’ ability to articulate the impact of their experience. We also seek regular evaluations from our alumni who give evidence of the long-term efficacy of our work and on how they perceive their experience has had an on-going impact on their choices and opportunities.
The feedback has helped shaped the programme today. At inception, our objective was principally environmentally-minded with the aim to expose inner-city students to the world of conservation, but we soon learned that our beneficiaries were leveraging other aspects of the programme such as the team-based and leadership experiences. These experiences were not only helping them to build confidence and belief in themselves and their futures, but distinguishing them from other candidates competing for employment positions or university spaces. Consequently we’ve augmented the programme to deepen these experiences and offer professional-skills training and educational sessions, such that the beneficiaries can develop and claim to a skill set that will facilitate their transition into self-sufficient adulthood.