This past April, the Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) Program completed its Phase III (2013-15) evaluation. The completion of Phase III is an important milestone for SLDI, and ASEC, as the program has provided needed leadership development training to Catholic sisters in Africa for nearly 10 years now. As the SLDI Program Evaluator conducting my first evaluation with ASEC, I came to realize that capturing the essence of the program through data would be no small task. With activities ranging from leadership and technology workshops to alumnae and mentee meetings, staff trainings, and research workshops, the evaluation needed to not only highlight quantitative outcomes, but tell a story about the sisters’ and the program’s successes, challenges, and the greater impact on communities in Africa.
Using a mixed methods approach, in which both qualitative and quantitative data are analyzed, the evaluation revealed a variety of outcomes that speak to the overall success of program. In terms of numbers, SLDI has grown at an explosive rate. The program served 2.5 times as many sisters in Phase III as it did in Phase I or II and has expanded its reach to 10 countries. In Phase III over 1,200 sisters attended the annual alumnae meetings which provided sisters who have completed the program, and their mentees, with an opportunity for continuing education and networking. Interestingly, in 2016 alumnae reported a spike in the number of mentees they are serving—nearly 21,000 individuals—which encompasses mentees served one on one, in group sessions, and via large scale trainings.
The impact of the program is felt not only through the rising numbers of sisters and stakeholders served, but in the leadership roles and need-based work SLDI alumnae engage in on the ground in Africa. In Phase III reporting, nearly half of SLDI alumnae received promotions (42%) and/or accepted additional leadership roles (46%). Over half (51.9% in 2016 alumnae survey) of SLDI alumnae have created strategic and/or financial plans for their congregations and organizations, which is vital in creating greater sustainability. Another significant highlight of the Phase III evaluation is the over $10 million raised by SLDI alumnae and mentees through grants, donations, fundraising and other sources, to implement innovative social and economic development projects. Sisters have raised the largest amounts of money for education and infrastructure projects, but are also raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for projects focused on health, agriculture & nutrition, income-generation, the empowerment of women & girls, social work, access to clean water & sanitation, and more. It is noteworthy that sisters have also been responding collaboratively and swiftly to emerging issues such as human trafficking, environmental conservation, and the need for technological advances. The projects sisters implement after SLDI promote development within Africa as well as development on a global scale. In fact through their work, sisters are directly contributing to the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to eradicate poverty and inequality throughout the world. In line with the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, SLDI alumnae lead a variety of development efforts that respond to the social, economic, and environmental needs in communities throughout Africa.
Sr. Eulalia, a 2015 SLDI Finance track graduate, is successfully contributing to sustainable development in the Mongu District, Western Provice of Zambia. Through partnerships and collaboration, she secured a total of $261,109 via grants and fundraising for her Mother Earth project. The project plants moringa trees which are exceptionally nutritious and have a variety of potential uses. Over 6,000 moringa trees have been planted and 100 moringa farmers are undergoing training for organic farming. The project also reaches out to about 800 women annually to promote improved nutrition and has created 4 jobs. Additionally, windmills, solar power, biogas, and earth bags are used to sustain the project. Sr. Eulalia is one of many sisters making a meaningful impact; you can read about other sisters' success stories on our website.
Along with the many successes of the program, there are certainly challenges to address as well, including inconsistent Internet access in areas of Africa, continuing to support sisters in their grant-writing efforts, and logistical issues inherent in working internationally. But ASEC, inspired by the sisters it serves, is continually working to overcome those challenges, adapt, and embrace better ways of accomplishing our goals. As ASEC reflects on the SLDI evaluation outcomes it is clear the program’s story is one of transformation, from the individual to the societal level.
As one sister shared:
“I came to realize that after completing the SLDI program that I am no more the same person. I have more knowledge. During recreation, I share with my sisters. [In] the school, the head teacher consult me for many things. And it's through what I learnt that I am able to make meaningful contributions. That makes me happy and I am thankful to ASEC. I have a voice.”