- We discussed the idea behind the evaluation, including the importance of randomization; both for selecting the 1,120 villages and for selecting the treatment and control villages of the program we're evaluating;
- How to conduct and take measures during general assemblies;
- How to conduct and take measures during focus groups;
- During step A and B a lot measures are taken along the way, so we had to go over all these different forms, which includes several different types of surveys (the chief, households, different types of general assembly participants, committee members, etc.);
- There were also practical things that had to be discussed: 1. When and how to go to which village (there is a schedule to follow); 2. language to be used in the field (we worked on the protocol and scripts for over a year); 3. how to take GPS coordinates (in each villages more than 10 coordinates will be taken); 4. How to randomly select households, people within household, and people from general assemblies; 5. how to use PDAs (all forms will have to be filled out on PDAs); 6. how to charge PDAs with solar panels; 7. how to upload data from PDAs to laptops; 8. how to drive a motorbike, etc.;
- All these things had to be practiced, so we created games, exercises and played a lot (a lot!) of simulations;
- And because only a sample would be selected from all the people present, we also created exams - as an extra measure - to get at people's quality level.
More on training
Training is so important. We have been working on this final part of the evaluation (step A-D) for over a year (the evaluation itself started in 2007); creating surveys, protocols, scripts, etc. When all combined this document is over 200 pages big. Needless to say, while we can discuss language for days, think carefully about which questions to ask, etc. if the people in the field do not understand things, we could just as well throw away those 200+ pages. This is quite a scary thought;
In total, professor Chimanuka - the implementing partner for Sud Kivu and Maniema - had brought 25 people to the training; this so that we could select the best 14. This was not an easy thing to do at all. Most of them were older than Raul and me, some were doctors, lawyers, etc. and above all many were unemployed but with a family and there were some that had left their job for this; all to get this job with one-year job security;
Raul had been sick-ish in the two weeks running up to the training. On Monday he got really sick and Professor Chimanuka - a specialist on malaria - tested him for malaria: he tested positive. Despite the fact that he looked and felt horrible last week, he kept on teaching - and very impressively;
We noticed that Congo seems to have a very different teaching-style than Raul and me are used to. Here students seem to listen and frantically try to copy whatever the professor says into their notebooks. We quickly got rid of that and moved to simulations, exercises and them teaching each other. People really seemd to enjoy this and, we hope, learned much more as a result.
- When do you know that people start applying what you taught them? Well, during lunch we walked around the room with a bunch of bananas for the people to take. One student replied: "I will choose my banana randomly." HA!
Then on Saturday evening it was over. After a very intense week it was finally time to relax and get to know each other socially. We first went to a local restaurant where we ate and drank until late in the evening. After that we visited "Parc au Prince" and danced until early in the morning. We not only have 14 very smart people, they are also a great group socially - something that is going to be important when in the field together for a year.