March 09, 2015, Liberia has made very minimum progress in improving educational opportunities for all children. Substantial gaps in literacy remain and overall more than 26 million people cannot read or write. Without basic reading and writing skills, many education and employment doors remain closed for Liberia's young people.
Achievement Center for the Youth (ACENY), is a non-governmental organization in Monrovia, Liberia offering literacy and vocational skills support for children. Amaka Consulting's initial interaction with ACENY was in 2009 when we were hired to conduct a strategic review for the organization. In 2015, Amaka Consulting once again partnered with ACENY to develop a five-year strategic plan to maximize the organization’s impact and resources. Led by AMAKA Consulting's senior partner Angeline Smith, our firm helped ACENY assess its core organizational strengths to prioritize two of its most effective strategies: government partnerships for literacy services and a village-based approach to literacy and education.
In working with ACENY, the Amaka project team adopted what they call a “micro to macro” approach: ACENY is a small organization with a limited national network only within Monrovia that reaches about only 170 children and 235 youth with literacy and vocational services.
With such limited reach and a big ambition across the country, the charge for the strategic planning for the volunteer management process was to take a step back and assess the organization’s impact through its 10 years and understand whether success could be achieved in more efficient ways.
As a result of the strategic planning work, ACENY chose to focus on two approaches in particular. The first, strengthening government partnerships, has already resulted in double-digit improvement rates among 710 children in the capital Monrovia. By 2021, the program is expected to reach an additional 3000 children.
Achievement Center for the Youth (ACENY) volunteer
“This was a 10-year-old organization, one of the most successful in the making,” says Angeline Smith, an Amaka Consulting Senior Partner based in Monrovia who helped lead the project. “Our job was to help ACENY focus on very specific strategic questions because even though school enrollment in Liberia was not a problem, there were still big gaps in literacy rates. I believe that we were able to help them move forward on the specific initiatives that would really help children learn to read and write.”
The second focus involves an “end to end,” village-based approach, where educational services previously scattered across multiple locations are now focused on entire villages, helping children from grades one through ten. While the approach is still too new to yield impact numbers (the children’s progress is being measured on a multi-year basis), the approach is designed to be implemented in almost 10 villages in Grand Cape Mount County, representing 3,000 children served.
Angeline Smith, Senior Partner, Liberia
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