As soon as I got back to Joburg, my supervisor asked me to help with a Theory of Change workshop. Since most of my time so far has been in the office, I told her I would be happy to assist. Later that day, four of us — our CEO, a colleague from the research division, my supervisor and I — met to prepare for the workshop. It took me a minute to realize that I was about to co-facilitate this workshop with some of the best and brightest minds from my organization. I was definitely anxious.
My supervisor, being the M&E expert would be the lead facilitator and the rest of us would serve as co-facilitators for our small groups. We agreed that this workshop would be better if the participants worked in smaller groups. In order to mitigate some of my anxieties, I spent the night before the workshop brushing up on logic models. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am utterly grateful to that 622 class for preparing me. Who would have guessed that I would be facilitating workshops on logic models!
The Theory of Change Workshop
The South African Council for Educators (SACE) has decided to develop professional standards for the teaching profession. Given the increase in the number of unqualified teachers in the classroom, the lack of trained individuals entering the profession, this process has been initiated to rectify some of these challenges. My organization will be partnering with SACE to plan and facilitate this process. It is still unclear at this point what form these standards will take. However, the Commonwealth Secretariat recently developed professional standards for teachers. You can read more about that process here. The first step for South Africa was to facilitate a Theory of Change Workshop with the National Advisory Group to outline the main goals and objectives for developing these standards. This group consisted of government officials from the Department of Basic Education (DBE), academic researchers from major universities, funders, teachers’ unions and executive members of SACE.
We got to the SACE building very early as we had to arrange the room into four small groups. We were expecting about 20 participants but only 13 were in attendance. The room was full of several years of experience and lots of expertise. Nevertheless, I was ready. My group was somewhat reserved in the beginning as they didn’t know each other very well. However, as soon as we got into the first activity, they were sharing ideas, posing questions and grappling with the difficulties associated with drafting goals, objectives and purpose statements.
The workshop was supposed to last for four hours but after some prolonged debates and lively discussions on the timeline for the development of the standards, we realized that we had to curtail some of our planned activities. So instead of ending the day with several versions of a logic model, we had only developed the first draft of a purpose statement, list of objectives, goals as well as short, medium and long term outcomes. At the end of each activity, I was nominated as the spokesperson for our group. This helped to settle my anxieties as it revealed that they trusted me enough to convey their ideas and thoughts to the larger group. In fact, at the end of the session, one of the representatives from SACE, invited me to return to South Africa in December to monitor and track the status of the development of the standards.
Although I learned a lot about developing professional standards, the greatest takeaway was understanding the importance of navigating multiple interests when implementing large scale initiatives. Thanks to SACE and my organization for this awesome learning opportunity.