It is mandatory that all new Asha projects must have a site visit done before a decision is taken to fund the project. Site visits are critical to ensure that we select projects that meet our standards and goals. Careful attention must be paid to conduct a successful site visit.
Asha for Education - Site Visit Guidelines
Project site visits offer a unique opportunity for volunteers to learn more about the ground realities in India. Many of our volunteers who have visited the projects have shared their experiences as inspiring and life-changing. Children at the projects we support and our partners look forward to site visits by Asha volunteers as on opportunity to meet those who care.
This document is intended to serve as a guideline to any Asha volunteer who intends to do a site visit and prepare a site visit document. It discusses about requirements and planning that need to be done prior to the site visit, guidelines for evaluation of the project, points that need to be considered at project site during the visit and guidelines for writing and publishing the site visit report.
In general the following points are guidelines and every attempt should be made to follow them. However the specifics may vary for different kinds of projects.
The guidelines below were written for formal schools/NFE centers that are traditionally the projects that Asha funds. For other kind of project models (awareness campaigns, teacher training etc.) - please alter as appropriate.
I. Requirements and planning prior to the site visit.
Before the site visit for monitoring and evaluation the following points should be considered
- Be prepared to spend some time with the children. Gather simple play and learning materials that children may enjoy and plan to use them during your visit to engage the children in conversation.
- Review documents with the original project proposal as well as any modified project proposals. The volunteer who is intending to do the site visit should be able to collect the following information from the project champion.
- Project proposal or modified proposal
- Past correspondence
- Any special details on the project
- A clear understanding of the project by the site visit volunteer is necessary
- Make sure that the project is clearly defined and demarcated clearly with other projects that the same organization may be running and may be receiving funds from other sources.
- Understand the geographical locations for which funds have been requested Example: School in a particular village, grade of classes, and type of schools.
- Have clarity on specifics on which funds have been requested. Example: Teacher’s salary, stationery and or furniture
- Supplementary information
- Gather information from the websites, brochures and annual reports of the organization
- Newspaper or magazine articles that may have appeared about the organization. Internet search may help here.
- Reports written by other funding groups, ratings of the organizations by a foundation etc, can be proactively gathered.
- The main ideology of the organization, founders, motivation, administrative structure and the operating style of the project.
- Prior information through external contacts
- Information from faculty in many academic departments or organizations involved in community programs, development, social studies or those offering social service degrees can be good places for information.
- References from respectable sources are the best way to identify genuine and good organizations.
- It is recommended that the volunteer who does the site visit be an Asha volunteer having experience in project work and not relative/friend of volunteers or member of a donor/mailing list or a random volunteer from another chapter who is not directly involved in the project.
- Social visits from anyone interested is encouraged
- Such visits should not become too many and result in overhead for the organization because of 'rural tourism'. While this is not a critical issue at this time, project stewards and chapter project coordinators should monitor the number of site visits to projects.
- Too many visits can not only interrupt the organization's activities, but also set expectations with the community/village especially when we cannot visit unobtrusively. For example, if going in a car is necessary to a remote village, it does attract quite a bit of attention, and it is good to be wary of that if change is going to be slow.
- A previous comment from communities is that, volunteers come, take pictures, and go, and lives of people in that community do not change much. On the other hand villagers/children can enjoy visits a lot. Balance is the key.
- Unless made necessary because of suspected financial misconduct or something of that nature surprise site visits are not recommended. It puts the organization on the defensive, and such actions are not conducive to building trust with the organization, and can really disrupt their activities for the day. In instances where activities of a project partner are suspected, multiple visits to the project by different volunteers, or having a longer site visit might be helpful.
II. Monitoring and Evaluation of the project
Study and evaluate the following points or try to get answers for the questions listed below.
- Organization background and information
- The motivation of the organization and why are they working in that particular area.
- Organizations can be classified in two categories - those that are working in areas that have funds available and those that acquire funds for the areas they want to work on. Which area does this organization belong to?
- The background and commitment of people involved in the organization? Have they given sufficient thought to their work before preparing the proposal? Will they continue to work on the issue even after Asha’s support for the project is over?
- Infrastructure and other facilities
- Describe Infrastructure/Facilities
- What is the type of construction? (Permanent, temporary construction)
- What is recent condition of construction?
- Comment on space utilization of construction.
- What is geographical location of area? And in this area this type of construction makes sense or not?
- Get information about actual cost for such constructions from other sources.
- How much of the infrastructure and other resources, like vehicles, are being used by the organization and how much of it lies underutilized?
- Describe Infrastructure/Facilities
- What is total amount of funds needed per year?
- What are different sources of funding? (Different agencies/Government)
- Which are the other funding agencies for the organization and for what programs?### Ensure that the organization is not receiving all the money for the same program from two different sources.
- What is the salary/honorarium that the teachers get? Does it conform to the figures in the account books?
- Accounts related information.
- What is the amount being spent on the children for snacks/food, clothes, etc., according to the budget and whether it conforms to the real situation?
- What is their future requirement? How they are planning to fulfill that?
- Who is responsible for whole finance?
- Information about students
- The socio-economic background of the children
- The girl boy ratio
- Teacher student ratio
- Do the children continue their education after graduating from the school of the organization or drop out? If they drop out, how many of them do that and for what reasons?
- Does the organization give a thought to what will happen to the children after they leave its school?
- What is the distance of other schools (Govt. or private) from the school of the organization and how do they run? Why do the children prefer the school run by the organization?
- If it is a Non-Formal Education (NFE) center being run by the organization how many of the children attending this program of the organization go to other formal schools in the area? (This question should be asked to the children and not the teachers or the volunteers of the organization.
- What are the other activities they do besides their time school?
- What is motivation for attending this particular institute?
- Are there any special complication/challenges student has to go through to attend this institute?
- Do they really enjoy attending this school?
- What do they do after completion (Graduating!)?
- What is drop out rate in students?
- What are reasons for drop out?
- Did the organization take effort to convince them not to drop out if yes how and how much success they are having?
- How much student has to travel to attend school?
- If there is potential crowd of children unattended what is obstructing factor? And how it can be overcome, and how can Asha help in that.
- Do they try to enroll more students? Yes: How? No: Why?
- Information about teachers and the organization’s project coordinator.
- Are the grass roots volunteers local or from outside?
- Do the main volunteers perform only administrative duties or actually spend time at the grassroots?
- How many total Teachers/Volunteers are involved in project
- (Total: Full Time: Part Time: )
- What is average age? (Most of them are young ranging X-Y year, Z people are in there 50’s etc)
- What is Education level? (Most of them are graduate or 12th standard pass etc.)
- What is their background? (They have been working as a teacher for a long time, house wife, volunteering for the first time etc.)
- How long they have been with organization/Project?
- In case of volunteers, are they financially involved with project?
- Where do they live, and how much they travel for this?
- How much they are paid, is it par level with other institute around area?
- Are they satisfied with their salaries?
- How many new teacher/volunteer have joined in past one year?
- Does the organization train the teachers, if yes how do they provide the training?
- Community and their involvement:
- Socio-political environment of community.
- Relationship between local people and the organization in organization's area of work.
- The extent of involvement of local people in organization's work.
- Opinion of the people in that area about the organization.
- Is this an appropriate choice for the people around the area?
- What else does the group do other than education?
- Accountability of the organization to the community.
- Does the process involve or plan to involve the community?
- Does the community participate in setting the priorities?
- Is there local leadership development, oversight and responsibility?
- Other points
- Can the project be instrumental to socio-economic change of community? If yes, than how?
- How the project is making difference at present in community? How it will make difference in future?
- Are there any statistics regarding project?
- Yes – What?
- No – Are they planning to gather some statistics in future?
III. At the project site
Understand the difference between site visit and social visit. Also, be courteous in your interactions with the project partners and the local community. Even in instances where you need to be firm in obtaining information, courteous interactions are beneficial.
- Visiting the organization office
- It is normally preferable to visit the organization's office in advance of the site visit. Even if the organization's office is located at the project site, it helps to first discuss the project proposal with the office bearers of the organization before proceeding for the site visit.
- Start by explaining to the office bearers the following:
- About Asha and how it works, what it funds etc
- About the procedure from project proposal to project funding and review. They should know what to expect.
- And finally, what you hope to expect in the evaluation visit and associated discussions
- Project vs. Organization: Find out how and where the project fits in the scheme of things of the organization
- Encourage project to define deliverables against which a project can be evaluated after funding.
- This is especially important for Asha since the person coming for a review person may be a different person from the person evaluating the project for funding.
- Such metrics help in maintaining continuity in project monitoring.
- Encourage project to define deliverables against which a project can be evaluated after funding.
- Plan and discuss
- the sites and schools that you would like to visit in the time available
- the people you would like to meet and discuss with
- the communities served
- the people who will be running the projects, the teachers etc
- the students (This of course is the most interesting part of the exercise!!!)
- Other things you may wish to see like the library they might have created, the teaching materials, the attendance books, the system for keeping track of grades etc
- the current state of affairs in the community
- Try and put down numbers on the "metrics" defined above --- this will be the baseline status. This can be done in consultation with the teachers.
- The current status as far as items on the budget is concerned. For example, if somebody has asked for furniture, one should see what the status of classroom is at present --- are there tables? Are the needs justified? Verify some numbers like salaries if possible with the teachers directly.
- Feel free to take notes, write down proper names etc
- Try and take photographs which would serve the following purposes
- Define deliverables or metrics
- Visit to project sites
- Questions should also be asked of grassroots volunteers and local people outside the organization when the main volunteers (or people who run the organization) are not present to get a true picture of the state of affairs.
- If the organization is running many centers and it may not be possible for you to visit all of them, visits should be made of centers randomly selected by you rather than letting the organization show you centers of their choice. Organizations are known to run their sample centers which would prefer to show to you.
- clearly identify and decide in discussion with your host
- Note carefully the following:
- Especially for initial visits, spending a good length of time at the project is very helpful, preferably an overnight stay if possible. As mentioned by several other volunteers, during an overnight stay people tend to relax and be freer in their discussions.
- Concluding discussions at the organization office
- Clarify doubts and unanswered issues
- Collect or ask the organization to send certain required documents etc to you (if you need them). Some times the originating Asha chapter may have asked for a particular document.
- Inform the organization about the forward path and time lines to expect from Asha
- During your visits, pay attention to the mode of transportation used/ provided by the project partner. Personal use of vehicles intended for project use indicates that the organization has flexible rules regarding use of their resources. Also, be wary of excessive hospitality provided by the project partner and clarify to them at the beginning what your expectations are. In some instances, project partners may give gifts to the volunteers doing site visit. Accept only those gifts that are given by the children where they have spent their time in creating the work (art work, handicrafts etc.). Clarify to the project partner that accepting gifts is against Asha policy and politely refuse any expensive gifts.
IV.Writing and publishing the site visit report
Understand that a project site visit report needs to be written and not a personal tour report.
- Please ensure that the report is written as early as possible after the visit while things are still fresh in your mind. The most important parts of the report are the personal impressions which you must document as early as possible.
- Typical report should have the following categories
- General information, Organization name, Project name, Type of visit/ report (Is it an evaluation visit or review etc)
- Visit goals (bulleted points in brief), Visit date,
- Name of the person who does the site visit and contact information
- Contact persons and information, Organization (and how to geth there)
- Asha chapter originating process
- History, background and current status: Bulleted points on history of this organization (and this proposal) with Asha if any.
- Summary about geographical area of operation, subject areas of activity, funding sources, key people etc (just refer back to proposal wherever required)
- Impressions/ observations gathered from visit, discussions, research etc
- About the area served and the community
- Summary and personal impressions/ observations. Assessment of needs.
- Highlights of discussions and insights which came out as a result of your discussions.
- Funds asked and budget proposed: Comments and suggestions
- Description of each site visited with links to suitable images. Include personal impressions and data collected which will not be there in the proposal etc
- For organization
- For the originating chapter
- For other Asha chapter
- About the organization
- About the proposed project and project proposal
- Site visits and impressions
- Recommendations on path forward.
- Appendix 1: Point-wise answers to any questions asked by the Asha chapter that originated evaluation of this project. Attach documents asked for.
- Appendix 2: Action points with time lines
- Appendix 3: Photographs
- Take care about the tone of the language used and comments made in site visit reports available for public view.
- Share the site visit reports with the project partners (they are public document anyway, so there is no reason not to).
- If the project partner does not agree with certain findings outlined in the proposal, have them respond to those findings and publish them on the project website along with the site visit report.
- Refrain from making unsubstantiated claims regarding the project partner in the site visit reports.
Other Guidelines Samples
Project site visit report
Once a site visit is done, the findings of the visit must be conveyed to the steward and discussed at the supporting chapterï¿½s meeting. A completed site visit form must be uploaded onto the project page. A few representative formats are given below.
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