Final thoughts

Challenges and Successes:                                                                                                                     Some of the difficulties with this were that I could not get a super in depth look at the organization. I could not volunteer, because the tutors need to be available for at least 6 months, and I’m a busy high school student who doesn’t really have the time to volunteer multiple hours a week on school nights, and I’m not going to be here this summer. But it might be something to consider when I’m older. It also would have been great to go to their Board meeting, but it’s taking place after the due date of this assignment so that doesn’t work. Aside from that, however, I think I got a good enough sense of the APNLC. They are a really important part of the community, and are really helpful to the people that they work with.

Looking at the Issue:                                                                                                                               There is much more to this issue than I thought there was. Adult literacy is really important, because it helps so much for those who need it. Whether they are newcomers to Canada or are already living here but having trouble, it puts them on a track to support themselves and their family, and live a better, easier life.

 

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Assessing the APNLC based on my criteria

Do they have a clear goal?
Well, according to their mission statement, the goal of the APNLC is to “work alongside adult learners to meet their goals of enhanced independence, employment, apprenticeship, or post-secondary education.” I think what they are trying to do is pretty clear. I know that the quality of the education is more important than how many people it affects, and I don’t know about all the inner workings of the organization, but a good idea might be to also focus on the growth of the organization, with a goal of over time, growing the reach of the APNLC by taking in more learners.

Do they monitor and assess their progress? How?
Quantitatively, they look at attendance numbers, and how many people move on to the next level or go to college.
Qualitatively, they look at what the staff members says, what the learners say, and other possible feedback. Herman said that, at least for him, it’s not all about the numbers. Seeing a learner come out of their shell and gain confidence and empowerment shows that the APNLC is doing what it needs to. Another part of seeing progress is watching the organization grow and change with the times, so I think that’s another part of monitoring progress — if they have up to date materials and things change through the years, with new technology and materials, etc.

Are they transparent with what they do and how they spend their funding?
See my post about this

Do they look at and consider the long-term impact?
I think the core mission of the APNLC is something long-term –literacy skills and the confidence that comes from going to and learning from school is something that is lifetime.

What progress have they noticed? Would they consider themselves effective, and are there ways in which they wish to improve?                                                                                          I think it is pretty clear that there has been progress. From what Herman told me, and what I saw on the website (they have annual newsletters in which the learners write a short piece), the APNLC definitely is effective. Not just in giving someone the skills to go to college or get a job, but also in giving them the confidence to. There are a few ways that they could be more effective, and I made this small list with information from Herman, as well as the Chair of the Board, Anne Fleming:

Often, people come to them who have undiagnosed learning disabilities. However, the APNLC does not always have the right programs available–this would need more training for tutors, and maybe special materials. And all that would require more funding.

Another issue is with the pay for the staff. The APNLC is publicly funded by the government so the wages for the staff are not particularly high. This is an issue because it means some staff do not end up staying that long, and leaving after a few years, which can be hard on the learners, because there does need to be a level of trust between the tutors and the learners, and it gets messed up when the tutor leaves.

Lastly, it is something to do with the materials. Sometimes the materials available for learning are things like children’s books, which might be the best level to read at but not always the best confidence booster, or not really relating to the learner. Making sure the materials are up to date and best suited to the learner would be very useful.

I think that’s it for looking at the criteria. The APNLC is definitely an effective organization, with a few possible tweaks here and there. It’s not an issue that everyone thinks of, like homelessness, but is still something important and so is what the APNLC does.

 

 

 

Transparency in the APNLC

Although I did lay out a series of criteria that I will look at all together, I wanted to focus on the transparency in the APNLC, because that was something I noticed a lot in the interview. So how is the APNLC transparent with different stakeholders?

With the government (Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, where why get most funding from)

Everything that the APNLC is reported back to the Ministry, who have information database systems that basically ensure transparency. The Ministry holds them accountable for all money spent.

Donors: (Primarily the Catherine Donnelly Foundation)

The foundation gets different information than is sent back to the Ministry, because they have their own protocols, but basically the APNLC does a midterm report (kind of like a report card?) where they record how many people have come to classes, how they are doing with their plan, and then a final report that describes whether they were successful that year, and if not, then why not. As well, often an auditor will look at all the paperwork for the money and write a financial report.

The Community:

The community gets access to a copy of an auditor’s report. Also, one thing I noticed was that on the APNLC website, under the Publications tab, they had annual reports available to view, which summarized the year, as well as listed their funding and how much was spent on different aspects like salary and wages, materials and supplies, etc. (this was actually how I first found out about main donor, the Catherine Donnelly foundation, before I even had the interview. In the annual report they also mentioned other stakeholders, like the Scadding Court Community Centre with their support and collaboration, and the Toronto Library, for providing space, to many others, like individual donors and other companies.

I wanted to make a post all about the transparency in the mechanisms of the APNLC because there simply is so much–in my view, they do really well on this aspect. I don’t see a way that the APNLC can not be transparent.

 

 

 

Interview with the Executive Director

A few days ago, I got to interview the Executive Director of the APNLC, Hermann Ellis Jr, about the APNLC, its effectiveness, and his thoughts. So here is the transcribed interview, in my point form notes. I’ll have more on specific parts later:

Roksana: How did you get involved with the APNLC?

Hermann: I was already working at Scadding Court [Community Centre], and the management team, which I was the face of, took over the Learning Centre, so that’s how I got involved.

R: What are you most proud of in the past few years?

H: Proud of our learners and being a part of their progress, they’re the reason why I come to work

R: What are some challenges you’ve faced in the past years?

H: Funding–trying to get enough money to continue to meet the needs of our learners. Many people who come here have undiagnosed learning disabilities, and the centre can’t afford to help them

R: Funding for?

H: Instructors, and materials and support, transportation, child care

R: How do you monitor and evaluate your work?

H: There’s Quantitative and qualitative

Qualitative: Eg feedback from students, the atmosphere, what the staff say

Quantitative: How well is attendance, how many people come, how many people move on to different levels, and go to college, etc

There’s pressure to have it be about numbers but what is going on is that the stigma is lifting, people are not afraid to come to school because it’s not safe, not welcoming. They need the confidence in the school and that’s what’s happening

Donors want people to pass a test, but it’s a success even if they fail, because they still came to learn

R: Are the mechanisms by which they work transparent to all key stakeholders, including communities, local governments and donors?

[Note: The APNLC receives most of their funding from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, as well as the Catherine Donnelly Foundation.

H: Government:

Everything they do is reported back to the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities and there are information database systems that are in place to ensure transparency

They hold us accountable for every dollar spent

Donors:

Different information than sent back to the government, the foundation has their own protocols, we do a midterm report with how many people and how they are doing according to the plan, final report explaining if they were successful, if not, then explain why

There’s also a financial report, where an auditor looks at all the paperwork associated with the money and write a report, this often happens

Community:

There is an auditor’s report that the community sees

R: Are empowerment and capacity building of partners and communities promoted?

H: We rely on a lot of literacy centres for tutors à 30 different one-on-one tutors, train volunteers, partner with a bunch of other agencies to do joint training, partnerships are important so everybody is on the same page and on the same capacity, help people understand why it’s important to be part of that group

R: What do you think the APNLC accomplishes with the learners?

H: What I see most the development of positive self-esteem, eventually all learners come out of their shell and become a part for the community and the centre

Being confident, speak out, write stories, it’s beyond learning to read and write and is instilling confidence. Idea of hope. People never thought that they could do algebra, or make it to university, but they do à give people a chance to hope

R: How would you rate your effectiveness?

H: Effectiveness to ministry is how many people come, it’s not that simple actually, we look at things from a quality point of view. The Centre is very effective with the amount of people that come, a lot of people that benefit, and we continue to grow, get better, more money, more exciting things, like new tablets. Growth and progress, keeping with the times, that’s effectiveness.

 

 

Laying Out Criteria

Here I’m going to be laying out some criteria to determine the effectiveness of the organization:

Do they have a clear goal?

Do they monitor and assess their progress? How?

Are they transparent with what they do and how they spend their funding?

Do they promote empowerment and community/partnership building?

Do they look at and consider the long-term impact?

What progress have they noticed? Would they consider themselves effected, and are there ways in which they wish to improve?

And I guess we’ll see how this applies to the APNLC at the end of this…

 

 

 

What is the Alexandra Park Neighbourhood Learning Centre? (a brief overview)

What is the Alexandra Park Neighbourhood Learning Centre (APNLC for short)?
An adult learning centre that offers  free learning programs in Literacy and Basic Skills and Academic Upgrading, and one-on-one tutoring.
The programs are there to help the adult learners prepare for employment, apprenticeships, college programs, and everyday life.
What is their Mission?
“APNLC is committed to working alongside adult learners to meet their goals of enhanced independence, employment, apprenticeship, or post-secondary education.”
How are they funded?
APNLC is funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, as well they get donations from foundations and individual donors.

An Introduction

Hi, I’m Roksana and I’m in S5. For this project of acting as a consultant for a charity or NGO, I’ll be looking at the Alexandra Park Neighbourhood Learning Centre, an organization that addresses literacy by giving programs on reading, writing, math, and using computers for adults who’s first language isn’t English or who are new in the country (more on what they do later)
I won’t be able to volunteer there because it’s a time commitment of at least 6 months that I can’t do, and I’m not even sure if they hire teens and if I could, but I will be talking with the chair and the director of the organization.
For now, that’s all I have to say.
Thanks,
Roksana