Last month I traveled to Haiti to conduct a field assessment of our latest class of NetHope Academy interns halfway through their internships. As part of our standard evaluation process, we routinely survey the interns and their IT mentors using an online survey tool. The survey results allow us to gauge the progress of the interns in a very cost effective way but we often find that “deeper dives” through one-on-one interviews gives us an even better understanding of how everything is going.
At the onset of my trip, Frank Schott, our Senior Global Program Director, and I worked with Marlene Sam, NetHope’s Haiti Program Director, to identify areas where we needed more feedback on the program. Key questions we wanted to answer included:
Much has been written about the successes of the Program but we have always said that we want to be very transparent and share what we have learned (even our warts!) with others.
In our interviews with those that left the program it became clear that there was no one single factor that contributed to these setbacks. Some said the program turned out to be too tough, a couple said that they weren’t challenged enough in their intern assignments and others had family issues. There are definitely things we will do to fix those things that can be fixed but one key finding is that we must restore the notion of an “Intern Alternate"—that’s someone that can step in and be part of the program if something happens to one of our chosen candidates.
We also learned that sometimes what survey results suggest is a problem is not much of a problem at all. Data showed that not enough interns are completing their online courses, and we discovered one factor was that some feared that hitting the ‘complete’ button on the course would result in them losing access to the curriculum forever. We thought they were not using the curriculum. Instead, they like it so much they don’t want to see it go away! A very fixable (non!) problem
And the feedback from the IT Mentors was uniformly positive. They are busy and do feel like the interns are getting the feedback they need (which is key of course). Some areas that IT Mentors want us to work on include better matching an intern's skills and interests to his or her internship assignment. Others wondered whether our soft skills courses could be made available to their staff!
While there’s certainly room for improvement, we very much feel we are on the right track. I took careful notes during the interviews and I would be remiss to not share some of the comments that the Academy interns made in our time together. Talk about ENERGIZING!!!:
“This is the best opportunity I’ve ever had in my life. I feel sure that I will find a good job because of all the resources NetHope has provided.” -Jean Ednor Paul
“This program helps me meet people who have now become IT professionals. It makes you feel that you are in YOUR environment. You feel…you can do it!! - Anne Doris Vital
“NetHope thinks about the young people in the country and gives us the opportunity to be something…to be someone in this life.” - Patrick Louis