If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Often we jump from seeing a problem to developing a solution. Chidi spent some time listening to local young women. She spoke to girls in her church, visited a couple of schools and spoke to teachers. She spoke to the lady in the local kiosk and her sister’s helper, who she knew lived locally with her 14-year-old daughter. She understood her ‘why’ and could clearly explain what she wanted to change for girls locally. But more than that, with this detailed picture, she could see that the changes were complex.

While our ‘aims’ are broad and long-term, our specific aims are the short- to medium- term changes we want to achieve thanks to our projects. We need to achieve them if we are to affect our bigger goals.

To develop our understanding, and therefore lead us to develop effective youth projects, it helps to identify the obstacles in our path. For Chidi, her deeper understanding meant that she knew some of the main reasons why girls were struggling to complete their education in her neighbourhood:

  • Girls struggled to concentrate in class because they weren’t eating enough nutritious food and were tired from getting up early to do family chores.
  • Many elder daughters needed to contribute financially to the household. Some were dropping out of school to work, others had turned to men to help them financially. Some had ended up pregnant as a consequence. 
  • Some were disillusioned and didn’t see the point of being in school. They had seen many young people locally succeed at school and go to university, only to return without a job.

These barriers become our specific aims, again focussing on the change that we want to see, and expressing this in a simple way that anyone could understand. Three to five specific aims are plenty! For example:

  • Increase girls’ access to nutritious food. 
  • Reduce the time girls spend doing family chores.
  • Reduce girls’ need to contribute financially to the household OR increase girls’ ability to generate income for their families outside of school hours.
  • Improve career guidance for young people.

Reflection Questions

  1. Write down 3-5 specific aims for your project or organisation.
  2. Make sure they are written clearly and simply and identify the change you want to achieve and the people it will affect.
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