Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Want to change the world? Sponsor a child

Guest post by Aaron Armstrong

Child sponsorship sometimes gets a bum rap. Many of us are leery about it's effectiveness. I've been sponsoring with Compassion International for seven years.* I've had the chance to meet my sponsored children on a couple of occasions and have seen the work for myself so I "know" it works. But I'm also an unusual case. Most people only have an organization's assurance to go on that they're really doing what they say they are.

That is, until independent research was conducted by Dr. Bruce Wydick and a team from the University of San Francisco on the effectiveness of Compassion's child sponsorship program. The results are pretty astounding. Check out the article at Christianity Today:
We loaded the data onto my computer from Rutledge's flash drive, and I rattled off some code to replicate their estimations. I was looking at the results of Compassion's impact on educational outcomes in Uganda—I stared at the statistics on my screen to make sure I was seeing correctly.

"This is … amazing," was all I could mumble. We tried slicing the data different ways, but each showed significant educational improvements. You could beat this data senseless, and it was incapable of showing anything other than extremely large and statistically significant impacts on educational outcomes for sponsored children. 
A few months later, I presented the Uganda findings in the weekly development economics seminar at UC–Berkeley. The Berkeley seminar was familiar turf, but not a place to suffer fools gladly. We received a number of constructive comments, but the consensus was that the underlying methodology was sound. What was obvious was that the study needed external validity. Uganda was one country. Compassion was one organization. We would try to expand the study to multiple organizations and countries.
Read the whole article.

(*Full disclosure: I am employed by Compassion's Canadian office. I'm sharing the CT article because it's good stuff, not because of my affiliation with the organization.)

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