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G-United/Winning Start Implementation Toolkit

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Greatness United (G-United) is a national volunteering program implemented by the Kenyan Ministry of Education, with three key goals:

  1. Strengthen primary education outcomes by providing targeted remedial support to young Kenyan learners falling behind in basic literacy and numeracy skills. Volunteers are stationed in schools where they use the evidence-based “Teaching at the Right Level” approach to help learners catch up to their peers.
  2. Promote national cohesion by deploying volunteers to live and serve in schools outside of their home counties where they gain invaluable exposure to diverse environments and communities.
  3. Create enriching personal and professional development opportunities for Kenyan university graduates to help ready them for the workplace.

From 2014 to 2019, Evidence Action provided comprehensive technical assistance to support G-United operations, through its Winning Start initiative. With Evidence Action’s support, the program successfully deployed four cohorts of volunteers; over five years, 2,000 volunteers directly engaged over 50,000 struggling learners in literacy, while building rapport with diverse communities in 22 counties across Kenya. Across cohorts, volunteers reported that 65% of learners engaged in remedial sessions progressed by at least one reading level; in both Kiswahili and English, the percentage of illiterate learners fell by over half, and the percentage of learners achieving proficiency more than doubled.

G-United made great strides since 2014, having: successfully adapted the Teaching at the Right Level pedagogical approach to the Kenyan context; secured strong levels of volunteer retention and performance; instituted right-sized data feedback loops for rapid decision-making; and established high-level and wide-reaching government ownership and support for the program. In 2019, however, a combination of funding and administrative constraints resulted in the program being placed on indefinite pause.

With a supporting injection of counterpart funding to supplement the Government’s budget, the G-United program could be revived and further scaled in Kenya in future years. Beyond Kenya, the program offers important lessons for the broader education community, countries considering national youth service programs, governments contending with centralized public service assignment systems, and policymakers, academics and practitioners engaging on how to improve learning outcomes, boost youth engagement and employability, and advance national unity.

To guide potential technical and public partners in providing technical assistance to programs similar to G-United, Evidence Action prepared a comprehensive program toolkit, which offers a complete set of design, implementation and management tools to support program operations. This toolkit covers all technical assistance activities related to implementing the five phases of the G-United program: volunteer recruitment and selection, county activation, training, volunteer service period, and program closure. Each activity is described in detail alongside links to related program tools, materials, process documents and strategic plans.

The content of this toolkit reflects the latest tools and materials developed from six years of thoughtful iteration on all elements of G-United program design. Learnings from program data, stakeholder feedback and our own experiences implementing a large decentralized education program have informed development of the content provided here. The result of years of iteration is a robust, evidence-based program that is refined in its delivery model, cost-effective and well-adapted to the Kenyan context, and ready to scale. We encourage other governments, technical partners and organizations to use the materials, tools, processes and strategies described here in part or in full based on their own programmatic needs to inform their own implementation.