Impact at Global Nomads Group

Delna Weil, GNG Assessment Manager

Knowing what success looks like at every stage of program implementation, as well as being able to demonstrate overall impact, is my pursuit at Global Nomads Group.

It’s important to me on both a personal and professional level. After my own experiences traveling, studying abroad, and meeting different people, I became convinced of the role cultural exchange plays in education: quite simply, a big one. Any high quality education should include opportunities to learn about the world beyond one’s own environment, think from different perspectives, and develop the critical skills necessary to navigate life in an increasingly globalized, rapidly changing world.

Providing these opportunities, however, is easier said than done. With constraints on time and resources, teachers often struggle to incorporate global content into their curriculum; learning about other cultures is deemed a special privilege rather than a basic requirement of education.

For me, data is the key to changing this mindset and making the kinds of decisions that could radically change the way education is viewed around the world.

Consider the case of Global Nomads Group. In partnership with leading experts in the field of virtual exchange, we have shown that students who participate in Global Nomads Group programs demonstrate statistically significant growth in terms of how closely they identify with and trust people from backgrounds that the media consistently suggests they should fear. In surveys and interviews, the vast majority of teachers we work with say that students develop their sense of empathy, global awareness, and commitment to taking an active role in their communities.

Is this enough, though? What’s the relationship between these changes and academic performance? Social-emotional learning metrics? High school graduation and college attendance rates?

It’s easy to make informal assumptions about the connection between programs like Global Nomads Group and the aforementioned — and deeply important — goals of education reform. Indeed, I’ve done it myself. But what are we missing?

The fact is that there are many different guises of success for a program whose goals are to build empathy, global awareness, and action-orientation. The impact could be a student who decides to study human rights in college. It could be someone who simply comes to class more often because she finds the material more engaging than typical courses. These are important, measurable outcomes. But most professionals in the field of global education would argue that these outcomes are far more rare, and counterfactually weak.

The more likely causal connection for a young person who connects and engages in meaningful dialogue with others from different backgrounds and learns how to see from different perspectives is also far more difficult to capture: having learned first hand about other cultures, this young person might simply approach conversation from a place of openness and respect instead of suspicion and fear.

The practicality of measuring this outcome has a negative inverse relationship with its importance: not practical at all, but deeply important to ensuring that people have the skills they need to lead and succeed in a rapidly changing global environment that demands collaboration across geographical and cultural boundaries.

Where does that leave me, then, in terms of using data to effect large-scale change in education systems? With a lot more work to do. Follow @Global_Nomads to stay in the loop!