Another month of March is coming to a close. And apologies to March, but for me, it will forever be synonymous with the dramatic divide between the pre-pandemic world and the Covid-dominated one that took hold in 2020. But I don’t only associate this month with all the new verbs that entered our vernacular that year, like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve.” Besides pandemic lingo, my personal word cloud for March 2020 would also include “Finca Cántaros,” “environmental education” and “transformation,” because it was when I was lucky enough to make a big decision thanks to the full support of my family.
Although Finca Cántaros Environmental Association (FCEA) was incorporated in Canada in August 2020, and we are just now on the cusp of legal association status here in Costa Rica, I consider March 2020 an unofficial anniversary because that was when I officially decided to transform Finca Cántaros into a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education.
Building something from the ground up these past two years has entailed digging into the full range of human emotion. I have felt exhilarated and scared, energized and discouraged, and everything in between, on pretty much a daily basis. My emotional rollercoaster has been powered by many things, but especially by the pressing question: “are we making a difference?”
And that spawns further questions such as: WHAT kind of difference do we want to make and WHY? HOW will we know if we have made it?
To help answer these questions and more, we recently hired Knology, “a collective of scientists, writers, and educators dedicated to studying and untangling complex social issues” (https://knology.org/about/mission). We now have the privilege of receiving team trainings from two of their Spanish-speaking staff, focused on learning how to use tools like “logic models” to better articulate the what, why and how of our goals, in order to later evaluate whether we did indeed achieve them or not. Using a consistent approach to develop activities/programs, and systematically evaluate the impacts, is not only necessary for the benefit of the organization, but also because evaluation has been frequently identified as a weak spot across the field of environmental education.
One thing I already know to be true without any formal evaluation-based data to back it up: we are such a dedicated and hardworking team that despite our small size and having the global pandemic as the backdrop to our beginnings, we have done a lot in these two years. So here’s to doing even more in the years to come—but even more strategically, reflexively and hopefully, with fewer and fewer Covid-related rules and restrictions!