From the Ground Up (FGU) is a project of RiPAL BC, in partnership with Literacy BC. It is funded by the Adult Learning Literacy and Essential Skills Program and the BC Ministry of Advanced Education.
In the fall of 2004, members of RiPAL-BC attended a meeting with the Regional Literacy Coordinators for the province of British Columbia. A representative of the provincial Ministry of Advanced Education, which funds community adult literacy programs throughout the province, was there. Program evaluation was raised during the meeting. The representative from the Ministry stated that the reports received from community-based programs did not provide the information the Ministry needed. The Coordinators asked what was missing, what information was needed? In total honesty, the representative acknowledged that he could not describe what the Ministry would like to see in the reports. Furthermore, he added, Ministry personnel were not reading the reports because they did not have the capacity to do so.
We knew then that evaluation was an important issue, one that RiPAL-BC could take on. We were also aware, that with the increasing emphasis on accountability and results in the public sector in Canada, changes were coming. Evaluation was going to have a significant influence on adult literacy practice in the province. We decided, therefore, to take a proactive stance. We successfully applied to the National Literacy Secretariat to carry out a two-year project to support practitioners to develop tools to evaluate their community based programs and facilitate the reporting process. We envisioned the tools as useful to practitioners and learners as well as funders and policy-makers; flexible enough to accommodate the diversity among community based programs; and rigorous in their approach to outcomes assessment.
The focus of the project is on Community Based Adult Literacy programs. Community literacy programs – in learning centres, storefronts, urban parks, and other unique locations – offer safe and welcoming learning environments to adults and families in BC communities. It is estimated that only five to ten per cent of the eligible population ever attends an adult literacy or basic education program. Community literacy programs reach out to marginalized and vulnerable populations by offering unique alternatives to more formal educational settings.
Many community literacy programs have a long and rich history of service to their communities and the practitioners have acquired a wealth of practical experience and expertise. FGU draws on that experience and expertise to articulate and measure the kinds of change community literacy practitioners seek to achieve. The objectives of From the Ground Up are to: