This year we ran through the fourth year of the BBVA Banco Francés Programa Becas de Integración (Integration Grants Program) and from the results we note that this method of intervention may be an efficient channel to create citizenship, from strengthening the core values of personal effort and fulfilling commitments as well as from generating a new dynamic within the scholarship holder‘s very family and his or her relationship with the school.
In this fourth year of the program, a total of 1170 grants have been awarded and are being administered in 19 centers in 17 localities in several provinces of Argentina, through agreements with 16 different NGOs.
Throughout this program we have gained experience in holding partnerships with companies as was the case of Bodegas Casa Montes in 2008, and also with individuals so they can become donors to provide grants to new students. Such was the case of the volunteering chapter in the Bank in 2009 where 20 percent of the Bank’s senior management provided grants from their own pockets to a total of 26 new students in various parts of the country.
We advise that it will be natural to develop new partnerships with more companies and individuals who feel an affinity with the aims, philosophy and administration method of the Grants Program.
Mechanisms of this type are shown to be optimal in benefitting households with very low income and strengthening what constitutes citizenship in society, which are core values and the ability to hold partnerships between people.
That’s why we commend the lawyer Daniel Arroyo, the former deputy minister of Social Development in the National Government and the former Minister of Social Development and Labor of the Province of Buenos Aires, who conducted a report with his research team on existing grant programs in Argentina, which have been developed by private companies and NGOs.
The report identified at least thirteen relevant programs, which proves an enormous effort from businesses and NGOs. However, it also clearly shows the limited scope of it all. The total number of scholarship holders of these ten programs is no more than 11 thousand students out of a high school student population of approximately 3.5 million young people across the country.
This report is a real contribution for those aimed at designing a grants program. It will be presented on August 18 in the main auditorium of the Argentine Chancellery in Buenos Aires, at the meeting of the Open Chair on Social Responsibility and Citizenship, in its eighth cycle, which regularly organizes the Ecumenical Social Forum.
As is known the BBVA Banco Francés Programa Becas de Integración is intended to encourage students between 12 and 19 years old belonging to low-income families to complete high school.
The Bank turns the scholarship student into a customer by providing them with a reloadable debit card. Every month of the year -12 installments of $220- the scholarship student can only access the grant money by using the Bank’s ATMs and with the assistance and support of the staff at his or her own branch.
This is started by identifying an NGO with the vocation and willingness to manage grants in its territory. Then, the NGO presents the Bank with candidates for grants. Once they are accepted by the Bank, they become customers and are provided with the debit card.
The NGO will provide professional mentoring and be a trusted contact for each scholarship holder. The scholarship holders undertake to regularly attend classes, get good grades, behave themselves in and out of school, work with the NGO that is helping them from time to time, attend bi-weekly group tutorials and pay their expenses on the last business day of each month. If there is a delay in paying expenses, the Bank will not pay the grants for the month until it has received all payments. In case of non-payment, the Bank penalizes the scholarship holder with one month’s grant. And if this happens a second time, the student is removed from the program.
The program relies on social impact measurement research. In 2010 this means a survey of results twice in the year, with a total of 500 half-hour interviews with scholarship holders, relatives, tutors, and the community.
In 2009 out of a total of 900 scholarship holders, a total of 109 students graduated from high school. This is certainly an encouraging and satisfying indicator in itself. But it is even more so when finding out that of those 109, 77 graduates expressed their intention to continue studying at colleges and universities.
When assessing these indicators, a significant piece of information is being aware that in December 2009 average household income was $1,300 in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires and Greater Buenos Aires, and $1,000 in provincial centers. These are mostly large families resulting in a situation of extreme need.
Another extremely encouraging indicator is the drop out from the program. In the first year in 2007, 172 grants were awarded. That year, the drop out was 5 percent, and none of the cases were for failure to meet commitments.
In 2009, with 900 grants the drop out was reduced to 2.2 percent of the total. As in the first year, there were no significant cases of failing to meet commitments.
The performance of these indicators expresses the proper functioning of the program’s mechanism.
By Gonzalo Verdomar Weiss- Director of Institutional Relations of BBVA Banco Francés and director of the Banco Francés Foundation.