Greatness United (G-United) is a national volunteering program implemented by the Government of Kenya and the Ministry of Education, in partnership with Evidence Action. The program recruits and trains recent university graduates to assist in low-performing public primary schools throughout the country to increase learning and build national unity. Applicants may be assigned to any county beside their home county, so the program is partly designed with the intention of promoting inter-ethnic contact. The program is meant to provide university graduates, who may not have good labor market opportunities, with a chance to develop new skills and build networks while, at the same time, improving government-provided educational services for young children.
In 2018, G-United assigned 1,227 volunteers to over 600 schools across 20 of Kenya’s 47 counties. In 2019, G-United will assign approximately 1,600 volunteers to 800 schools across 22 counties in Kenya. The program has increased capacity each year; at scale, it is intended to recruit, train, and deploy 10,000 volunteers annually, reaching 200,000 learners. The cost-effectiveness of this program is contingent upon improving volunteer retention at multiple stages of recruitment, and upon placement.
Like many civil service programs, G-United faces high rates of attrition, and qualitative findings suggest this dissatisfaction among volunteers may stem from the placements; prior to 2018, all volunteers were matched to counties via random assignment. This low retention increases recruitment and per-student costs, and limits the potential positive returns of the program. Attrition from G-United occurs at various stages: (1) applicants being assigned a school but subsequently not appearing for training and dropping out of the program as a result; and (2) applicants being assigned a school, initially working in that school, but then leaving the school during the school holidays and subsequently not returning. Others considering leaving the program may exert low effort, mirroring a common issue observed among public servants, especially in developing countries (e.g. Chaudhury et al., 2006).