RCLA and Institute of International Education Launch Leadership Program Evaluation

RECENT NEWS reports have highlighted the first significant decline in decades in the number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth each year – a remarkable sign of progress in family planning and reproductive health services. Yet much remains to be done, and the health and well-being of women and families continues to be a global leadership challenge.

Since 2001, the Institute of International Education West Coast Center’s Leadership Development for Mobilizing Reproductive Health Program (LDM) has helped develop and sustain leaders working on the front lines of family planning, HIV/AIDS, adolescent reproductive health, gender-based violence, and improved maternal health care.

With support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the LDM program has supported over 1,200 emerging and established leaders in developing the vision, commitment, knowledge and skills to make systemic improvements to reproductive health options and the overall quality of life, especially for vulnerable people. Currently, LDM focuses on institutionalizing strong in-country leadership programs, building and sustaining networks that are platforms for learning and action, and offering leadership development programs, especially for women and youth.

LDM leaders work in the poorest regions of countries in greatest need: Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines.  According to the new study on reproductive health in the medical journal The Lancet, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Ethiopia are among the six countries that accounted for more than half of all the maternal deaths in 2008.  That makes the LDM’s work with leaders in these countries and the Philippines all the more urgent.

In order to evaluate and document the impact of the program, RCLA is collaborating with the IIE West Coast Center and the Packard Foundation to conduct an evaluation utilizing action research and participatory methodologies. Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla, deputy director of the Research Center for Leadership in Action, and RCLA consultant Judith Kallick Russell will be the principal evaluators. The participatory process will draw on the insights of LDM fellows, staff from IIE and other key stakeholders to examine key components of the programs, assess gains over time and lessons learned, and determine together how to develop future initiatives.

“The LDM program has provided many opportunities for fellows and key stakeholders to connect, collaborate and learn from each other. The evaluation will support this effort by integrating findings from different countries, validating the experience of the fellows and LDM program staff and enabling us to envision possibilities for the future,” said LDM Program Director Cheryl Francisconi.

The nine-month evaluation process begins June 13-15 with an international gathering of IIE staff, national evaluators and country program managers in Manila, Philippines. The meeting will provide an opportunity for participants to get to know each other, learn more about the LDM program and context in each country; introduce and discuss the inception report and the diverse methodologies, and finalize initial research questions.

“We believe that this evaluation will support LDM program goals by infusing the collective work with a deeper understanding of the role leadership development can play as well as new lessons from program results. The participatory approach will also further strengthen leaders’ ability to continue advancing reproductive health and social change in their organizations and communities,” said Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla.