Capstone Courses and Projects

African Council for Sustainable Health Development

A Cross-Systems Approach
The African Council for Sustainable Health Development (ACOSHED) Capstone team was asked to perform an organizational assessment of ACOSHED’s International Secretariat and the model Nigerian chapter based on the ideas established in the Better Health in Africa Report. The project entailed an appraisal of current management structures and programs as they relate to the goals stated in ACOSHED’s Strategic Plan for 2003-2007. A second component of the project involved the examination of two fledgling chapters—Ghana and Ethiopia, in order to better inform ACOSHED International of the resources needed to promote successful chapter growth and independence. The team was also asked to create a marketing template which could be used by ACOSHED International and its chapters to garner financial support and promote the organization to partners and the general public. This final report is intended to provide the reader with an understanding of the methodologies applied and the assumptions made by the Capstone consulting team in its efforts to provide ACOSHED with objective observations and recommendations.

Council on Health Research for Development

The Global Health Research Agenda: A Case-Study Approach
Scarce funding for health research is a problem that affects many countries. The problem is particularly acute for low-income countries, as they suffer from the double constraints of limited financial resources to fund necessary research themselves and the low priority given to their national health problems by the global research community. These constraints have contributed to the global disparity between disease burden and research funding termed the “10-90 gap.” To close this gap, it is essential that the health research conducted in low-income countries addresses their own research needs. This study addresses two main issues within the health research environments of Cameroon, Cuba, the Gambia, Lao PDR,Nicaragua, and the Philippines, with particular focus placed on research activities in light of national research needs. It examines the key factors influencing health research agendas and questions whether or not the health research conducted in low-income countries truly addresses their health and health research needs.

International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region

Mobile Health Units Study in Latin America and the Caribbean
While many organizations acknowledge that mobile health units are an innovative strategy to facilitate access to health services to marginalized populations, little rigorous evaluation or formal research has been implemented to substantiate these claims. In response to the absence of formal research, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR) in collaboration with the Capstone team initiated a study to research and showcase best practices in mobile service delivery through case studies from member associations that are currently operating different models in Colombia, Guatemala and Trinidad &Tobago. The purpose of the study is to understand from the perspective of project managers, coordinators, providers and clients, the most important steps in assessing need and developing and operating mobile units in resource-poor settings to deliver effective and high-quality services in a reliable and sustainable way. The project began with a literature review to determine the state of the field, mobile unit projects were identified in three countries, the study protocol and interview guides were developed and then IPPF/WHR staff along with the Capstone team carried out site visits to gather data. The research outlines practical recommendations for program planners in the field on how to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate reproductive health service provision using mobile unit models, while identifying key elements that contribute to effectiveness, including the documentation of factors that should be incorporated when planning to implement a mobile unit strategy such as quality of care, cost and staffing. The study also documents challenges encountered and lessons learned.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development

The Needs of African Health Ministries and the Principles Guiding Investment Decisions of External Stakeholders in the African Health Sector
African health ministries are partnering with a large number of bilateral and multilateral donors and development agencies, each with its own set of operating principles and approaches to health sector investment and planning. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development Capstone team has been asked to evaluate the impact of these multiple approaches on African health ministries’ ability to plan and deliver services within their national policy frameworks and their ability to maximize resources for the health sector. The final product of the research project will be a report containing comprehensive case study analysis for the health sectors of Ghana and the Gambia.

World Health Organization

WHO and the Evolving Environment of International Development
Amidst the substantial changes in the international development arena in recent years are calls for greater coherence and effectiveness of global assistance to developing countries. The Millennium Development Goals, with specific targets and indicators, have been developed as a result of the UN Millennium Declaration to guide the development efforts of governments, the UN, and civil society. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been seeking changes to increase its country-level impact, as part of the UN system’s reform. WHO aims to enhance the country focus of its policies and programs, as well as to improve coordination with other agencies and partners. The Capstone team has been asked to assess the implications of the new environment in international development for WHO, and to recommend organizational responses that transform objectives into effective country-level actions as part of a UN team effort.

Council of Chief State School Officers

The Analysis of International Exchange Organizations and Review of Education Content Areas
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization representing Chief Education Officers from 49 states working to provide leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on key educational issues. CCSSO assists chief state school officers and their staff to identify and address educational issues common across all states by taking a proactive approach to leading educational offices. CCSSO is comprised of various committees including the International Education Committee. The role of the International Education Committee is to provide these chiefs with opportunities to meet with Education Ministers abroad and discuss best practices and policies in other countries. In this way, the International Education Committee may affect both state and national education policy. The Capstone team was asked by CCSSO to research and analyze organizations that offered international exchange programs, and identify relevant content areas that could be incorporated into exchange programs. The team conducted background research on seven organizations and eleven exchange programs administered within those seven organizations, followed by extensive interviewing of staff within these organizations to find the “best practices” of each organization. At the same time exploration of the dominant issues affecting education policy makers was carried out. Recommendations based on the research and analyses of the organizations and content areas were then made to the International Education committee about the future direction of the exchange programs offered by CCSSO. The objective of the research, analysis and recommendations was to aid the International Education Committee at CCSSO in developing their 1, 5 and 10 year strategic plans.

International Center for Tolerance Education

Capacity Assessment Research, Development, and Implementation
The primary goal of the International Center for Tolerance Education (ICTE) is to support initiatives designed to promote young children’s understanding of and respect for the differences that exist among themselves, especially those related to culture, ethnicity, gender, race and socioeconomic status. As part of its philanthropy, ICTE identified the need to assist exemplary programs with capacity building activities in order for them to become sustainable. The Capstone team was charged with developing a valid capacity assessment tool based on research, surveys, and pilot testing for ICTE’s use with its grantees. Taking into consideration the focus of ICTE’s work, the tool was tailored specifically for use by organizations in the field of tolerance education and is adaptable in an international setting. In addition, the Capstone team provided ICTE with instructions for administration of the tool and interpretation of results.

International Center for Tolerance Education

Strategic Planning and Research
The International Center for Tolerance Education (ICTE) is an initiative of the Third Millennium Foundation founded in 2003 whose principal goal is to support initiatives to promote tolerance education, particularly among the young. ICTE’s mission is to promote innovation in the field of tolerance education on a global scale through building a critical mass of like-minded people and projects so that children and their families can participate in a vibrant and inclusive society. The Capstone team created a strategic plan designed to guide ICTE in building a global tolerance education program. In the short-run, the plan will give ICTE an overview of the field, help identify potential partners and provide directions for the future. In the long-run, ICTE can use the plan to create strong partnerships and interdisciplinary networks, provide leadership development and bring the program to scale. The strategic plan was comprised of two main parts: a research component and recommendations component. The research component addressed the following key issue areas: identification of exemplary organizations in the field of tolerance education for young children and their families; identification and analysis of best practices within the field of tolerance education with a special emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches and innovative uses of technology; and analysis of the trends that made these practices successful and an assessment of their limitations. The second component of the plan suggested ways in which ICTE could use existing tolerance education and human rights networks as well as knowledge of best practices and coverage gaps identified in component one, to develop a global tolerance education program that fits its mission and addresses the needs of the field.

International Organization for Adolescents

A Facilitator’s Guide to Increasing Civic Participation and Leadership Among Young Women in Emerging Democracies
The International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in response to the gap in programming and services for adolescents around the world. To meet the challenges specifically facing young women, IOFA developed the Girls Talk! Program model that aims to promote gender equity and empower young women to act as agents for change in their communities - locally, nationally and globally. The objective of the IOFA Capstone project was to develop a comprehensive trainer’s guide targeted at increasing young women’s civic participation by developing their leadership skills and political literacy. The curriculum was developed by completing a comprehensive literature review on best practices in the fields of civic education, adolescent learning, and women's leadership; speaking with professionals in the field and young people that have participated in leadership training programs; developing a criteria and rating system to evaluate over 50 curricula to discern what type of training activities work best in the field and meet IOFA’s needs; and creating a multidisciplinary four-module facilitator’s guide, covering such diverse topics as women’s rights, group dynamics, public speaking, and foundations of democracy, and including a “Train the Trainer” component. In addition to the curriculum itself, the Capstone team developed a guide to adapting the curriculum to international contexts specifically for Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. The team also created evaluation tools to monitor the effectiveness of the curricula on the individuals and their communities.

Fundació Natura

A Resource and Activity Plan
Fundació Natura is the first Catalan non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity through the protection, improvement, and restoration of natural ecosystems. The Catalan NGO is re-launching their online reforestation tool,, after the program previously failed during the dot-com crash in late 2000. The job of the Capstone project was to work with the support of the Program Director to identify and improve past weaknesses while exploiting the strengths of the project and enhancing visibility and credibility for Fundació Natura. Preliminary work included a re-evaluation of the previous program structure using decision-tree analysis. The PDCA (Plan/Do/Check/Act) Cycle, a Continuous Quality Improvement instrument, was used to analyze all past, present, and future insufficiencies and elaborate alternative solutions. The analysis included a managerial, financial, human resource and marketing assessment and re-organization. The study was used to create one sustainable and preventative solution, related to the roots of all program deficiencies. This included along-term resource and activity plan for the NGO. The plan is a way to control resources and future unexpected obstacles, as well as to monitor and detect when the project may be in a defined “danger zone.”

Le Laboratoire Reserche Interdisciplinaires Ville Espace Societe

A Closer Look at the United Nations WP.29
Setting industrial and product standards can have important implications for firms, consumers, industries, and national economies. Automobile standards are a case in point. For nearly a half-century, the Working Party 29 (WP) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has helped set common vehicle construction policy for Europe. In 1998,when the WP became the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, it effectively broadened its reach to encompass development of global vehicle regulations and standards. Part of a research team effort based at the Ecole Nationaledes Travaux Publics de l’Etat, this project investigated the WP, the drive behind global vehicle regulation, and the international actors involved in an attempt to answer how vehicle standardization policy takes form.

New York University Center on Catastrophe Preparedness and Response

Shaping the Policy Agenda to Include Alternatives to Military Solutions to Al-Qaeda Terrorism
It is generally assumed that the only way for the US to address the threat of terror-ism is to defeat it by military means, and that the US should not and cannot negotiate-ate with terrorists (either because there are no issues to negotiate or terrorists are irrational actors who only desire violent tactics). The Capstone team was asked to conduct action research on al Qaeda' score issues and to assess the extent to which it might be possible to address it score issues, to influence its perspectives and behaviors, and to slow down or undermine its recruitment efforts. Working closely with Adjunct Associate Professor Allen Zerkin, the team produced a white paper that outlined key questions and summarized this research, and organized two Roundtable meetings of academic scholars, security experts, diplomats and former public officials. The team also produced a proceedings report which highlighted the points of discussion, the underlying goal being how this exploration could become part of the US policy agenda.

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Exiting Bosnia and Herzegovina and Beyond: Assessing UMCOR-NGO’s Past Experiences to Shape the Future
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) NGO division has been providing development and relief assistance in transitional areas around the world since1993. Bosnia and Herzegovina represents UMCOR’s most extended and involved country mission to date, including a number of relief projects aimed at assisting the country in its recovery. UMCOR-NGO will phase-out its mission and exit the country in 2006. The Capstone team was asked to observe and to offer advice about how to learn from the exiting process, including an operating system of monitoring and evaluation, substantive long-term strategic planning, and possible roles for the organization in future post-conflict/disaster settings. Based on an analysis of program records and ten days of fieldwork in Bosnia, the team’s recommendations address the development of specific strategies for implementing an expanded system of monitoring and evaluation, and the adoption of more coherent, measurable, and attainable objectives in the early stages of project planning.

United Nations Department of Public Information Multimedia Resources Unit and NYU Wagner

The Development of a Prototype International Multimedia Management Case Study
The development of a prototype International Multimedia Management Case Study is a collaboration NYU Wagner and the United Nations Department of Public Information Multimedia Resources Unit to produce multimedia public service management case studies as an innovative tool for education, training and public information. Working with a team of Wagner students (Nicole Hewitt, Kathryn Roberts, and Jennifer Young) who volunteered to assist in the project, the Capstone student studied the issue, developed the multimedia case model, negotiated an agreement with the UN and produced the first Wagner International Multimedia Management Case Study: “UN Civilian Police: The Challenges of International Public Service,” featuring unique, never before seen footage of UNCIVPOL at work.

United Nations Office for Project Services

Knowledge Management in Development Assistance
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is the project management arm of the United Nations. It operates in every field where the UN has a mandate - from land mine awareness to public sector reform, from informatics solutions to eradicating poverty. Given the dynamic and complex environment of development assistance and peace keeping operations, UNOPS faces continuous need for up-to-date information. Such scanning is necessary in order to be effective in project execution and to identify new business opportunities. The Capstone team engaged in developing a capacity tool to provide UNOPS the means to assess its environment. The team developed a framework to structure external knowledge flows to be incorporated in UNOPS’s intranet tool across all its offices. Specifically, the Capstone team established analyses on four broad areas: latest news and trends in development assistance; statistics on aid for development and emergency assistance; business analysis of similar project management agencies; and key policy issues.

Ford Foundation

An Analysis of Program Related Investment and Exit Strategy in Microfinance
The Ford Foundation is reviewing exit strategies for program related investments (PRIs) to support its microfinance program. The Capstone team is supporting this effort by conducting a literature review of PRIs, conducting interviews with microfinance practitioners and funders, carrying out a comprehensive review of Ford’s own practices by examining their PRI portfolio and interviewing Ford staff, analyzing a survey of Ford’s micro finance grantees, and reviewing the exit strategies of other social investors and how they impact grantees. The team is using this information to provide a constructive critique of current practices and to make recommendations on how to better employ exit strategies, contributing to the wider discussion on effective use of PRI’s in development finance.

Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa

A Regional Review of Patterns and Innovations in African Local Government Expenditures on Managing HIV/AIDS
The Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa (MDPESA) is a capacity building facility dedicated to fostering effective self-governance at the local government level in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Capstone project supported MDPESA’s ongoing project on Innovations by African Local Governments in Managing HIV/AIDS, and analyzed levels and sources of HIV/AIDS funding and budget priorities for HIV/AIDS activities (i.e. prevention, treatment, care of infected/affected orphans and vulnerable children, etc.) in three African countries, with a particular emphasis on innovative efforts. It also provided recommendations for improving HIV/AIDS related municipal budget allocations, funding, reporting mechanisms, and accountability systems.

Planejamento Arquitetônico e Ambiental Rio

Community Participation in Urban Integration of Rio de Janeiro Favelas
Funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and sponsored by the Municipalidadede Habitação of Brazil, the Favela-Bairro program aims to integrate informal shantytowns (favelas) into the city by transforming them into functioning neighborhoods. Planejamento Arquitetônicoe Ambiental (PAA) has been involved infavela upgrading, an essential element of which is community participation in design and planning. To support this work, the Capstone team prepared a handbook of best practices for incorporating community participation methodologies into design and planning, and devised a survey tool to help PAA understand how favela residents view their experiences with upgrading projects in their community.

United Nations Capital Development Fund

Developing a Commune Service Levy in Cambodia
After creating elected commune governments in 2001, the Government of Cambodia is considering enhancement of their resources by creating a service levy based on land characteristics. As part of a United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) technical assistance effort to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), the Capstone team is performing background research and developing case studies on various options for instituting the levy. The team is also developing data collection instruments to help the MEFdecide if and how to pursue this reform as part of its larger efforts to support the service delivery capacity of new local governments and to improve accountability to their constituents.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Public Administration and Development Management Division

Engaging Citizens through Participatory Public Expenditure Management
In preparation for The International Conference on Engaging Communities, jointly organized by the United Nations and the government of Queensland, Australia, the Capstone team contributed to the available research on participation and engaged governance by looking at innovative or atypical participatory interventions in the budgetary process. The purpose of this activity was to aid in the development of a framework for understanding the enabling environment in which successful interventions in public expenditure management occur and to provide insights on improving program design. To this end, the team conducted a literature review and prepared case studies of participatory interventions in the budgetary process occurring at different levels of government.

World Bank Institute

Guatemala Project
After decades of internal conflict and highly centralized government, the Republic of Guatemala is embarking on reforms designed to ease the social, economic, and political problems plaguing the country. A key priority is the gradual decentralization of selected government functions. The national government has enlisted the World Bank Institute to assist them. As part of this effort, the Capstone team researched best and worst decentralization practices in developing countries, focusing on some of the government’s immediate concerns: municipal credit frameworks, municipal classifications, and decentralization strategies. The team prepared policy briefs intended to help generate and guide dialogue on these topics among government officials.