Capstone Courses and Projects
Agricultural Missions, Inc. (AMI) is a 79-year old faith-based ecumenical organization that accompanies rural peoples around the world in their efforts to address the structural causes of impoverishment and injustice in their communities. AMI's leadership requested a Capstone team to assist in evaluating the organization's current capacity and future potential to fulfill its mission. This resulted in recommendations on how best to reach that potential in a changing world. Through interviews with AMI staff and an online survey of AMI partners around the world, it was determined that the critical areas of focus were board capacity, marketing, and fundraising. The Capstone team gathered data and compiled various resources for AMI in these areas of focus through literature reviews and examinations of similar organizations. The team then provided recommendations for next steps and a compendium of resources for AMI to consider as it strives to efficiently expand its impact, achieve financial security, and increase its public profile.
Congressional Research Service
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) requested that the Capstone team provide critical information and analysis to members of Congress in order to guide U.S. environment and security policy in the Asia region and beyond. The team collected and aggregated research and analysis on the major environmental issues and their corresponding drivers affecting five regions across Asia and the south Pacific. After a survey of all conflict situations across the regions, the team analyzed specific cases within each sub-region, focusing on the intersection between three major components of each conflict: existing and potential human security dynamics, environmental issues and their drivers, and the governmental and non-governmental actors involved. The causal, compounding, and intervening relationships between the three major components of each case are analyzed and presented through graphic models and case reports. Cases with similar environmental or security characteristics across all sub-regions are also considered in comparison and contrast to the specific cases.
Education Development Center
Global UR, developed by the Education Development Center (EDC), is an online learning network for international development practitioners. The website features a quarterly magazine, job postings, a calendar of events, publications, links to related websites and book reviews. EDC aims to increase Global UR's online presence by expanding its membership and awareness among faculty and students in international development. The Capstone team's task was to make strategic recommendations to help Global UR to achieve its goals. The team: 1) identified new university partners; 2) performed a needs assessment survey of potential new users; 3) identified additional strategic marketing partnerships; 4) developed and facilitated an online teach-in to energize and attract Global UR members; and 5) designed fundraising strategies to support future growth. In addition, the team observed and evaluated the results of these activities in order to make recommendations for subsequent improvement of this initiative.
Education For Employment Foundation
The Education for Employment Foundation (EFE) works in the Middle East and North Africa to provide disadvantaged youth with the skills needed to improve their economic future and that of their countries. EFE accomplishes this objective by providing unemployed youth with cutting-edge professional training that directly leads to job opportunities. The Capstone team was commissioned by EFE to test and refine a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework. The team first undertook a review of the existing M&E techniques and elicited feedback from EFE staff as to its functionality and practicality. The Capstone team then conducted extensive research and traveled to Jordan and Morocco to interview key EFE staff and pilot the tools with students, alumni, employers, and partners. In its final written report, the team produced an updated series of M&E tools, a user's guide, and recommendations on how EFE can tailor the M&E system to individual program and country needs.
Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria
The Global Business Coalition is a corporate membership organization helping corporations identify and implement programs within their businesses to address diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Many of these corporations utilize Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms to achieve maximum efficiency in their supply chain. The Capstone team discovered that BPO firms tend to employ a young, mobile workforce that is compensated significantly higher than the national average. Higher levels of disposable income can allow BPO employees to engage in high-risk behavior that can lead to an increase HIV/AIDS transmission. Due to the immense growth in BPO industries, the Capstone team examined the development and implementation of HIV workplace policies by multinational corporations operating offshore firms in India by focusing on HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank as two case studies. The team will deliver a comprehensive written report complete with data analysis, corporate policy analysis, best practices, and recommendations for HIV policy implementation.
Global Relief Technologies
How does an organization decide to adopt a new technology in its field programs? Global Relief Technology, a producer of handheld data collection devices, asked the Capstone team to research the barriers for PDA adoption by emergency relief organizations. NGOs across sectors are increasingly weighing the tangible and intangible costs and benefits of new ways of collecting timely, mission-specific data. The team interviewed approximately a dozen organizations in varying fields to discover the financial, technical, and institutional barriers preventing organizations from incorporating such types of technology. The team also conducted case studies of two organizations (one domestic and one international) currently piloting different PDA devices to explore the decision making processes these groups followed in their technology acquisition decisions. The team identified common barriers and themes in purchasing decisions of the sampled organizations and compiled the information in a white paper for wider industry distribution.
The Hesperian Foundation publishes books and educational materials that empower the world's poor to take greater control over their health and their lives. The Capstone team partnered with the Hesperian Foundation to evaluate two of their publications, "Where Women Have No Doctor" and "A Book for Midwives." The evaluation consisted of an online survey distributed to book users, and a case study of midwives who use the books in rural and urban Guatemala. The data collected from both aspects of the evaluation provide a thorough picture of how Hesperian publications are used throughout the world, as well as information which will be used to inform the development of future publications.
Municipal Development Partnership for East and Southern Africa
The Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa (MDPESA) engages in capacity building to promote civic engagement and ensure effective self-governance in 25 African nations, and the Capstone team was enlisted to study citizen engagement and local government revenue generation in Uganda. The abolition of Uganda's graduated tax coupled with limited implementation of participatory mechanisms has contributed to the inability of local governments to meet citizen demand for services. Because most citizen engagement studies have focused on the technical aspects of participatory expenditure budgeting and not on revenue generation, the team conducted fieldwork in Uganda to explore the links between citizen engagement, revenue generation, and service delivery. The team held interviews with local and central government officials, as well as informal focus groups with local opinion leaders. MDPESA will use the final report to enhance their knowledge of the ties between citizen engagement and local government revenue generation in Uganda and to develop an agenda for further work.
Siembra Azul Foundation
NAFTA and U.S. recognition of Mexico's regions of appellation for tequila brought a substantial presence of multinational corporations into Mexico's tequila industry. With this, agave -- the principal ingredient of tequila -- is no longer cultivated by small farmers who possess the knowledge of all aspects of production. Due to the influx of multinational corporations, orchard-type environments are now cultivated and harvested by a multitude of people, each performing a specialized task. These developments bring changes to the economic and social roles of those working with agave and create a potential loss of multi-generational knowledge and alienation from traditional lands. While there has been considerable study of the liquor tequila and of the agave plant, the impact of the changes in agave production on the agave field workers of today is not yet documented. Who are the people who work in the agave fields of the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico? What is their role in today's agave production? What is the impact of the changes in agave production on these workers? The Capstone team interviewed workers in the agave fields surrounding Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico to answer such pressing questions.
Community Wealth Ventures
Long-term sustainability and financial security have become matters of grave concern for many nonprofit organizations as government support, private donations, and foundation grants decline. Community Wealth Ventures LLC (CWV) provides a solution to this pressing social problem through unique consultancy services currently offered to US-based nonprofit organizations. Entrepreneurial nonprofits can generate stable revenue streams by working with CWV and launching social franchises. These novel ?business-in-a-box? solutions can generate largely unrestricted funding streams and offer a pathway to long-term financial independence. The goal of the Capstone project was to investigate the feasibility of adapting CWV's domestic social franchise model to international settings in order to provide a potential new funding stream for international non-governmental organizations. The final deliverable is a findings report detailing the feasibility of international social franchising. The report will be available to organizations around the world and will serve as an assesment tool of the risks and benefits of entering the international social franchise marketplace.
United Methodist Committee on Relief
The primary focus of this project was to help the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) identify and assess the health care priorities of national and local governments, the Methodist Church, and other key actors in C?te d?Ivoire. In particular, the team was asked to assess Dabou Methodist Hospital, a former British colonial hospital now owned by the local Methodist church, and make recommendations for its improvement. These recommendations will be considered by hospital administrators as well as leaders in the Methodist Church of Texas, who have established a partnership with the Methodist Church of C?te d'Iviore. The team conducted an environmental scan of the healthcare system and infrastructure of C?te d?Ivoire using internet-based research and interviews with US-based experts in healthcare systems. The team also traveled to C?te D?Ivoire to visit the hospital and interview various stakeholders, including leaders in the Methodist Church, hospital administrators and staff, as well as government officials, to gain a deeper understanding of local health care issues and challenges. Deliverables include recommendations for the improvement of the hospital and the feasibility of establishing a community health worker program. The team's findings will be presented to the hospital staff, leaders from the Methodist Church in C?te d?Ivoire, and leaders from the Methodist Church in Texas.
United Nations Capital Development Fund
The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) seeks to reduce poverty in Least Developed Countries (LDC) through local development programs combining investment capital, capacity building, and technical advisory services. Its approach emphasizes government decentralization and local pilot projects. High quality evaluations are crucial for UNCDF to understand the effectiveness of innovative strategies employed in pilot projects and the merits of scaling them up. The organization's evaluation framework must be flexible and nuanced to capture the contextual differences of interventions in diverse countries around the world, yet also standardized to facilitate comparisons. The Capstone team created a framework to carefully analyze eight evaluations completed in 2007 and reviewed existing evaluation manuals and guidelines. The team produced conceptual structures, diagrams, and recommendations to assist UNCDF in further improving its evaluations in the future.
United Nations Capital Development Fund
The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) engaged a Capstone group to assess interim strategic planning outcomes of PADETOM, a UNCDF program in Nicaragua. The program's objective is to build the capacity of municipalities in the Rio San Juan region to promote and support local economic development (LED) strategies and initiatives. The Capstone team conducted a document review, academic research on current methodologies and approaches to LED, and field interviews with program partners, beneficiaries, stakeholders, and other agencies. Its findings include an analysis of the municipal planning process for the program, the larger framework under which it will be executed, and the expected effect on focus towns. The team also made recommendations for a future planning model for LED projects and for UNCDF's work in particular, including the recognition of the need for a multi-faceted approach linking it to rural economic development efforts.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Despite a growing concern about the impact of climate change on local communities, there has been a heavy emphasis on mitigation and adaptation efforts at the global and national levels of government. Support for local efforts to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change have only recently been studied and highlighted. The Capstone team worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) to assess and expand knowledge on local level reactions to climate change in various countries. The team reviewed three cases from Jamaica, India, and Mozambique involving local action by civil society organizations to increase community preparedness and to cope with the consequences of climate change. The cases give examples of the type of support required from NGOs and governments to enhance the capacity of communities to prepare for major catastrophic events and to adapt to climate change.
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church (UMC) has collected over $10 million dollars to support the expansion of pension programs for United Methodist Church Conferences in the 37 countries in which it functions around the world. The Central Conference Pension Initiative (CCPI) assists each of the UMC Conferences to build the best pension program for their community. In order to equitably and efficiently distribute funds around the world, CCPI asked the team to evaluate international poverty measurement tools, tailor a tool specifically for CCPI, and test this tool in Angola. The team went to Angola with the goal of interviewing 60 pastors and pensioners using a consumption questionnaire to determine a common standard of living before and after retirement. The results will assist CCPI in making informed decisions on how to distribute funds. Ultimately, based on field research, the Capstone team will produce an enhanced survey that CCPI can implement in all 37 countries in the future.
United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services
The Capstone team was enlisted by the United Nations Department of Management to develop recommendations for improving the existing policy and practice of telecommuting within the Secretariat and its field offices world-wide. The team carried out an online internal survey of global Secretariat employees on their knowledge of and experience with telecommuting at the UN. The team visited the UN office in Vienna, noted within the UN system for its exceptional work/life balance policy and implementation strategies, to conduct in-person interviews about telecommuting best practices. The team also conducted an external benchmarking study to identify telecommuting best practices amongst UN sister agencies, NGOs, and private sector companies.
When exploring women's workforce participation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), questions of culture and religion often surface. These issues frequently become roadblocks in debating impacts of female labor force participation and methods of eliminating negative externalities while maximizing positive effects. In order to eliminate these barriers and enable discussion of real solutions for women's employment in MENA countries, the World Bank requested a Capstone team to evaluate policies and solutions that facilitate growth of the female labor force and are applicable to MENA countries. The purpose of the team's research was to explore the policies that countries outside of MENA have implemented to increase female workforce participation. The research examines transitional periods of women's workforce participation in the United States, Sweden, and Malaysia and the impact this increased participation had on GDP growth. Recommendations to MENA countries are based on this research and analysis.