Capstone Courses and Projects
The Capstone team worked with Agora Partnerships, an organization that supports small-to-medium sized businesses in Central America that incorporate economic, social or environmental value into their business plans. Through its Accelerator program, Agora enhances these businesses’ ability to scale up by providing their founding entrepreneurs with skills training, networking opportunities, and access to capital. Tasked with evaluating Agora’s potential expansion into El Salvador and Costa Rica, the team traveled to both countries—as well as to Agora’s annual retreat for Accelerator program participants—to meet with entrepreneurs, investors, partners, academics, and government officials. For each country, the team examined the entrepreneurial landscape; whether existing businesses are interested in enhancing their value to the community; what investors are looking for; and with whom Agora could partner on the ground. The team provided Agora with analysis and recommendations on whether to pursue its planned expansion into El Salvador and Costa Rica and, if so, how to maximize its value in each country.
Amend is a nonprofit organization addressing the epidemic of road-traffic injuries in African countries; its main service provides road safety education to school children, who bear a heavy burden of these injuries. Although Amend believes strongly in the value of this education, fundraising efforts may not support the organization’s long-term growth. As a result, Amend contracted the Capstone team to explore the option of opening a for-profit consulting branch that expands its range of services in the road safety field. The Capstone team developed a strategic plan for the organization, taking into account the market for road safety as well as Amend’s abilities to provide these services. Using the Capstone team’s recommendations, Amend’s consulting branch can earn a profit and funnel these funds back to the nonprofit branch, creating a sustainable cycle of funding for their true priority: educating children on road safety to save lives.
Malaria No More
Malaria No More (MNM) is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to ending malaria deaths through communications and prevention campaigns throughout malaria-endemic Africa. MNM is working on an initiative to introduce Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) and is seeking to gain a better understanding of attitudes towards fever and malaria diagnosis in Africa, in order to produce targeted behavior-change communications. To explore this issue, the Capstone team conducted focus groups with community members and interviewed healthcare workers in Cameroon where RDTs are being introduced. Preliminary analysis suggests there are information gaps about malaria diagnoses and RDTs for both the public and healthcare workers. These initial findings have been used to shape content for a series of forthcoming public service announcements in Cameroon. The final report included an extensive literature review, detailed qualitative analysis of data collected in Cameroon, and recommendations for future communications strategies about RDTs and malaria.
Medical Relief Alliance
The Capstone team provided a market analysis and business plan for a dairy goat farm in Kenya for Medical Relief Alliance (MRA). MRA is a small NGO with a goat-gifting program (Goat Hope) for women affected by HIV/AIDS. MRA’s objective is to start a Social Venture Goat Farm (SVGF) that will fund the expansion of project Goat Hope to an additional 200 families annually. In addition to the market analysis of goat milk products in Kenya, the Capstone team conducted a comprehensive overview of good animal husbandry practices affecting dairy goat milk production as well as a review of commercial goat-rearing practices in Kenya and in the U.S. and an assessment of goat breeding competitors. The culmination of the Capstone team’s work resulted in a series of recommendations set forth in a business development plan that gives MRA a roadmap to introduce SVGF’s goat milk and value-added products into Kenyan supermarkets.
Seeds of Africa Foundation
In Ethiopia, 39 percent of the population is below the international poverty line, the total adult literacy rate is 36 percent, and the primary school net enrollment is 45 percent. Seeds of Africa is a nonprofit international organization based out of New York City and Adama, Ethiopia that seeks to combat these and other recurring issues through an educational enrichment initiative. The organization sought an evaluation of their program’s impact on their students and community before moving forward. The Capstone team conducted in-depth research on after-school education, evaluation tools, and consulted field experts in order to develop a thorough, multi-faceted evaluation system. The team collected quantitative and qualitative data in Adama by conducting stakeholder interviews, documenting data, and observing and assessing students by implementing the evaluation they developed. The team provided a comprehensive final report of findings and recommendations, which Seeds of Africa can use to improve its program and understand the scope of its impact.
United Nations Development Programme
The Bureau for Development Policy of the United Nations Development Programme has selected 10 countries in which to scale up proven local development projects in sectors that include microfinance, good governance, employment, energy, and water and sanitation over the next two to three years. UNDP requested a Capstone team to assist them with designing a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system specifically for use during the scale up phase of the selected projects. The Capstone team focused on projects in two of the 10 countries, Colombia and Rwanda, to assess gaps in the M&E systems currently in place and draft a set of indicators that could be used to measure each project's outcomes and impacts. In addition, the Capstone team conducted a literature review of M&E systems being used in international development.
Academy of Responsible Management
With the high level of economic growth present in Southeast Asia (SE Asia), businesses, communities, and governments are gradually recognizing the need for increased corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. This is especially true with respect to the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that comprise a huge proportion of the region's businesses. To address this need, the Academy of Responsible Management (ARM) provides trainings to assist SMEs with developing sustainable management models to enhance their performance and social impact through ethical and environmental management. ARM, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is interested in expanding its services to other countries in SE Asia. The Capstone team was tasked with examining the general frameworks of CSR in the region. After a literature review, the team narrowed its focus to the electronics manufacturing industry in Thailand and the food processing industry in Vietnam. Both industries are comprised primarily of SMEs and each has a significant impact on the environment and overall health and safety of industry workers. To gather data and further develop the proposed research, the team traveled to Thailand and Vietnam to interview business owners, union representatives, government officials, and nonprofits in order to forecast ARM's growth opportunities. The team produced a report on its findings with suggested opportunities for growth, next steps, and potential funding partnerships.
Global Goods Partners
Global Goods Partners (GGP) is a US-based nonprofit that sells and markets handmade, fair trade artisan goods produced by over 40 community-based organizations (CBOs) in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. GGP aims to improve sustainable livelihoods for communities and seeks to understand how its operations support local economic empowerment, education, health, and women's rights. The Capstone team developed a monitoring and evaluation framework to measure and document the social impact of GGP’s partnerships. The team conducted field interviews with artisans and management in Nepal and Guatemala, developed a matrix of social and economic indicators that align with the reporting priorities of GGP and partner CBOs, and created a virtual survey tool and evaluation framework to help GGP collect and analyze data. The field data, tools, and framework were compiled into a final report that GGP will use to further its mission and conduct an impact evaluation in the future.
International Housing Coalition
The Capstone team worked with the International Housing Coalition (IHC) to develop sustainable and strategic capacity building for the growing organization. With the shift of the U.S. economic landscape, cuts into the federal budget for foreign aid inhibited the IHC’s ability to fulfill its advocacy mission and secure funding for international urban development projects. To assess the IHC’s ability to function effectively as an advocacy coalition, the Capstone team took a multi-pronged approach towards capacity building, focusing on both the coalition model and lobbying process. The first step included an audit of the IHC’s 31 coalition members: conducting interviews and an on-line survey to determine members’ needs, legislative interests, and levels of engagement. To understand membership organization dynamics, the team researched best practices of effective coalitions. The second step involved collaborating with professional lobbyists to understand how organizations confront financial and ideological shifts. Ultimately, the IHC received a Microsoft Access database cataloging the key elements of their coalition membership; a detailed report containing recommendations for strengthening the IHC coalition model, better engagement with coalition members and their respective legislative priorities, improved lobbying techniques and potential legislative targets, and, finally, a strategic framework for implementing this new information.
Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (Institute for Mexicans Abroad)
Migrant workers face particular challenges in making their skills visible across global contexts, impacting the utilization of human capital and migrants’ ability to increase their standard of living and earnings. The mission of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME) is to advise the government of Mexico on the formulation of policies for Mexican communities abroad. Building on the 2010-11 Capstone project that evaluated IME’s programs to train and certify middle-skilled migrant workers in the United States, this year’s team provided IME a comparative analysis of global programs and practices pursuing skills training and certification. To help inform the development of a transnational policy, the team examined the institutional structures and partnerships of skills training and certification programs through two case studies set in the European Union and the Asian-Pacific region.
Founded in 2010, four graduates of the management school at Fundação Getulio Vargas in São Paulo launched Instituto Tellus to inspire more innovative models in public management. In order to create a more dynamic, efficient, transparent, and citizen-centered state, Instituto Tellus aims to connect civil society and the government through design thinking and reflective action to co-create innovative solutions to public challenges. The primary scope of the Capstone project was to create evaluative frameworks for Instituto Tellus’ core programs as they seek to measure their impact. The Capstone team conducted stakeholder interviews with staff and clients, and worked with core staff to define complex relational concepts while emphasizing process and impact goals. Researching evaluation methodologies relevant to public sector innovation led the team to propose tailored evaluative tools for Instituto Tellus to measure the impact of their work to change citizen's lives through social innovation in the Brazilian public sector.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Guided by the theory that public participation, when formalized within legislative bodies, contributes toward greater transparency, accountability and overall improvement in public service delivery, UNDESA asked the team to initiate what is envisioned to be a multi-year initiative looking into such links. Specifically, the team was tasked with identifying and investigating formal mechanisms of public participation at the committee level within the parliaments of the common wealth. After in-depth research and careful selection, the team created a research methodology and conducted fieldwork investigating these mechanisms in Ghana, India, and South Africa. The fieldwork entailed high-level interviews with members of parliament, government officials, media, and civil society organizations. The findings from these interviews were compiled in detailed case studies on each country that discuss the mechanisms of public participation and their perceived effectiveness.
Egypt Decentralization Initiative/United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Programme
In recent years, the Government of Egypt worked closely with various international development institutions, including USAID through the Egyptian Decentralization Initiative (EDI), to promote experimentation with decentralization and local governance reform in the highly centralized country. Prior to the 2011 revolution, the Ministry of State for Local Development (MoLD) was working on a national decentralization and local governance strategy and various pilot programs. The country is now in the process of electing a new government and developing a new constitution, and the place of decentralization is not yet clear. The Capstone team provided inputs to assist EDI in thinking about how to support development of a new strategy paper that is consistent with the evolving situation. Topics of investigation included documenting how key government activities have been handled in the past; providing examples from international experience; outlining essential questions and methodologies for assessing how the system might be transformed going forward; and determining whether/which international agencies might support MoLD to advance their agenda.
United Nations Capital Development Fund and The Swedish International Center for Local Democracy
The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Swedish International Center for Local Democracy (ICLD) support capacity building and governance in developing countries, both to improve decentralization and to strengthen local public investment. The Capstone team examined and mapped the Local Economic Development (LED) strategies in Rwanda and Uganda. The team identified key LED stakeholders and reviewed the trajectory of nascent LED approaches, in order to extract lessons learned and to document key challenges in LED implementation. The Capstone team conducted extensive background research on LED theory and practice and conducted field interviews with local municipal authorities, ministry officials, and civil society members in Rwanda and Uganda. This research is a continuation of a portfolio of case studies being done for the clients to better understand and map LED strategies across the developing world.
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. The Institute engaged the Capstone team to assess metropolitan governance and finance practices in Accra, Cape Town, and Nairobi. The team’s research focused on documenting intergovernmental relations, financing mechanisms, and service delivery management as well as exploring key issues around land and its potential for raising revenue. The Capstone team used field interviews and secondary research to produce case studies that explore the interactions between institutional and financial structures and service delivery in each city. This research contributes to an existing collection of case studies developed by previous Capstone teams on Cairo and Manila. These cases will be publicly available on the Lincoln Institute website as a resource for scholars and practitioners interested in local public governance and finance.
Municipality of Sucre: Agency for Economic Development
The Capstone team worked with the Agency for Economic Development in Caracas, Venezuela on two main activities relating to informal street vendors operating in Petare, an informal settlement. The tasks included gathering information about the vending practices and spatial location of street vendors to inform the distribution of vending permits as well as investigating the impact of a professional training program (“Hacia la formalización”) geared towards formalization. The team created maps of vendor stall spaces along streets and sidewalks in Petare coded with supplemental information about type of product sold. They also conducted a preliminary evaluation of the training program through interviews, focus groups, and telephone surveys with program architects, instructors, and program beneficiaries. The team used a literature review and other background information to help synthesize and analyze the field data, providing recommendations to the client on how to improve the training course and authorize permits for street vendors.
United Nations Development Programme, Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Facility
Tn 2008, the United Nations Development Program Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Facility (UNDP-CHTDF) created a community-based health service program in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), a rural post-conflict area in southeast Bangladesh. The program is slated to lose funding in the next six months, making it imperative for UNDP-CHTDF staff and local Hill District Council leadership to know the status and consider the future of basic health care provision in the CHT. The Capstone team took initial steps to document the level and quality of health care provided to those living in the CHT. The team also identified the strengths and weaknesses of the UNDP community-based health program and the government health facilities. The work included a thorough program assessment that included conducting one-on-one interviews and focus group meetings with key stakeholders. The team prepared a report and presentation on their findings for the client.
United Nations Development Programme, Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Facility
The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is an area characterized by a complex social and political environment and located in the south-eastern corner of Bangladesh. CHT has remained largely outside the mainstream of development assistance for more than 25 years due to an insurgency which ended with the signing of the CHT Peace Accord in 1997. Since 2003, UNDP-CHTDF has been the lead agency among the development partners carrying out programs and projects that range from health services to community empowerment. In July 2011, Union Parishad elections (lowest tier of local governance) saw a significant number of new women elected, including several who underwent UNDP-CHTDF gender and leadership training. The Capstone team conducted interviews with women in CHT to research women’s motivations to run for office, enabling factors that influenced their success in the election process, and key effects of election outcomes. The team then identified areas where UNDP-CHTDF can strengthen programming to increase the political participation and influence of women in the region.
Urban Institute Center on International Development and Governance
The Urban Institute (UI) Center on International Development and Governance conducts research, lends assistance, and builds capacity to promote economic and democratic development around the world. The Capstone team is working with UI to create a Local Public Sector Finance Database as the cornerstone of the Local Public Sector Initiative. The team collected data on financial, political, and administrative dimensions of the local public sector of 12 countries, with an emphasis on Africa and Asia. The countries selected include those that primarily employ either a devolved or deconcentrated system of local governance. The data collected will ultimately be used for the analysis of public sector effectiveness in developing countries. Outcomes will be compared across countries to determine how expenditures play a different role in the “production function” of the public sector and whether systemic differences exist between local public sector finances in devolved versus deconcentrated countries.
World Bank Urban Programs
The Capstone team worked with the World Bank on an urban project identification mission in four Indonesian cities (Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Balikpapan, and Makassar) with a particular focus on their planning departments. The new project is intended to help these cities to tackle the challenges of rapid urban growth through investment decisions that are both economically and ecologically sustainable. The team reviewed ideas for investment projects being planned by each city and did a preliminary assessment of their suitability for potential financing by low-interest loans to be provided through the project. In addition, the team interviewed key staff members to determine planning department requirements for technical assistance to strengthen their institutional capacity to implement the identified investments. The team provided input into the design of future capacity building workshops, assisted in drafting a Terms of Reference for a larger needs assessment, and collaborated on a preliminary design of its initial components.