Strengthening Diverse Capacities through Diverse Approaches at Partner Universities

Strengthening Diverse Capacities through Diverse Approaches at Partner Universities

Photo showing a group of Ethiopian data collectors sitting around a table.
Pause-and-reflect session with data collectors. © 2023 Almetsehay Sisay, Jimma University

By Data for Impact

June 14, 2024

Data for Impact (D4I), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), supports countries to generate and use high-quality data to improve their programs, policies, and—ultimately—health outcomes. D4I also strengthens the technical and organizational capacity of local organizations and actors to collect, analyze, and use data to support their sustainable development. One successful approach D4I has adopted involves capacity strengthening of universities in Armenia and Moldova, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, and Malawi. In line with USAID’s Local Capacity Strengthening Policy, faculty and students from university partners identified their unique capacity-strengthening priorities, and D4I worked closely with each university to develop appropriate tailored interventions.

“Successful capacity strengthening supports local actors to perform roles and have relationships that will shape a local system in a way that meets their aspirations, goals, and needs. Thus, in selecting the approach, we must collaborate with local actors to understand their priorities, existing strengths, and performance improvement goals.” —USAID Local Capacity Strengthening Policy

Armenia & Moldova: Developing M&E and Data Use Curricula for Future Social Workers

Click above to hear audio of closing remarks from the Preparing Future Social Workers for Data-Driven Practice: A panel discussion with universities in Moldova and the USA webinar from May 31, 2023.

In Moldova, D4I worked with Moldova State University (MSU) and Ion Creanga Pedagogical State University (ICSPU) to develop curricula, methodological guides, student handbooks, and internship programs for a new monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and data use curriculum for social assistance students. The new courses are now part of ICSPU’s bachelor’s and MSU’s master’s-level social assistance programs, with MSU mainstreaming the M&E and data use curriculum into seven additional disciplines. MSU and ICPSU are mentoring three vocational colleges for similar curriculum development, and D4I has also extended grants to two additional universities, Free International University of Moldova and Balti State University.

In Armenia, D4I provided small grants to the Armenia State Pedagogical University, National Institute of Labor and Social Research, Public Administration Academy of Armenia, and Yerevan State University to develop M&E courses as part of their in-service and pre-service social work training curriculum. Over the course of a three-day training course for instructors from these institutions, participants learned ways to integrate M&E into their curricula. By August 2023, all four Armenian institutions had developed new or updated existing M&E courses and modules and received approval to institutionalize the courses into their social assistance curricula.

Bangladesh: Developing Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Curricula in the Department of Population Science at Dhaka University

Group photo at the launch of the D4I and DPS-DU collaboration.
Launch of the D4I and DPS-DU collaboration. © D4I Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, D4I and the Department of Population Science at Dhaka University (DPS-DU) engaged in a collaboration aimed at strengthening capacity for M&E and analysis of health, nutrition, and population (HPN) data among faculty and students at DPS-DU. Together, D4I and DPS-DU updated an undergraduate population sciences course syllabus and developed guidelines for course revisions to ensure graduates receive the most current training and skills for the job market. D4I and DPS-DU also developed a sustainable short-term training on basic M&E of HPN programs which will be offered by DU to meet continuing education needs among health professionals who contribute to management and policymaking of government and other health programs.

D4I collaborated with faculty from DPS-DU to design and lead a monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) workshop for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) program managers. A second MEL workshop for MOHFW personnel was led by DPS-DU, who facilitated all sessions and logistics. To strengthen the capacity of future researchers, DPS-DU faculty and D4I staff also served as thesis advisors for two master’s students in DPS.

“He helped me … expand my understanding of the subject matter. His feedback was so precise … He could anticipate … what problems I am going to face next… So, that was very helpful … He asked for my data, and he also made some drafts for me … to understand and visualize the problem perfectly.” —DPS-DU master’s student describing mentoring from D4I

DRC: Strengthening Evaluation Capacity at the Kinshasa School of Public Health

Results model for KSPH capacity strengthening plan.
Figure 1. Results model for KSPH capacity strengthening plan

In the DRC, D4I worked with the Kinshasa School of Public Health (KSPH) to strengthen evaluation capacity. As KSPH already provides training in evaluation competencies, it was key for D4I to understand what training KSPH currently did and did not offer and where students and faculty most desired to grow their evaluation skills. Through interviews and surveys with KSPH faculty and students, a core set of evaluation learning modules was selected by KSPH for development and were made available online via the school’s learning management platform.

KSPH also identified acquiring more direct funding for evaluations and other research as a fundamental goal. To achieve this, the school needed increased access to information about funding opportunities and supporting materials for grant applications (e.g., biodata templates and institutional capacity statements). In response, a grant resource library was created, comprising both a catalog of funding opportunities and a repository of documents.

KSPH also wanted to develop forums for networking and information sharing. An online community of practice was created with the aim of increasing communication within KSPH. The discussion board is open to the KSPH community and moderated by a core set of administrators. Users can post technical questions, job opportunities, and other items of interest to evaluation learners and practitioners working in the DRC and beyond.

Ethiopia: Strengthening Capacity for Electronic Data Collection, Qualitative Analysis, and Supporting the Next Generation Researchers at Jimma University

In Ethiopia, D4I collaborated with Jimma University to provide MEL support for a Packard Foundation-funded integrated development project called FUTURES—My Forest, My Livelihood, My Family, which serves communities in the Yayu Biosphere region of Ethiopia. The activity has produced MEL materials, baseline and midline data, dissemination of midline findings, and capacity strengthening with Jimma University. Capacity strengthening topics were solicited from local colleagues and activities have included training on Open Data Kit (ODK)—a free and open source software for computer-assisted personal interviews (CAPI) data collection—and the purchase of tablets and phones, as well as training on qualitative software (Dedoose) for baseline and midline data collection.

“I attended three days of intensive training on ODK for the FUTURES baseline data collection … and I can say that it was one of the most interesting and valuable training I have ever attended…Moreover we also gained technical support on the actual data collection sites by the supervisors and ICT teams in addition to the training… Recently I have also got the chance to work for another project as a result of my previous exposure.” —Female data collector, FUTURES baseline survey

Faculty from Jimma University and D4I staff also served as thesis advisors for two female MSc students in the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine. In addition, D4I and Jimma University co-authored two manuscripts, further enhancing the capacity of students and faculty.

Malawi: Strengthening Capacity for Rigorous Evaluation at the University of Malawi’s Centre for Social Research

D4I conducted an impact evaluation of the USAID-and PEPFAR-funded Malawi Secondary Education Expansion for Development (SEED) activity in collaboration with the Centre for Social Research (CSR) at the University of Malawi. Local engagement extended to all aspects of the evaluation, including design, planning, capacity strengthening through collaborative implementation and training, and support for evidence use in policies and programs. In addition to “learning-by-doing” opportunities for organizational capacity strengthening offered by co-implementing a large-scale evaluation, D4I and CSR worked together to identify a set of activities to strengthen the organization’s capacity for qualitative and quantitative analysis and results dissemination.

Click on the video above to hear CSR Senior Research Fellow, Tawonga Mwase-Vuma, discuss CSR’s capacity strengthening experience
Cover of Research and Evaluation Capacity Assessment Tool and Resource Package (RECAP)

To identify CSR’s capacity strengthening needs and priorities related to rigorous evaluation, D4I implemented the Research and Evaluation Capacity Assessment Tool and Resource Package (RECAP) with CSR. RECAP is designed to provide a process-oriented self-assessment of an organization’s evaluation capacity strengths and priorities for growth. The RECAP tool assesses capacity in six domains through a consensus-building approach. CSR staff participated in a RECAP assessment workshop and identified existing organizational strengths and opportunities for growth in the areas of qualitative and quantitative analysis and results dissemination.

D4I’s capacity strengthening interventions in Malawi included training on qualitative software (Dedoose) and collaborative analysis, mentoring on the difference-in-differences (DID) method for comparing changes in outcomes over time between the evaluation’s treatment and comparison groups to estimate the impact of the SEED activity, and training on data visualization and collaborative dissemination of evaluation findings.

Strengthening Diverse Capacities through Diverse Approaches

Effective local capacity strengthening with partner universities involves working with faculty and students to identify their priorities and develop appropriate, tailored interventions. D4I has facilitated a variety of interventions that included development of M&E and data use curricula for undergraduate and graduate students at several universities in Armenia, Moldova, and Bangladesh, as well as continuing education MEL workshops for professionals in Bangladesh. D4I staff, together with partner university faculty, served as thesis advisors for master’s students in Bangladesh and Ethiopia, and in Ethiopia, faculty and students from Jimma University co-authored articles that were published in peer-reviewed journals. In DRC, a set of core online evaluation learning modules were developed, along with a grant resource library and online community of practice. In both Malawi and Ethiopia, D4I provided training on qualitative software and analysis. Training in Ethiopia also focused on ODK software for CAPI data collection. In Malawi, mentoring on the DID method for impact estimation and training on data visualization rounded out capacity strengthening activities.

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