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The Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity

Current Projects

Click here for completed projects.

“Education and Dignity”—Uganda“Education and Dignity”—Uganda

Families have flocked to private schools in Uganda but they vary greatly in the professionalization of their staff and the education they provide. In this pilot project, the Ford Program is evaluating a Ugandan educational institute’s ambitious initiative to increase the quality of education in a group of Catholic secondary schools by promoting consciousness of human dignity school wide.

The effort aims to build both skills and affinity between teachers, students, leaders, and parents in each school community by providing professional development and training that will increase the professionalism of teachers, place students and their individual needs and aspirations at the center of the educational process, and improve student learning outcomes. Quantitative and qualitative methods are being used to evaluate the effect on school culture and relationships in schools receiving the intervention and a group of control schools.

Partners: Congregation of Holy Cross, Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education (LGIHE), Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI), and Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives
Researchers: Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee, Research Assistant Professor, and Danice Brown, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Ford Program, and Mary Bales, Research Assistant Professor, Mendoza College of Business
Period: 2015–17

“Empowering Entrepreneurs”—Kenya“Empowering Entrepreneurs”—Kenya

Residents of Dandora, a sprawling section of Nairobi dominated by a massive garbage dump, contend with high unemployment, food insecurity, violence, poor health, and environmental issues. The Ford Program, in conjunction with local partners and three Notre Dame economists, is working to understand how microfinance can best benefit young entrepreneurs, after residents identified young people’s job prospects as a key priority.
Preliminary findings from a randomized controlled trial conducted by the economists shows that young entrepreneurs mentored by experienced local business owners generate more profit than new entrepreneurs who receive business skills training. The Ford Program facilitated the study by arranging focus groups, interviews, training, and a survey of over 3000 young female microbusiness owners.

Partners: Holy Cross Parish, Dandora, and Strathmore University
Researchers: Kellogg Faculty Fellows Wyatt Brooks, Kevin Donovan, and Terence Johnson
Period: 2014–16
Dissemination: Project working paper available here.

“Nurturing Social Enterprises”—Uganda“Nurturing Social Enterprises”—Uganda

Building on its ongoing engagement with the 12 villages of Nnindye (see below), the Ford Program is working with local partners to extend entrepreneurial training and microfinancing to members of community savings and internal lending (SILC) groups established with Ford support in recent years. Now largely self-sustaining, the SILC groups have provided community members with a safe way to save their earnings and share out savings, giving them increased access to financing to expand small businesses, cover unexpected expenses, and help each other smooth out spending throughout the year.

A new initiative aims to identify and nurture the most entrepreneurial group members. They receive microfinance loans, backed by their own SILC groups, and ongoing business training to boost the success of their small enterprises. Additional loans will be offered as long as capital is repaid. The training, offered to all SILC members, is fine-turned for maximum effectiveness using a Ford Program monitoring and evaluation platform. Baseline and endline studies will measure training impact while a qualitative study will evaluate the effect of microfinancing.

Partners: TechnoServe, UGAFODE Microfinance Limited, and Faculty of Business Administration and Management (BAM), Uganda Martyrs University (current), Catholic Relief Services (start-up)
Researchers: Danice Brown, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Ford Program
Period: 2012–present (SILC); 2015–17 (training and microfinance loans)

Completed Projects

“Text Messages for Community Health”—Uganda“Text Messages for Community Health”—Uganda

Conversations with residents during ongoing community engagement in the 12 rural villages of Nnindye revealed that they didn’t always take advantage of medical services provided by the community’s government clinic—and they weren’t that confident that staff and supplies would be present if they traveled there for treatment.

In response, the Ford Program and its partners established a text-messaging platform to allow clinic staff to inform residents when nurses and doctors were on duty and conducted a randomized-control trial to test the effectiveness of these messages at changing health-seeking behavior by Nnindye residents. Trial and clinic observational data show that the reported health status of the children of mothers who received text messages significantly improved.

Partners: Uganda Martyrs University, Verizon Foundation
Researchers: Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development, Luke Chicoine, Depaul University
Period: 2013–14 (The text-messaging system and Internet connection provided to the clinic continue to function.)

“Education for Civic Engagement”—Kenya“Education for Civic Engagement”—Kenya

Kenya’s new constitution, approved in a voter referendum and promulgated in 2010, contained significant changes in the structure of government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. This project sought to assist Caritas Kenya in its efforts to effectively inform and mobilize citizens to participate in the democratic process before the first national elections under the new Constitution.

Researchers assessed the effectiveness of civic education workshops conducted by Caritas in Dandora in the run up to the 2013 general election. The workshops were designed to educate potential voters about the new political system and encourage citizens to vote in the upcoming election. The results show that the workshops had no effect on voter turnout, with participants no more likely to vote than those who did not participate, but did have a mildly positive impact on certain indicators of political knowledge.

Partners: Holy Cross Parish, Dandora, and Caritas Kenya
Researcher: Faculty Fellow and Ford Program Director Rev. Robert Dowd, CSC
Period: 2012–13

“Nnindye: Local Empowerment for Rural Development”—Uganda“Nnindye: Local Empowerment for Rural Development”—Uganda

In its initial project, a multiyear collaborative engagement with rural Nnindye Parish, the Ford Program partnered with community members and nearby Uganda Martyrs University to better understand the challenges faced by residents and to jointly design sustainable solutions that build upon local capacities and interests. Locally, the partnership has been known as UPFORD—the University Partnership For Outreach, Research, and Development.

Through an extended listening and learning process with Nnindye community members that included a baseline assessment, the project focused on empowering residents in five key sectors: agriculture; health; saving and lending; water and sanitation; and education. An elected parish development committee oversees activities in Nnindye’s 12 villages. Efforts brought to fruition include community demonstration gardens to increase banana production and savings and internal lending (SILC) groups.

The Ford Program conducted a qualitative evaluation of the project to ascertain its success at empowering members of the Nnindye community. Evidence suggests that the process has mobilized people in new ways around agricultural productivity and marketing and savings. There has been renewed interaction between members of the Nnindye community and local government on public service delivery.

Partners: Uganda Martyrs University and UPFORD
Researcher: Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee, Research Assistant Professor, Ford Program
Period: 2007–15




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The Kellogg Institute promotes scholarship, learning, and linkages that address issues of critical importance to our world. At the center of our interdisciplinary community’s work are two key themes: democratization and human development. 

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