Completed Projects

Current Ford Projects


Remitting Belief to the Global South: An Interdisciplinary Study of Migration through Fieldwork and Big Data

Nearly a quarter of a billion people worldwide are international migrants. The Ford Program is studying how this unprecedented movement of peoples has influenced norms in the source countries of Sri Lanka and Mali, particularly in the context of human development in the areas of religion, society and culture. (more...)

Researchers: Kellogg Faculty Fellows Jaimie Bleck, and Nilesh Fernando ​​​​​
Period: 2018-19



SEP Project in Uganda

Small-scale rural entrepreneurs in Uganda have had little access to formal microfinance, but a program growing out of Ford Program supported savings and internal lending communities – or SILC groups – in Nnindye is trying to change that by investing in an innovative effort to meet community needs through the power of supportive relationships, as well as funding. (more...)

ResearchersDanice Brown Guzmán, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Ford Program and Jackline Oluoch-AridiRegional Research Programs Manager for East Africa
Period: 2018–19



“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.

From 2015 to 2017, the Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGIHE) partnered with teachers and school leaders in seven rural Catholic schools in Uganda to provide professional development training. Constrained by a demanding national syllabus, a scarcity of material resources, and a need to supplement their low salaries, educators were challenged by LGIHE to reconsider their reason for teaching, allowing their pedagogy and practice to flow from a student-centered approach. School leaders were encouraged to reflect on their school's culture, working towards a holistic education committed to dignity and relationality.

Ford Program researchers collaborated in a mixed methods evaluation of the LGIHE intervention, engaging with students, parents, teachers, and school leaders in seven schools. The study affirms the improvement of trust between teachers and head teachers and reinforcement of the student-centered approach, and it suggests that future modules consider including parents and supporting teachers. Click on the report below for further insights about the effectiveness of the trainings and recommendations for evaluating the quality of education in the Ugandan context.

PartnersCongregation of Holy CrossLuigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education (LGIHE), Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI), and Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives
ResearchersIlaria Schnyder von Wartensee, Research Assistant Professor, and Danice Brown, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Ford Program 
Period: 2015–17

Project Report


Why and How Mentorship Makes a Difference in Dandora

Although the three economists found that new entrepreneurs in Dandora who had mentors were more successful than new business owners who attended business–skills training workshops, the Ford Program was interested in learning why this
was the case. Was it just a matter of the business tips they received from mentors or was there something about the relationship itself that inspired women to persist despite the challenges they faced?

To understand why women with mentors were more successful than women without, Research Assistant Professor Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee carried out a 2016–17 case study of mentor-mentee relationships in Dandora. The results suggest that the effects of having a
mentor were not solely due to the business tips mentors shared. Many of the mentees who were most successful in their businesses shared at length about the care and encouragement they received from mentors. This suggests that mentorship may be important not only because of the information and experiences shared, but because of the caring and supportive relationships that mentors had with mentees. The human connection the women shared was a crucial component of their success.

Partners: Holy Cross Parish, Dandora
Researchers: Kellogg Faculty Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee
Period: 2016-2017
Dissemination: This research appears as the chapter “‘The Heart to Continue’: A Case Study on Mentorship in Peri-Urban Kenya” (pages 279-296) in The Practice of Human Development and Dignity, edited by Paolo Carozza and Clemens Sedmak (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020).


“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 BrooksKevin Donovan, and Terence Johnson 
Period: 2014–16
Project Working Paper


“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 UniversityVerizon 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.)



Meeting Point International Case Study

In 1992, Rose Busingye, a Ugandan nurse, began providing medicines and treatments to HIV/AIDS patients in Kireka, a slum of Kampala, Uganda. Many patients refused to eat or take the medicine or did not follow the treatment regimen. However, when she focused on listening to and learning with the women and helping them recognize their basic value as persons, the same women became spirited agents of their own development. Together, they started Meeting Point International (MPI), which serves over a thousand people and provides indirect services for more than 13,800.

To better understand the surprising transformation, Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee together with Professor Giuseppe Folloni and Elizabeth Simpson Hlabse conducted a 2015–16 study of MPI, analyzing its distinctive approach, which she calls “identity-based human development.” Grounded in the experience of the community, this approach awakens local actors’ sense of their own value and empowers them. Her research explored how identity and awareness of dignity play a role in lasting development.

One important lesson this project highlights is that development is about more than applying techniques and skills to solve specific problems. Instead, caring relationships that restore a sense of value is at the core of development. These relationships help people to believe in their own abilities, develop their own skills, and contribute to the flourishing of the wider community. A paper detailing the research findings has been submitted to a peer-reviewed development journal and is currently under revision.

Partners: Meeting Point International
Researchers: Giuseppe Folloni, University of Trento and Elizabeth Simpson Hlabse, Kellogg Institute for International Studies
Period: 2014-2016
Dissemination: a paper detailing the research findings has been submitted to a peer-reviewed development journal and is currently under revision.  

“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

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