Effective Education Program Design and Management in Crisis and Conflict Settings – A Training Course in Ethiopia

Ash Hartwell and the Education in Crisis and Conflict (ECCN) team at UMass led the design activity and helped implement a three-day course for USAID Foreign Service Officers and Foreign Service Nationals in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.   The UMass group is part of the larger ECCN project managed by EDC.


The course focused on the importance of a strong, shared theory of change.   The need for a collaborative agreement about outcomes and assumptions about the path to those outcomes is essential for effective programming in situations of crisis and conflict.  A theory of change makes the outcomes and the strategies designed to produce them visible and provides the opportunity to ask “is this really what is wanted, and what parts of it are working?”


To bring the content to life and provide more realistic engagement, Ash developed a complex simulation exercise which was set in a fictitious but well-documented country - including pictures, documents and data about the country.  The simulation was populated with six fully-described roles of various relevant officials.  The setting was a country named “Nyambia” which reflected typical conditions in Central African countries affected by conflict.  Participants formed teams each comprised of six people playing one of the roles as a member of a simulated, USAID Mission Education Program Design Team. The teams then went through the process of preparing the education section of a draft plan.  The teams were charged with producing a plan during the three days of the workshop.  The plans were shared and discussed at the end of the process.


The simulation embedded key issues such as equity, safe learning environments, conflict-sensitive education and institutional capacity development within the context and roles.  One of the biggest takeaways from the session was to focus on tracking outcomes rather than focusing only on specific inputs and activities.