Working side-by-side with an ocean between us

September 07, 2017Tangut Degfay

Like many young people, the first day at my first job was filled with many questions; about team dynamics, office culture, organizational principles, and much more. When I joined CEI I understood the foundational importance of a quality education, but I remember thinking, ‘How can an organization based in Washington DC help improve learning and livelihood outcomes for people thousands of miles away?’

Underlining less-explored elements of education

In the past, education interventions have focused on improving school infrastructure and students’ academic performance through financing or other capital resources. These investments have made significant impacts, but they have also left complex, persistent gaps.

CEI and the broader education team at Results for Development (R4D) attack these persistent gaps by focusing on emerging focus-areas with potential for large-scale improvements to people’s lives; like early childhood development, youth employability, and out-of-school children. To help push progress on these critical fronts we start by prioritizing change agents’ (individuals and organizations) access to resources, insights and connections. Working side by side with diverse groups of programmatic and funding partners, innovators and policymakers, R4D creates the platform for collaborative solutions for ongoing global education challenges while highlighting traditionally less-explored topics.

international development workshop training education early childhood primary pre-primary teachersThe Early Learning Toolkit is one good example of such efforts highlighting the importance of early learning in a child’s development by putting together insights and tailored resources for practitioners. The toolkit was created in partnership with teachers, program implementers, school administration officials, and others, and covers a wide range of topics useful in early childhood learning settings including the household, schools and communities.

Channeling knowledge across regions: learning from one another

There is an emphasis on learning from the direct experiences of schools, homes, and communities that drives much of our education team’s work. By employing the collaborative efforts of teams within and without the organization, in preparing and presenting case studies for example, the team fosters new knowledge and learning opportunities that have both rigor and straightforward examples from people’s real experiences.

A recent country study carried out under the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative (ECWI), a global effort led by Results for Development and the International Step by Step Association, explores how home visiting programs targeting young children and families can continually and cost-effectively improve their workers’ effectiveness. Whether managing staff across great distances, delivering lessons with outdated learning tools, or other challenges, early childhood development professionals are doing a crucial job under significant constraints. By engaging with these workers we are able to better understand their needs, and orient our analysis to provide responsive suggestions that actually tackle their most pressing problems.

international development workshop training education early childhood primary pre-primary teachers

As you read this blog, the education team continues to work on multiple case studies beyond Peru. The next release will feature an upcoming country study focusing on the roles of preschool teachers and teacher assistants in Ukraine, exploring the experiences and challenges that educators can face. And later this year, a third case study will tell the story of community health workers and their capacity to provide the suite of First 1000 Days services in South Africa.

Learning opportunities from the process

A strong element of our analysis and evidence-generation is the incorporation of information from diverse sources; including information from field observations and discussions, interviews with program implementers, beneficiaries, community members and other partners, as well as a review of comprehensive program reports and research-based evidences. This helps us assess interventions critically to surface opportunities for improvement, while also allowing partners to co-create and inform our findings.

My experience studying and documenting interventions with CEI emphasized:

  • Active communication with funders, implementer, policymakers and other partners
  • Ground-level observations, interviews with community members, beneficiaries, program personnel and other groups.
  • Desk research: comprehensive document reviews including programmatic reports, research-based evidences, articles etc.
  • Utilizing unique data analysis alternatives (i.e ATLAS) to identify new findings.
  • Prepare report, share with stakeholders for feedback, review and finalize.
  • Disseminate report among partners and with the wider global education community.

The let us grow together mindset

international development workshop training education early childhood primary pre-primary teachersAnother way we distinguish ourselves is how we dedicate significant time and effort to inform other organizations working in similar thematic areas with useful resources, funding, and events opportunities. The education team gathers external resources and disseminates these opportunities throughout our database, social, and other networks. By sharing concrete opportunities for improvement we are able to help innovators grow, while also supporting a vibrant and engaged community that helps CEI and R4D continue to generate learning and implementation opportunities with implementers at various levels around the world.

As I conclude my time with R4D to complete my Master’s degree, I’ve learned a lot about creating meaningful partnerships across long distances, language barriers, economic constraints, and more. By learning from one another and growing both as individual interventions, as well as a broader community, CEI and the broader education team at R4D our bridging barriers of old, improving our ability to explore less-obvious but incredibly disruptive gaps in global education systems, and respond to the unmet needs of children and the workforce. 


Tangut Degfay is a Global Education Intern at R4D. She is pursuing her graduate studies in MA in International Policy and Development at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Her focus areas include youth development, girls' education and global cultural exchange.

Photo Credits: CK-CO180 World Bank ; R4D

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