EiE research, policy, and practice: by whom and for whom? Emerging outputs from the E-Cubed Research Fund

Education Policy

At the annual CIES Conference, INEE and Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global philanthropic organization, convened a panel to highlight three E-Cubed research projects. The panel offered an opportunity to share emerging outputs from the E-Cubed Research Fund in a formal discussion centering around the theme of “EiE research, policy, and practice: by whom and for whom?”. Each presentation addressed their research question, methodology, adaptations to COVID-19, and preliminary findings, as well as reflections on the panel title. A copy of the slide deck can be found here.

Nadeen Alalami (Dubai Cares) introduced the session and shared an overview of the Evidence for Education in Emergencies (E-Cubed) Research Envelope, a 5-year 10 million USD research fund that was launched by Dubai Cares in collaboration with INEE in 2017. Through annual calls for proposals, E-Cubed aims to strengthen the evidence base for education in emergencies by supporting contextually relevant, action-oriented, usable research that is shared as a global public good. Dubai Cares, in collaboration with INEE, developed funding criteria for E-Cubed that rest upon three core principles through which Dubai Cares has based its approach to funding research for education in emergencies:

  1. Gaps in evidence within crisis-affected contexts are best identified by those on the ground.
  2. The voices of those actors who are local to the research context need to be at the center of the research process.
  3. Evidence and knowledge should be global public goods.

As E-Cubed projects funded in the early years conclude and ongoing projects share emerging outputs, Dubai Cares and INEE will continue to share research findings, tools, and resources in our efforts to close the loop between research, policy, and practice.

The first presentation was by Francine Menashy (University of Massachusetts, Boston) and Zeena Zakharia (University of Maryland, College Park) on Global partnerships in education in emergencies: Insights from the Syria refugee response. The presentation drew from data collected over a 3-year period (2018 – 2021) from a research project that aimed to generate evidence on the nature and impact of partnerships in education in emergencies. The researchers described an expanding and complex network of actors and organizations engaged in EiE partnerships through a network analysis of over 370 entities working in Syria refugee education in Lebanon. Based on 45 key informant interviews and 227 organizational documents, the study further analyzed the rationale behind partnership arrangements and the nature of partnership dynamics, including the degree to which these arrangements reflect power asymmetries, competition, and uneven participatory practices.

The second presentation was by Catherine Gladwell (Refugee Education UK and Jigsaw Consult) and Bethany Sikes (Jigsaw Consult) on Voices of refugee youth: The impact of post-primary education in emergencies. The longitudinal panel study tracks cohorts of refugee students in Pakistan and Rwanda as they transition out of secondary and higher education. The impact of the education received will be monitored over 6 data points, and will create much needed evidence about the difference engaging in post-primary education makes in the lives of young refugees and their communities. Refugee youth participation is at the heart of the study. Groups of 15 young refugee graduates have been employed as researchers in each country, and, alongside their work, will complete a bespoke online programme of study in social sciences research (funded by UNHCR and Dubai Cares, developed by Jigsaw Consult and Refugee Education UK, built by Centreity and accredited by John Carroll University). In the future, this course will be made available to other young refugees wishing to build their research skills alongside working on research projects. 

The third presentation was by Pauline Martin (Central American University) and Wim Savenije (Central American University) on Teachers, schools and communities: A framework for improving education in gang-controlled territories. ​​Schools in El Salvador are confronted with insecurity, mainly due to the presence of local street gangs. Government-sponsored violence and gang prevention programs present a public-security focus, lack a solid logic of change, and discard the importance of local dynamics. NGO-sponsored programs are innovative and comprehensive, but lack comprehension of the local social dynamics and relationships. The schools often don’t understand the NGOs logic of change and subscribe to the vision of the government programs. This study aims to develop an intervention framework that takes into account the local relationships and social dynamics.

Following the presentations, panelists engaged with questions from the audience. One conversation, in alignment with the theme of “for whom?,” addressed the role of decolonial and Indigineous research practices in the Voices of refugee youth project. Another question reflected on how partnerships are constituted, particularly with the context of COVID-19, which has limited teams’ ability to travel and build strong working relationships with their research partners. Additionally, Zeena and Francine provided examples of ways donors can meaningfully address the asymmetric power relationships in EiE partnerships. One such promising approach is whereby the local organization itself chooses who it partners with based on its needs and the specific issue it seeks to address. Another approach is for the funder to build trusting relationships and offer flexibility to facilitate deeper work. All three of the E-Cubed projects represented on the panel noted that the success of their projects and teams was in large part due to pre-existing partnerships and relationships that enabled them to build more equitable partnerships from the start. 

Additionally, panelists discussed their unique projects situated within broader, long-term lines of inquiry and practice. 

Additional information on the E-Cubed Research Envelope and funded projects can be found here.