Promising Research: Shortlisted Proposals from E-Cubed Round 4

Research and Evidence


Image Credit: J Arredondo, IRC

In 2020, the E-Cubed Research Envelope received 173 total proposals, 139 of which fit E-Cubed criteria for review. Full analysis of proposals and E-Cubed funded projects, including thematic areas, research contexts, and submitting actors, can be found here. Of the 139 proposals reviewed, 15 proposals were short-listed for review with Dubai Cares ultimately selecting 2 proposals for funding. The short-listed proposals span research themes, contexts, and methodologies. To highlight the diversity and quality amongst the short-listed proposals, applicants were invited to share a brief summary of their projects, and you can read some of these below. Proposals are listed alphabetically by project title. *Not all shortlisted candidates chose to share their proposal. 

Thank you to all those who develop and submit research proposals to the E-Cubed Research Fund. We are incredibly grateful for your critical consideration of key EiE evidence gaps and drive to address these gaps with rigorous and relevant research. 

Please see the primary contact listed for respective projects and reach out should you have questions. For general questions regarding the E-Cubed Research Fund reach out to Sonja Anderson ( 

Blended models of Teacher Professional Development (TPD) in Education in Emergencies (EiE) – Evaluation of the TPD component of the Somalia Education for Human Capital Development Project

National Foundation for Educational Research and SomaliREN

Contact: Jessica Chu (

What: The proposed 18-month evaluation study aimed to generate evidence to support the design, pilot, and subsequent roll-out of a technology-enabled blended learning teacher professional development (TPD) programme for primary-school teachers in Somalia.

Why: The Ministry of Education, Culture, and Higher Education (MOECHE), in partnership with Somali National University (SNU) and the World Bank, are developing a blended-learning teacher professional development programme to improve the quality of instruction in primary schools across Somalia. The evaluation was intended to support the programme by rapidly generating evidence to address the question of how (or in what ways) can technology improve the uptake of a blended-learning TPD programme in Somalia. The evaluation aimed to generate findings applicable to other fragile and resource-constrained contexts, as well as to COVID-19-related disruptions.

How: This design includes a mixed-methods exploratory sequential data collection phases to produce evidence to inform key points in programme development, including design, pilot, and roll-out. The design first involves qualitative user experience research to support the design and prototyping of the intervention. This then informs the development of a quantitative nimble randomised control trial (RCT) to test and provide rapid feedback data to support initial programme roll out. Finally, the study uses qualitative case studies and process tracing to build a middle-range theory to support transferability of findings to other education in emergency (EiE) contexts in order to contribute to the wider evidence-base on the appropriate design and effectiveness of technologically-supported TPD programmes in EiEs.

How to Deliver Education in Crisis

Oxford University - Blavatnik School of Government

Contact: Dana Qarout (

What: This study aims to evaluate India’s experience with the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP), a results-based service delivery program aimed at improving outcomes across the most disadvantaged districts in India, to explore whether this delivery approach in education is an effective tool in improving policy and program implementation. The research examines how the delivery approach was constructed; what elements of the approach worked while others did not; and what contextual factors contributed to their successes or failures. The India research will also examine the extent to which the ADP has helped districts cope with disruptions to learning and other services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why: While the education community has made progress in investigating ‘what works’ in education, there are still significant questions on ‘how to best implement’ those solutions.  Increasing number of governments have been adopting delivery units/labs or using similar delivery approaches to improve policy implementation and service delivery in education and other sectors. Yet there is limited empirical evidence on the effectiveness and impact of these approaches, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the importance of governments’ capability to continue delivering public services and ensure equitable and successful recovery. The evidence generated by the research will highlight some of the promising management tools policymakers could leverage for impactful policy and program implementation. 

How: Through quantitative and qualitative experimental research methods, the study will evaluate both the causal logic of the ADP and the impact of the approach on key district outcomes across education, health, security, and economic stability. Qualitative methods include a combination of semi-structured in-depth interviews, focus-group discussions, document reviews, and observational data with a variety of respondents in the district administration (including frontline bureaucrats), provincial governments, and the federal government. Quantitative methods include administering a survey on management practices and analysing district administrative data. Furthermore, the study will explore how the ADP adapted to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Identifying pathways to address the impact of COVID-19 on school re-enrollment and learning outcomes in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya

Population Council Kenya

Contact: Dr. Karen Austrian (

What: The proposed research will assess the impact of COVID-19 on school re-enrollment and learning outcomes among adolescent girls in two informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya six months after the re-opening of schools. Second, the research will generate evidence to understand how re-enrollment and learning outcomes are mediated by different remote learning channels accessed by adolescents (i.e. government radio content, digital material, etc.). Finally, it will test a one-time cash transfer delivered to families the week schools re-opened to boost re-enrollment.

Why: There is an evidence gap on what works during crisis-induced extended school closures to mitigate the loss of learning during the closure and ensure that students, in particular the most marginalized, return to school upon re-opening. In addition to a 10-month school closure in Kenya due to COVID-19, households in urban informal settlements experienced extreme economic hardships due to the pandemic, limiting their ability to meet the cost of education when schools re-opened in early 2021. Furthermore, girls were at increased risk of unintended pregnancy during the school closure period, a negative outcome on its own, but also an additional barrier to re-enrollment for girls, eroding their opportunity to gain essential skills that benefit into adulthood. 

How: The proposed 18-month study will collect qualitative and quantitative data about education outcomes, literacy, numeracy and nonverbal cognitive skills. We will leverage a longitudinal cohort of adolescent girls established in 2015 in two urban slums in Nairobi, Kenya who have been surveyed repeatedly, both before and after the start of COVID-19. Half of the households in this cohort were randomly assigned to receive a cash transfer in early January 2021 to support costs associated with school re-opening. Evidence generated will inform short- and long-term decisions by policy makers leading the COVID-19 response, as well as generate evidence to support future crises situations leading to extended school closures.

Researching models for evidence into action for education in emergencies (EiE): Responsive EiE evidence-bases and translation into policy in Africa

Africa Centre for Evidence; Effective Basic Services Africa; Education Endowment Foundation

Contact: Professor Ruth Stewart (

What: This project intends to research and develop models for the translation of reliable, relevant, and responsive evidence to inform policy-making for EiE in Africa. To do so, it engages in the curation of rigorous and responsive EiE evidence-bases tailored for African education policy-makers followed by the development and pioneering of approaches to rapidly mobilise this evidence-base in response to policy requests for evidence-based advice. 

Why: The COVID-19 pandemic, and its emphasis on rapid decision-making in changing contexts, has thrown a spotlight on the often suboptimal use of evidence by education policy-makers and the resulting negative consequences on education and development outcomes. To prevent further harm and inequity, effective and scalable models for evidence translation are required that provide educational policy-makers in Africa with timely access to a diverse body of evidence.
How: Applying methods for evidence synthesis adapted for the context of policy-making in Africa and made accessible through interactive web design, this project will produce a policy-relevant evidence map of EiE evidence in Africa as well as an EiE evidence toolkit tailored for African policy-makers. Both these outputs serve as a responsive evidence-base to facilitate locally-tailored evidence responses in two African countries (South Africa and Cameroon) evaluating three different evidence translation models: 

  • Contextualised rapid evidence syntheses for policy-makers that are based on a process of mining the evidence map. 
  • Embedded rapid science advice and scenario-building for policy-makers using the evidence toolkit.
  • Tailored Guidance Reports for policy-makers based on either the evidence map and/or the toolkit 

The project will be implemented through an embedded co-production approach between researchers and policy-makers in both countries.

Supporting Early Learning and the Successful Transition to School for Young Children during COVID-19

Save the Children

Contact: Mai Farouk (
What: A longitudinal mixed-methods study across sites in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Rwanda and Uganda to test the ability of family and child resilience interventions to promote children’s successful transition into formal learning environments post-crisis. 
Why: The current pandemic highlights the need to advance the evidence base around approaches, policies and other strategies that lessen the adverse effects of crises on families and young children. In response to COVID-19, governments and many non-governmental actors designed rapid response strategies for education. However, most interventions were not rigorously tested. The transition into primary school is a pivotal moment in children’s lives that sets the foundation for their formal education experience.  It is key to build evidence around effective approaches for supporting children during this critical time
How: This mixed-methods study will determine if service disruptions caused by COVID-19 influenced children’s developmental trajectories, the greatest barriers and enablers to children accessing quality formal learning, and which interventions help mitigate the potential adverse effects of COVID-19 on children’s school readiness. 
The quantitative component of the study will focus on collecting an additional round of data from children and caregivers who participated in rigorous evaluations of ECCE program interventions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
The qualitative data will provide information about the macrosystem and exosystem conditions influencing children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will help us develop a framework within which to interpret the quantitative results and relationships therein.

Technology-enabled Literacy Learning in a Second Language: Impact Evidence for Future Programming for Refugee Children

Imagine Worldwide

Contact: Dr. Karen Levesque (

What: The research will focus on using an award-winning, tablet-based literacy software in English at an informal church school in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi with children whose first language is not English. Children work on the tablet-based literacy curricula independently and at their own pace.

Why: Language of instruction can be a complicating factor in refugee settings. Education technology solutions may not be available in the primary language of many refugees, and refugee camp education policies and practices may favor major languages. This mixed-methods efficacy study will fill gaps in rigorous research on EdTech in emergency settings and on literacy learning in a second language in these settings.

How: Researchers will conduct a 5-month randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of Enuma’s tablet-based literacy software, Kitkit School, with children enrolled in early grades at an informal school in the refugee camp. The proposed study will measure the supplemental learning impacts over standard instruction of the high-quality, tablet-based literacy instruction. The study will use mixed methods to collect and analyze both quantitative data to measure academic learning impacts and qualitative data to understand better children’s experiences of using the EdTech in English and factors contributing to measured impacts.

Using mixed-methods participatory action research to explore and address the impact of COVID-19 on health professional education around the world

InterprofessionalResearch.Global: The Global Network for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Research 

Contact: Dr. Hossein Khalili (

What: Little is known about medium-/long-term effects of crises and pandemics on health professional (HP) education generally, and interprofessional education (IPE) specifically. COVID-19 draws attention to the crucial role of collaborative team-based healthcare delivery systems that require enhanced IPE programs. COVID-19’s wide-scale disruption presents an opportunity to investigate the preparedness (capacity/adaptability) and resilience (wellness/coping) strategies being used worldwide. Thus, we can minimize the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on IPE and collaborative practice-readiness of the next generation of healthcare providers, which could save millions of lives in future.  

Why: This project aims to explore and address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global HP education while highlighting regional disparities and disruptions. The goal is to facilitate the development of educational environments conducive to fostering system-wide networking and sharing of expertise and best practices in interprofessional education in emergencies (IPEiE). We envision the development, implementation, and evaluation of an IPEiE Model to enhance preparedness and resilience of students, faculty/educators, and institutions, along with their regional networks, for COVID-19 and future pandemics and emergencies.

How: A Mixed-Methods approach, using Participatory Action Research (PAR) (qualitative strand) and quasi-experimental design (quantitative strand), to be employed to explore and address:  

  • regional and contextual differences and priorities in responding to the impact of COVID-19 on IPE;
  • preparedness and resilience of students, faculty/educators, and institutions to continue teaching and learning during emergencies; and
  • development, implementation, and evaluation of a model(s) of IPEiE that addresses the preparedness and resilience needs and priorities among regional and global HP students, faculty/educators, and institutions. 

A 9-step PAR project using Appreciative Inquiry (Ai) is well-suited as this study focuses on context-specific, iterative, and advocacy-focused social change. The quasi-experimental design includes a natural/field selection experiment examining institutions (and students/faculty) that have experienced a challenging transition during COVID-19 pandemic as the intervention, with other institutions (and their students/faculty) that have experienced a smoother transition as control groups.  

*Find more information on E-Cubed including selection criteria and review process, here. For questions about the Research Fund contact Sonja Anderson (