Archive for work shop

EPD Workshop – Ethiopia

Several students knee deep in their workshops have submitted posts to the blog recently.  This post was submitted by Sawako Sonoyama.


I just returned from an unforgettable two-week trip to Ethiopia as part of my SIPA curriculum. This program is called The Workshop in Development Practice with the Economic and Political Development (EPD) concentration. The workshop allows students to gain practical experience by engaging in on-going actual development projects with organizations that often involve traveling abroad for fieldwork.

My EPD Workshop is with Family Health International (FHI) in Ethiopia. FHI is a global health and development organization that focuses on providing interdisciplinary training programs related to HIV/Aids. My project was to assist in developing a measurement system and tools to monitor and evaluate the extent to which knowledge and skills transferred through training are applied in practice. After conducting an in-depth desk review, conducting several conference calls with Ethiopia, and creating preliminary evaluation tools, my teammate and I were ready to go.

Upon arriving to Addis Ababa, we were welcomed with a ride from the airport, traditional coffee ceremony, and a delicious Ethiopian feast. I have never been to a more welcoming and warm country in my life. Every day of our trip, our Ethiopian counterparts went out of the way to welcome us and ensured that we were able to get our work done.

Picture: Welcome lunch with FHI

During our two week visit, we were able to test out the evaluation tools we have created for two different trainings. The first training was the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) Refresher training in Addis Ababa. We were able to observe many of the training modules while conducting  focus group discussions and supervisor interviews. The nurses were shy at first, but gradually opened up to us and explained the main challenges involving pregnant women in Ethiopia – mainly the inability to open up to their male partners to involve them with family planning. Furthermore, to evaluate how the nurse practitioners who attended the PMTCT training were doing on-site, we visited health centers and spoke to the clients directly. Through an interpreter, I had my first experience of interviewing pregnant women who are getting ready for a new life of starting a family.

Photo: Interviewing Clients

The second training we attended was titled Family-Based Alternative Child Care (ACC). The ACC training covers various formal or informal arrangement whereby a child is looked after outside of the birth family. This program is aimed to better support those children who have lost their parents due to HIV/Aids. The ACC training is more complex to evaluate then the PMTCT, as the behavior change of individuals is less practical. In fact, the behavior of multiple organizations must change for any region to successfully adopt an Alternative Child Care mechanism. Trying to work with this training made me realize how complex working with children from an institutional level can be.

Apart from working on the two trainings, through the wonderful cultural exchange we had, I was able to formulate a close friendship with many of the FHI staff.  I met Estsegenet Asefa, a beautiful woman from the Southern region of Ethiopia. Estegenet is a Community Health and Social Development Officer of the Southern region that was here to coordinate the training and facilitate group discussions. While she works full time at FHI-Ethiopia, she is also pursuing her MPH as a part-time graduate student. She has already completed her courses and is working on finishing her thesis is on relationships among People Living with HIV/Aids who are going through antiretroviral therapy. We shared stories about the challenges of balancing both professional and academic life, and where we hope to be after we graduate. She is also a vibrant dancer and gave me some tips on Ethiopian dance moves. We formed such a wonderful friendship and it was sad to say good bye. I am confident that she will be successful in the field of public health in Ethiopia and I hope that we meet again.

My new friend, Estsegenet

My two weeks in Ethiopia was fulfilling in so many ways – new experiences in monitoring and evaluation at health centers, interesting realizations about the complexities of working with HIV/Aids, and countless moments of absorbing the rich and wonderful Ethiopian culture. I am so thankful that I was able to travel to Ethiopia on the EPD workshop. Our work is nowhere near complete, as we must prepare for my team’s second visit to Ethiopia and finish our final report. I hope that the work we present will be useful for FHI-Ethiopia’s training programs and that can provide a meaningful impact to their clients.

Addis Ababa

Workshops at SIPA

The following post was written by current SIPA student Lacey Ramirez.  Workshops are an exciting, practical, and professional part of the SIPA experience which provide an excellent way to merge classroom learning with real world involvement.


I know the Admissions Committee has started reading and I’ve been thinking about what advice I could give prospective students that would help them make a decision regarding schools. In other words, what makes SIPA different than the other graduate schools in international and public affairs?

One major component is the workshop requirement for all SIPA students.  Workshops require students apply the practical skills and analytical knowledge they have learned at SIPA to a real-world challenge. Students are organized into small consulting teams and assigned a substantive, policy-oriented project with an external client.  Clients include public agencies (from the local to national level), international NGOs and multi-national organizations, and major firms in the private sector.

Student teams, working under the supervision of a faculty expert, answer a carefully defined problem posed by the client.  Most of the teams will travel to the country in order to conduct the work necessary to produce an actionable report at the end of the workshop that will hopefully translate into real change on the ground.

Examples of MPA workshops can be found here.

Here you also find links to other concentration workshops, and please note to find examples of EPD workshops you’ll need to click here.

Okay, now on to my personal experience.  I am currently working on a randomized control trial measuring the effects of an education incentives program and parental involvement interventions on students’ performance and school attendance in Chiapas, Mexico. During my time at SIPA I’ve focused my studies on developing my quantitative analysis skills, and it is incredibly exciting to be able to apply what I’ve learned to a real world project.

Additionally, it is important to note that before we participate in the workshop it is mostly required that we prepare for it by taking an intensive Methods for Development Practice course that covers a wide variety of tools used by development practitioners. Tools are learned and applied in the Methods course through the use of case studies to give students an opportunity to practice before the workshop.  You can find a further description of the Methods course here.

In the last few weeks of the Methods course, the students (we) apply for the workshop we are interested in and they cover a wide variety of topics, including supply chain analysis, health, education and monitoring and evaluation.  Once we are assigned to our teams, we work very intensely to prepare a schedule that we will implement the following semester to meet our client’s objectives.

As I write this, my workshop team has members in Mexico conducting interviews, focus groups and observational studies to gather data that will prepare a team to go back in a couple of months to pilot a final survey.  It is very, very exciting and we hope that ultimately all our hard work will be used to serve the people of Chiapas to improve education programs and communities.

Workshop Trip to Liberia

The following entry was composed by Nora Gordon, a second year MIA student concentrating in Human Rights.  Nora spent Spring Break, and an additional week in Liberia participating in her SIPA workshop.  She is back now but wrote this while she was away.

I am currently working in Liberia with my workshop team on improving vocational training programs for youth in Liberia.  We are here for two weeks conducting trainings in vocational training centers about market assessment.  Our goal is to help staff and participants learn how to use a market assessment toolkit that was produced by a SIPA workshop team in 2008.

Here are a few quick notes from the trip so far . . .


We went to work on Saturday morning for a quick meeting with our supervisor.  Our project involves making a short film and other training tools for people working on job training programs for youth. We will get to visit 4 Youth Employment Program sites throughout the country.

The idea is for us to help local programs figure out market needs and shape their training accordingly.  When we finished our work meeting, a Liberian guy walked into the office singing “In the jungle, the mighty jungle…” We all laughed.  He gave us a giant, gummy smile and told us his name, McNeal.  “I’m the IT guy,” he said.  We told him about our video and he was excited to be on camera.  Then we tried to find out some details about the local culture.

“Do people dance a lot in Liberia?  Where do people dance?”

“Whaaaaaaat?!!  You ask me this?!!  How you gonna ask me if we daaaaance?!”

We laugh.

“A typical Liberian will never answer a question,” McNeal explains.  If you ask “I hear in Liberia you don’t answer questions. Is this true?” We will say “Where did you receive this information!?”


I’m finding some similarities with other places I’ve worked, like Rwanda and oddly even more with East Timor.  Maybe these are just commonalities for conflict/post-conflict zones.  But, for example, there are chips of broken glass cemented along the top of the walls surrounding residences.  There are lots of locks on every door, 24 hour guards, and in our compound there are a bunch of bars on all the windows.  We have 24 hour guards and a curfew.  We’re not supposed to even walk ten feet outside by ourselves after dark (6:30pm). I’m feeling very protected/restricted.


Today we did our training in the field, which involves introducing a “Market Assessment Toolkit” for vocational trainers and youth.  There was a 14 year old boy named Morris in the class who asked “Why is it called a toolkit?” Good question. I’d explained earlier that it was like tools in a toolbox- like a hammer, but for your brain.

So one of his teachers explained that metaphor to him, and I thought, “This is great, let’s put him in our film!”  We’re making a film as part of our project in order to help make sense of the toolkit.  As class went on, though I realized the boy was quite cross-eyed, and I thought “Ugh, now if I put him on film, it will be so stereotypical, ‘Oh look at this poor little cross-eyed African boy’ and people will just focus on that instead of what he’s saying.”  Or else mean people might laugh.

But then I thought, “It’s not fair to discriminate and not put him in the video because of a physical condition.”
So I had this idea to pull him aside later and have him talk to the teacher so he would be looking at the teacher not the camera, and it wouldn’t be so noticeable.  It worked out nicely and is great for our project.




"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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