Evaluation of International Ford Foundation Programme: A case study of India


The planned pilot research investigates the outcomes of the International Ford Fellowship Programme (IFP). This programme has recently completed its planned 10 years. The project aimed to select people from disadvantaged communities in developing countries and provide them with training and higher education in advanced countries mainly in the western regions. The Ford Foundation claims that providing this opportunity to people has positive impacts on the under-developed communities of the developing countries. It is believed that the selected members of the communities are talented individuals and they act as prospective leaders who return to their communities to initiate the process of social change at a grass roots level.

 Ford has a 75 years long history of donating funds to the developing countries in Asia, but how far these educational initiatives have sustained developmental growth has not been presented in hard evidence from independent evaluation. On the one hand, the Ford Foundation website presents the reports of their success stories only. There are critical reviews available on philanthropic activities of the foreign funding agencies where such initiatives are seen as hidden tactics by powerful nations to smooth the relationships after a period of considerable political clashes and damage.  The reviews do not present sound evidence of these critical claims.

Although this particular programme is complete, and so its long-term impact could be seen, the results of the evaluation will be directly relevant to other current and future initiatives. Does this form of investment work as intended? Are appropriate candidates selected, are they successful, do they return to their home countries and communities, and what do they do longer term? This pilot research project will investigate the effectiveness of the IFP funding schemes and its actual outcomes at social and individual level.

Research methods

The purpose of this research proposal is to conduct a pilot study based on the secondary data currently accessible for evaluation, and to form the basis for a larger bid for external funding to extend the secondary analysis to all countries, and to conduct longer-term primary data collection with a sub-sample of former IFP scholars. For this pilot, India is selected as one of 22 developing countries from where people from the disadvantaged communities have been enrolled, given training in the home country and then sent for a higher education degree from universities mainly in the western regions. In this pilot study the information available on all 330 Ford fellows from India will be explored under following research questions:

  •  What is the likely impact of Ford training and a higher education degree from a foreign university on the employability of the selected individuals?
  • What is the likely impact of Ford training and higher education from a foreign university on the communities they were selected from?

The initial information on these 300 scholars has already been collated in an Excel spread sheet. The Ford fellows from India have alumni forums and the Foundation has also given open access to the basic information about each of their selected members.  The open directories maintain the current locations and jobs of the Ford fellows. However the information on past employment history and prior qualifications is not available. The proposal is to approach these fellows through their email addresses, and request them to complete a brief online survey regarding their employment status and qualification. This information will give data for comparison.

The benefits of this independent evaluation

IFP are currently conducting the evaluation of their programme. This pilot study and its follow up will be an independent investigation of the programme that can provide  different dimensions to the results of evaluation done by other organizations. The subject of higher education learning has always been in the debates which not only touches upon the motives of home education industry but also highlights the foreign agendas of funding the developing regions. The results from this pilot study will give information on India as one of the 22 cases, and show the feasibility of the approach or suggest an alternative. This will form the basis for a larger bid for external funding, within one year, to complete the study for more countries and longer term outcomes. A range of possible funders include 3ie and the Spencer Foundation.

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