1. Identifying the right client and topic is of critical importance. The topic should be one that starts with the client, and on which the client wants some analysis, rather than a topic that the student wants to work on and finds a client that is willing to agree. The client must be deeply interested to spend the time and provide the feedback to make this a worthwhile project. It is not enough to identify an organization – a specific person should be willing and eager to serve as the client and to drive the process. Developing a good working relationship will be a very important element to the success of the project. It often helps to have a pre-existing relationship with the client, perhaps through earlier internships or through the summer experience.
Click here to read an interview with Natalia Leigh, GHD'16, on her capstone Finance Mechanisms for Managing Donor Aid in the Liberian Ministry of Education.
RAHUL MITRA, GHD'15
Client: CARE USA
"My capstone project provided me with my first real-world experience in the use of mobile technology for monitoring the outcome of development projects. Working with CARE USA, I conducted research on the use of mobile phones for monitoring the performance of rural water systems, and then piloted a technology in their field offices in Ethiopia and Uganda. Since graduation from GHD, I have been leading the development of a novel technology platform for monitoring development projects at Amplifier Strategies. I find myself borrowing frequently from my capstone experiences."
ALEXANDRA SCOTT, GHD'15
Client: Project Last Mile,
Global Environment & Technology Foundation & The Coca-Cola Company
"After 5 weeks as a GHD summer intern with Project Last Mile (PLM), I felt the potential for this partnership to have big impact and I wanted to continue being a part of it. I worked closely with my internship supervisor, the Director of PLM, to build a capstone project that could support the partnership and position me to become a part of the PLM team. My capstone experience enabled me to establish myself as a thought partner in PLM, and build a platform to continue on to my dream job - building and managing PLM programs as a core member of the PLM team based in South Africa. It has been 2.5 years since I started with PLM as an intern, and I am confident that the internship and capstone opened the door for me to reach this milestone!"
ANNIE ALCID, GHD'15, Deputy Chief of Party at Education Development Center, Rwanda
Capstone Student: Mary Dominic, GHD'15
"After graduating from GHD, I had the unique opportunity to continue participating in the capstone experience as a capstone client. I engaged a GHD student to help my organization, Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), identify opportunities for employment of young women in Rwanda's agriculture value chains. The student conducted extensive desk research and traveled to Rwanda to better understand youth livelihoods opportunities in the country's dairy value chain. At the end of the project, the student presented her actionable recommendations to EDC's International Development Division management. Aside from the detailed research that emerged from the project, I found the capstone experience to be mutually beneficial for the student and for myself. The student refined her technical skills in value chain analysis and I had the opportunity to see the capstone project from another perspective and experience first-hand how helpful this process can be for an organization too."
ANDREW MORRISSETT, GHD'16
Client: Niger Delta Partnership Initiative
"The capstone experience with niger delta partnership initiative (NDPI) tangibly highlighted the importance of involving multiple sectors in order to solve big challenges. The project gave us the opportunity to interview and work alongside a wide variety of actors, expanding our technical skills as well as our ability to be flexible and effective within the evolving development space. Further, this project provided me with connections in my post-graduation job search that I would not have otherwise had, not to mention a tangible piece of work that I can share with potential employers."
2. Equally important to the success of the Capstone Project will be carefully defining the specific issue to ensure the scope of work is feasible, the analysis is achievable, and that expectations are appropriate. Ideally, the issue should be important, but not urgent for the client. That is, the topic should be of sufficient importance to the client that they want the analysis completed and are appropriately invested and engaged in the project. But the issue should not be urgent – it must be something that the client is comfortable having completed in a 6-month timeframe. The issue should require research and analysis, but not be just a pure research project – it must lead to an analysis of options and a recommendation for some kind of action for the client organization.
SIERRA FRISCHKNECHT, GHD'16
Client: FHI 360
"For my capstone, I worked with FHI 360 to better measure, learn from, and communicate its progress towards its mission. My project required me to combine my international development expertise on measuring development effectiveness with other broadly applicable skills: project management, organizational strategy, change management, and consulting best practices. It also brought me into the middle of decision making and organizational change processes, putting my GHD coursework in international development management and strategy into action. I was invited to present my findings to FHI 360’s Executive Team and Board of Directors, and was selected to present a workshop co-featuring my capstone experience at the American Evaluation Association’s 2016 Annual Conference. The capstone was a crowning achievement of my work in the GHD program, and an excellent launching pad into the next step in my development career."
LENA ALFI, GHD'15
"Our capstone project focused on education in refugee emergencies with a focus on at-risk adolescent Syrian refugees living in Jordan. We traveled to Jordan to conduct in-person focus groups and interviews and spent months researching and analyzing how Mercy Corps’ program design could be most effective in providing high-quality education to young Syrian refugees. As a Syrian-American, this project had personal relevance and helped me navigate my post-graduate career focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. I currently work for the Middle East Children’s Institute (MECI), an organization my Capstone partner and I researched during our project."
PETER COOK, GHD'14
Client: Inter-American Investment Bank
"My capstone project was really the pivotal moment for my time at GHD. While the topic was rather dry—SME definitions!—it allowed me to fully engross myself in a technical topic, and come away with expertise in an area that had increasing interest from many different development organizations. The culmination was being asked to present the results of my research to the Board of Executive Directors of the Inter-American Investment Corporation, only a few weeks after graduation; immediately followed by an internship at the same organization that ultimately led to my first job. the capstone was definitely the singular piece of work off which I started my career. Indeed, I am still working in the same broad area of development, and even 2 years later occasionally share my capstone product with colleagues as a writing sample."
MAR MARTINEZ, GHD'15
Client: John Snow Inc.
"Through my analysis of alternatives for maximizing interventions targeting neglected tropical diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa, I was able to transition towards a career in public health and science and technology for development. The capstone process was a unique opportunity to delve into the subject, gain new competencies, engage with leading experts in academia, consulting firms and multilateral organizations, and make a contribution by inspiring pragmatic solutions. I also presented the findings of my capstone project at the Civil Society Policy Forum at the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Lima in October 2015."
A full list of Capstone Projects can be found here: