The Capstone Project is the culmination of the student’s two years of course work and experiences at Georgetown. It is an integral part of the core curriculum taken during the second year of the Global Human Development Program, the Management, Analysis & Practice in Development I & II (GHDP 598 & GHDP 599). GHDP 598 & 599 are designed to provide support and direction to students writing their Capstone project. Working in pairs, the Project is designed to provide students with the opportunity to bring together the knowledge and skills they have acquired throughout the program and apply them to a real-world challenge identified jointly with an organization working in the development field (the client). The client could be a government, donor agency, NGO, business, foundation, or other organization working in development.

The Capstone Project is a comprehensive analysis of an issue facing the client – a key decision, a critical policy, a new challenge, an emerging opportunity, or a new program or initiative. Students are responsible for identifying their client, and for working with the client to define an appropriate topic and terms of reference, which provides the flexibility for the student to pursue a client and topic directly related to their area of concentration.

Working closely with the client, the student will prepare a comprehensive analysis of the issue, combining relevant economic, political, institutional, managerial, legal, or other analyses, depending on the nature of the issue, alongside options and recommendations for action. Over the course of the year, students can expect to make oral presentations on the prospectus, extended outline, draft and completed projects to the professor, peer group, client, faculty advisor, and other faculty members. Akin to a professional consulting assignment, students will make a formal presentation to the client at the conclusion of the analysis, and prepare a professional 40-page analysis and poster of the policy, management, or institutional issue. A non-proprietary version of the paper will also be prepared that the student may use as an example of his/her work for future employers.

The precise content of the report, and the types of analysis included, will depend on the nature of the issue and the needs of the client, but in most cases the final report will include the following:

  • Background, context, and description of the issue
  • Assessment of broader development context into which the issue falls
  • Selection criteria for screening alternatives
  • Quantitative analysis (economic/financial, cost-benefit, statistical, multivariate regression)
  • Policy and/or institutional analysis
  • Political and/or legal analysis where appropriate
  • Multiple options, alternatives, and recommendation for action

Students will work with a great deal of independence, guided by the client, the professor and a faculty advisor (acting as a mentor). In most cases students will work individually. More than one student can work for the same client on related issues. In some circumstances where appropriate students may be able to work in pairs, following discussion with and subject to approval by the professor.

Key Recommendations

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.

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.