First Report Released in IFP Alumni Tracking Study

Philanthropic and higher education leaders convene to discuss first findings of 10-year IIE study on the impact of the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program

NEW YORK, April 27, 2016—Funding the post-graduate academic pursuits of emerging social justice leaders from marginalized groups leads to significant, measurable benefits for communities and organizations worldwide, according to a new report released today by the Institute of International Education (IIE). These findings are the first milestone in a groundbreaking 10-year study measuring the impact of the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (IFP). The study will be the subject of a discussion on April 27 at IIE about the most effective ways for philanthropic investment to empower leaders to drive social change, with speakers from the Ford Foundation, IIE, Synergos Institute, New York University, and the International Center for Transitional Justice.

The Ford Foundation provided $420 million in funding resources for IFP, the single largest program commitment in its history. Between 2001 and 2013, the International Fellowships Program supported graduate-level education for 4,305 emerging social justice leaders from 22 countries, representing a wide range of groups that have faced discrimination because of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, economic and educational background, or physical disability. IFP’s underlying assumption was that, given the right tools, emerging leaders from disadvantaged communities could succeed in postgraduate studies and would work to improve conditions in their communities upon returning home.

“As governments everywhere search for ways to educate and tap the talent of more citizens, the results of the International Fellowships Program offer practical, real-world lessons, especially in helping people from rural and marginalized communities find a place in higher education,” said Hilary Pennington, Ford Foundation’s Vice President for Education, Creativity, and Free Expression. “This landmark study shows that investing in a more inclusive approach to higher education can create global leaders, and as a result, help change the world.”

Measuring Social Change

The new report, Social Justice and Sustainable Change: The Impacts of Higher Education, is based on responses from nearly 2,000 IFP alumni across 22 countries. The findings reveal that IFP alumni not only experienced personal and professional gains, they are driving tangible and sustainable change in their home communities, countries, and wider global society.

  • Teach One, Reach All: Supporting Advocates Leads to Immediate Changes in Wider Communities: Over 900 IFP alumni have created new programs and organizations; 97% of these initiatives address social issues or provide community services, and 48% of them were created by women. Alumni report that these new programs and organizations have impacted 9.5 million individuals in the IFP countries and 860,000 additional individuals worldwide.
  • Fellows Advance Public Discourse about Social Justice: IFP alumni have produced a total of nearly 35,000 journal and news articles, reports, works of visual art, book chapters, or influential presentations. The combined body of work of the survey respondents includes 12,000 conference presentations and almost 15,500 print resources (including over 600 books).
  • More Professional Opportunities for Social Justice Leaders Drive Impact: Ninety-one percent of alumni report that the program expanded their professional opportunities. Nearly 80% of IFP alumni hold a senior leadership role in their work, and 87% indicated that IFP helped increase their leadership skills. IFP alumni are leading members of national governments, local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and international organizations.
  • Investing in Emerging Leaders Committed to Local Change Helps Avert Brain Drain: Contrary to concerns about the brain drain that may result from conducting graduate-level academic studies away from home, IFP alumni have demonstrated that they are committed to local work in their home countries and communities. 84% of alumni currently live in their home country. Nearly 77% of alumni indicate that they serve as role models in their communities, and 63% are consulted when their community is advocating for social justice. In addition to the majority of alumni who returned to their home countries, the 16% who are abroad also report significant impact on their communities and countries of origin, and across global organizations.
  • Fellows Spearhead Organizational Change and Corporate Responsibility: 84% of IFP alumni reported making improvements in the organizations where they work or volunteer as a result of their IFP fellowship, impacting approximately 66,800 employees and volunteers worldwide.

“To date, most alumni studies have focused on short-term outputs and outcomes, such as rates of completion, repatriation, and employment,” says Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation. “Though these data are critical to measure initial program success, they lack a more systematic look into the long-term individual, community and societal impacts. For this reason – and because IFP was a unique program model with the potential for large-scale global impact – the alumni tracking study that IIE is conducting provides a rare opportunity in our field to examine these impacts over an extended period of time and to share lessons learned.”

The study is part of a comprehensive IFP Knowledge Management Project that includes the creation of the soon-to-open Ford IFP Archive, which will be housed at Columbia University Libraries in New York, with a selection of publications, the IFP media library, and archived websites available online. Both the IFP Alumni Tracking Study and the Ford IFP Archive aim to provide researchers and practitioners with an in-depth look into the links among access to higher education, international development, and social change. The Ford IFP Archive will present six research awards of $5,000-$7,000 each to enable scholars, philanthropic administrators, and other researchers to conduct research in the archives this summer and present their findings at a Symposium in September at Columbia University.

For more key findings from the IFP Impact Report visit the IFP Alumni Tracking Study website.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,400 member institutions.

IIE has a long history of working with foundations to implement a broad range of scholarship and fellowship programs, while also conducting research and evaluations to assess the impact of these programs. The Institute’s Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact provides research and program evaluation services to domestic and international governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, foundations, and higher education institutions to facilitate the collection of more comprehensive and policy-relevant data on international education, and to assess the impact of international fellowship and scholarship programs. In addition to the Ford Foundation, IIE has recently conducted program evaluations for the Alcoa Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Schlumberger Foundation, and the U.S. Department of State and Department of Education, among others.

About the Ford Foundation 

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.


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