Investments aligned with this Strategic Goal aim to make access to education more equitable for children in conflict or crisis contexts by utilizing alternative models of delivery, providing training and psycho-social support for teachers, and promoting safe learning environments.


Dimensions of Impact: WHAT

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider the scale of the addressable problem, what positive outcomes might be, and how important the change would be to the people (or planet) experiencing it.

Key questions in this dimension include:

What problem does the investment aim to address? For the target stakeholders experiencing the problem, how important is this change?

Crisis often prevents access to education. Natural disasters, pandemics, and conflicts, as well as the resulting internal and cross-border displacement, can leave entire generations traumatized, uneducated, and unprepared to contribute to social and economic recovery. Children in fragile states are up to three times more likely to be out of school than those living in non-conflict contexts, and they are far more likely to drop out of primary school before completion (1, p. 61). Girls in crisis contexts face the additional dangers of child marriage and teenage pregnancy, confinement to domestic labor, or sexual exploitation (2). Even when conflict does not disrupt access, it can affect learning. Teachers have to handle multilingual classrooms and traumas affecting displaced students. Additionally, conflict tends to exacerbate exclusions based on ethnicity, religion, or gender (1).

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of international migrants is estimated to grow to around 400 million people by 2050, and many risk being denied the opportunity to acquire skills. Education buffers future social and economic shocks and can drive stability, reconciliation, and peacebuilding; migrants’ dearth of skills will increase their vulnerability to shocks and the risks of instability across the world (3, p. 16). Education can give children the building blocks needed to rebuild their lives and, eventually, their countries (3, p. 2).

Investments in this strategy can offer alternative models of education to address the diverse needs of children affected by emergency and conflict. For example, investors’ capital could scale a project to accelerate these students’ learning or close gaps through bridging programs. Investors could also support technology-based solutions that enhance existing learning environments or create virtual learning environments.

Investments in this strategy can also ensure access to supportive learning environments by promoting safe learning sites and structures, addressing the psychological and social needs of young children and adolescents recovering from trauma, and providing protection from school-related gender-based violence.

Finally, investments in this strategy can address the distinct psycho-social and other needs of teachers working in crisis- or conflict-affected contexts through training, monitoring, and support, including support to develop strategies to manage overcrowded, mixed-age, and multilingual classrooms.

What is the scale of the problem?

One in four of the 462 million school-aged children around the world now live in countries affected by crisis, and 75 million of them most desperately need educational support (3, p. 2). For further context:

  • Sixty-three million out-of-school girls and boys are living in conflict-affected areas, and 17 million school-age children are refugees or internally displaced. Refugees are five times less likely to attend school than other children: only half of refugee children are enrolled in primary school, and less than 25% are enrolled in secondary school (3).
  • Girls, who are particularly disadvantaged in this context, are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys in countries affected by conflict (4).
  • Refugee children often miss significant amounts of schooling. On average, Syrian refugees in Greece miss two years of school as a result of conflict, with 45% missing three or more years of schooling (18). 


Dimensions of Impact: WHO

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider whom they want to target, as almost every strategy has a host of potential beneficiaries. While some investors may target women of color living in a particular rural area, others may set targets more broadly, e.g., women. Investors interested in targeting particular populations should focus on strategies that have been shown to benefit those populations.

Key questions in this dimension include:

Who (people, planet, or both) is helped through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs): Displaced children face significant obstacles to learning. Only half of refugee children have access to primary education; a refugee child is five times more likely than the average child to be out of school (1, p. 61).

Girls: Refugee girls are particularly disadvantaged; there are fewer than eight refugee girls for every 10 boys in primary school and fewer than seven girls for every 10 boys in secondary school. Investments in this strategy can help address the barriers preventing refugee girls from accessing education.

Out-of-School Children: Conflict-affected countries are home to more than a third of out-of-school children, and only 23% of refugee adolescents attend secondary school (1, 5).

Teachers: Teachers and other education professionals have to meet the educational and emotional needs of children and youth in emergencies through to recovery. Investments in this strategy can provide teachers with the information, learning, and support they need to help their students build towards a more positive future.

Schools: From 2013 to 2017, there were more than 12,700 attacks on educational facilities that harmed more than 21,000 students and education personnel (1). Yet schools provide a safe space and a vital routine for children during times of major upheaval.

What are the geographic attributes of those who are affected?

Children in fragile, conflict-affected countries are more than twice as likely to be out of school compared to those in countries not affected by conflict; similarly, adolescents facing conflict are more than two-thirds more likely to be out of school (6). Developing countries hosted 92% of the world’s school-age refugees in 2017 (7). Fewer than half of refugee children hosted by low-income countries access primary education, and only 9% of refugee adolescents access secondary education in these countries (5, p. 9).

More than half of the world’s out-of-school refugee children are located in just seven countries: Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Turkey (2, p. 4). According to UNESCO, the sub-Saharan Africa region still has the highest out-of-school rates for all ages, 4–18 (9). In Africa, children affected by drought are less likely to complete primary school; similar impacts of drought have been found in Asia and Latin America (3).


Dimensions of Impact: CONTRIBUTION

Investors considering investing in a company or portfolio aligned with this strategy should consider whether the effect they want to have compares to what is likely to happen anyway. Is the investment's contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How much and Who?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How can investments in line with this Strategic Goal contribute to outcomes, and are these investments’ effects likely better, worse, or neutral than what would happen otherwise

Besides direct benefits to children’s long-term education, maintaining access to education during conflict benefits their well-being and protection and contributes to post-conflict stability and peacebuilding (10). High secondary school enrollments increase a country’s level of stability and peace and reduce crime and violence. Education enables refugees to fulfill their economic potential, as well as boosting their confidence and self-esteem (11).

Strengthens Global Peace, Security, and Governance: Education promotes peace, tolerance, mutual respect, and social cohesion. Quality education builds positive social connections and provides tools for peaceful problem-solving. In fact, equal access to education for girls and boys reduces the likelihood of violence and conflict by 37% (17).

Strengthens Resilience: Education gives children a place of safety and can reduce early marriage, child labor, and recruitment by armed groups. Schools give children stability and structure, fostering their resilience as they cope with trauma through the support of trained teachers and their peers.

Reduces Poverty and Inequality: Educating children benefits whole societies. A child whose mother is literate is 50% more likely to live past the age of five and two times as likely to attend school (8, p. 99).

Promotes Global Prosperity: Education increases earnings and boosts growth. Each additional year of schooling leads to a 10% increase in income, with even greater gains for women. Limited educational opportunities for girls cause USD 15–30 trillion lost in lifetime productivity and earnings (3).

How Much

Dimensions of Impact: HOW MUCH

Investors deploying capital into investments aligned with this strategy should think about how significant the investment's effect might be. What is likely to be the change's breadth, depth, and duration?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How many target stakeholders can experience the outcome through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Investments aligned with this Strategic Goal can benefit the 75 million children aged 3–18 years and living in 35 crisis-affected countries who most desperately need educational support (4, p. 10).

How much change can target stakeholders experience through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Investing in education in emergency contexts has economic and social benefits for that country’s population, including social cohesion and national identity (8, p. 36). Evidence suggests that each year of education reduces an adolescent boy’s risk of becoming involved in conflict by 20%, and a 10% higher-than-average enrollment rate for secondary schooling reduces the risk of war by about three percentage points (9). Providing secondary education for all girls, UNESCO estimates, would greatly reduce child marriage (by almost two-thirds) and under-18 pregnancy, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, regions which host many refugees (2, p. 43).

Education gives refugees the knowledge and skills they need to live productive, fulfilling, and independent lives. For example, every extra year in school for a refugee child in Uganda increases their income by 3% (5, p. 7).


Dimensions of Impact: RISK

Key questions in this dimension include:

What impact risks do investments aligned with this Strategic Goal run? How can investments mitigate them?

Execution Risk: Poor access to electricity and other resources in low-income countries can present challenges for some technological solutions. Investors should make sure such solutions fit the geography or demographic to be served. Also, multilingual classrooms can pose adoption challenges for certain solutions. To mitigate this risk, solutions must center on the user, be well-suited to the implementation context, and include a plan to foster user (student or teacher) adoption in that specific context.

Evidence Risk: Some startups may lack the capacity to monitor and evaluate all of their outcome metrics, limiting investors’ ability to monitor impact. Teacher well-being can be particularly challenging to capture comprehensively. Inability to measure impact metrics or reliance on a third party to monitor progress introduces the risk of error. To mitigate that risk, investors should carefully consider the type of indicators investees provide and require realistic social impact performance metrics that better relate to the intended outcome of their solution. For recommended metrics based on evidence and best practice, see metrics section below.

External Risk: Outside factors such as trauma, language barriers, new shocks or crises, and health issues can prevent students from learning and teachers from teaching. To mitigate this risk, investors should make sure investees understand the limits of the context in which the solution will be implemented, monitoring performance and adapting as needed.

What are likely consequences of these impact risk factors?

Such risks could make it difficult to reach the desired impact. In some cases, investments that do not effectively take into account risk factors and local contexts could further generate negative impacts.

Illustrative Investment

The Instant Network Schools Programme, is an initiative that equips schools with internet through a satellite or mobile network connection, electricity through solar-powered batteries and a backup generator, and dynamic digital content through pre-loaded and online resources, connecting remote and isolated communities with the rest of the world.  The initiative has established 36 Instant Network Schools in eight refugee camps in Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, benefiting over 86,000 refugee students and 1,000 teachers. The program aims to enable up to three million young refugees in countries where Vodafone operates to access a digital education by 2020. Preliminary data from an evaluation in Kenya pointed at a three-percentage-point increase in attendance rates and a 36% increase in the participation rate for primary school certificate examinations. The Instant Network School is a joint initiative of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Vodafone.

Ideas Box, developed by the NGO Libraries Without Borders together with UNHCR, has an education component and also includes additional tools and cultural resources, from books and films to cameras and graphic design software. The aim is to create a community space that enriches the experience of isolated communities. A qualitative evaluation of its deployment in two Burundian camps hosting Congolese refugees showed positive impact on measures of resilience. Since its inception, 59 Ideas Box kits have been implemented in emergency and reconstruction contexts, providing more than 850,000 refugees and displaced or vulnerable people with the means to reconnect with the world, gain self-reliance, and strengthen their children’s education.

Have an investment the GIIN should consider including here? Let us know!

Draw on Evidence

This mapped evidence shows what outcomes and impacts this strategy can have, based on academic and field research.

An EiE Research-Practice Partnership: Learning to improve academic and social-emotional outcomes.

International Rescue Committee (IRC). Global TIES for Children at New York University (TIES/NYU)

This is a case study -- based on two randomized control trials -- of the Education in Emergencies research-practice partnership between the IRC and Global TIES for Children at NYU.
Bringing education to Afghan girls: A randomized controlled trial of village-based schools

Burde, D., & Linden, L. (2013). Bringing education to Afghan girls: A randomized controlled trial of village-based schools. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 5(3), 27–40.

Study from crisis settings that shows how creating schools close to home has a causal impact on enrollment is an experimental design (RCT), combined with observational data, of community-based schools in Afghanistan, a protracted conflict setting.
Essence of Learning: An approach to foster and sustain children’s ability to learn in times of crisis

Caritas Switzerland. 2017. "Essence of Learning: An approach to foster and sustain children’s ability to learn in times of crisis."; Promising Practices in Refugee Education Case Study

This is a case study of the Essence of Learning program, which provides learning/psycho-social support for children out of school (10 weeks) in Gaza.
Standing in the Gap for Rohingya Refugee Children: A Community Approach to Making Education Possible

Children on the Edge. 2017. "Standing in the gap for Rohingya refugee children: A Community approach to making education possible." Promising Practices in Refugee Education Case Study

This is a case study of Standing in the Gap, a program delivers low profile and community driven education to support refugee children on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border with no access to services.
Ideas Box: An Innovating Psychosocial Tool for Emergency Situations

Lachal, C. 2015. Ideas Box: An Innovating Psychosocial Tool for Emergency Situations – Impact Study in the Kavumu and Bwagirisa Camps, Burundi. Washington, DC, Libraries Without Borders

The Ideas Box addresses the challenges of the scarcity and low quality of educational resources and training of teachers, in crisis situations.
Little Ripples: Refugee-Led Early Childhood Education

Dallain, Sara-Christine and Katie-Jay Scott. Little Ripples: Refugee-led early childhood education. iACT, 2013.

This is a case study of the Little Ripples curriculum, an early-childhood refugee-led program in Goz Amer and Djabal refugee camps in eastern Chad. Little Ripples aims to build the capacity of refugee women to implement and manage early childhood education in their community. It aims to improve the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of refugee children.
Learning and Empowerment for Adolescents in their Neighbourhoods (LEARN): Neighbourbood-based blended learning for adolescent Syrian refugees

Mercy Corps. LEARN: Neighbourhood-based blended learning for adolescent Syrian refugees. Portland, Oregon: Mercy Corps, 2016.

Case study on blended remote tablet-based and home visit instruction supplemented with weekly group psycho-social support activities.
Norwegian Refugee Council’s Accelerated Education Responses: A Meta-Evaluation

Shah, R. 2015. Norwegian Refugee Council’s Accelerated Education Responses: A Meta-Evaluation. Oslo, Norwegian Refugee Council

Accelerated learning program in Dadaab that condenses Kenya’s eight-year curriculum into four years. The program is responsive to student needs, with multiple entry and exit points. Review showed that the program had increased access for refugee boys.
Non-formal education programming: An approach to increasing enrollmentinto the formal system

Norwegian Refugee Council. Non-formal education programming: An approach to increasing enrollment into the formal system. Norwegian Refugee Council, 2013.

This is a case study of a non-formal education program in Lebanon. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provided non-formal education programming to Syrian refugee and host community children over a four-year period, using a 3-phased approach. The program provides a sense of normalcy, protection and self-reliance, and to establish pathways to certified formal education.
Learning & Well-being in Emergencies: A three-pronged approach to improving refugee education

McKinney, Rachel and Caroline Keenan. Learning & Well-being in Emergencies: A three-pronged approach to improving refugee education. Washington, D.C.: Save the Children, 2016.

Two-year pilot project with three key objectives: 1) To support learning in refugee education responses, 2)To improve well-being of students and teachers through integrated Social Emotional Learning (SEL) content) and 3) To better understand the potential correlation between learning outcomes and well-being.
Strengthening Teacher Professional Development: Local and global communities of practice in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Mendenhall, Mary. Strengthening Teacher Professional Development: Local and global communities of practice in Kakuma Refugee Kamp. 2016.

Case study on teacher professional development initiative that integrates teacher training, peer coaching, and mobile mentoring.
Bringing hope in times of conflict: UNRWA Education in Emergencies programme

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Bringing hope in times of conflict: UNRWA Education in Emergencies programme. UNRWA, 2016.

This is a case study of a UNRWA program, Education in Emergencies, which protects and promotes the education of Palestine refugee children and youth whose access to education is affected by conflict, crisis, and poverty.
Instant Network Schools: A Connected Education programme

Vodafone Foundation. 2017. Instant Network Schools: a Connected Education Programme. Newbury, Vodafone Foundation

This is a case study of Instant Network Schools in Kenya. Instant Networks Schools (INS) provide a holistic solution to transform an existing classroom into an innovation hub for learning – complete with Internet connectivity, sustainable solar power, an Instant Classroom (digital classroom in-a-box specially created for the INS program which includes 25 tablets, a laptop, a projector and speaker, a 3G modem and batteries to run the kit for a day of class), localized digital content; and a robust teacher training program.
Remedial Education Programme: An Innovation to Improve Girls’ Academic Performance in Refugee Contexts

Kinoti, Timothy and Lucy Philpott. Remedial Education Programme: An Innovation to Improve Girls’ Academic Performance in Refugee Contexts. WUSC/EUMC, 2011.

Remedial education program that has proven effective in addressing critical systemic gaps, improving girls’ academic performance and positively influencing parental and positively influence parental and community attitudes towards girls’ education.
Refugee education: Is technology the solution?

Wagner, Emma and Save the Children UK. Refugee Education: Is technology the solution? Save the Children UK, n.d.

While there are multiple challenges in providing quality education to the world’s refugee children, the need for innovative, cost-effective and scalable educational solutions has never been more urgent. This paper highlights some promising practices in using technology to bridge the gaps, and asks if technology is the solution to providing refugees with quality education.
The Escuela Nueva (The New School) in Colombia; An Innovative Educational Program in Developing Countries

Aldawsari, Refah Ahmed and Samar Mari. The Escuela Nueva (The New School) in Colombia; An Innovative Educational Program in Developing Countries. Multi-Knowledge Electronic Comprehensive Journal For Education And Science Publications (MECSJ) ISSUE (15), Dec (2018).

This paper highlights the Escuela Nueva program as one of the most innovative educational programs in Columbia. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the educational problems that Escuela Nueva addresses with the purpose of highlighting key features of this innovative program.
Learning in the Face of Adversity: the UNRWA education program for Palestine refugees

Abdul-Hamid, H., Patrinos, H. A., Reyes, J., Kelcey, J. and Diaz Varela, A. 2016. Learning in the Face of Adversity: The UNRWA Education Program for Palestinian Refugees. Washington, DC, World Bank

This multi-method study was undertaken to better understand the reasons for success at UNRWA schools and their positive variation from comparable public schools. Econometric techniques were used to analyze international and national learning achievement data. Pedagogical practices and classroom time-on-task were observed using structured methods (Stallings model). Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) tools were used to better understand the policies and implementation strategies for school and teacher management and for monitoring and evaluation. Additionally, qualitative data were collected and analyzed in line with an education resilience conceptual framework to better uncover factors that help students develop the skills to learn despite the adversities they face.
Non-formal education program: An innovation to build and nurture youth-centred creativity, problem-solving, teamwork and leadership in refugee contexts

Relief International. Non-formal education program. An innovation to build and nurture youth-centered creativity, problem-solving, teamwork and leadership in refugee contexts. Relief International, 2016

This is a case study of Social Innovation Labs, a program in Jordan that provides creative hang-out space for adolescents that enables them to propose and implement solutions for social issues in camps. SIL aims to develop 21st century skills and empower adolescents.
Programme on the Move – development and implementation of innovative and flexible participatory programmes for children on the move.

Besedic, Jelena, Ljiljana Dosen, Tatjana Ristic, Ivan Tasic, Nina Stamenkovic. Save the Children International, Refugee Response in Serbia. Save the Children, 2016.

Programme on the Move and its innovative toolkit ‘Boxes of Wonder’ provides a framework for the development and the implementation of psychosocial support (PSS) and non-formal educational activities to refugee and migrant children.
Time to be a Child: Play, Learning and Child-Centred Development for Children Affected by the Syrian Crisis

Oddy, Jessica. Time to be a Child: Play, Learning and Child-Centred Development for Children Affected by the Syrian Crisis. War Child, 2016.

This is a case study of ‘Time to be a Child,’ a three-year project that will deliver play, learning and child-centered development activities to children affected by the Syrian crisis in Jordan and Lebanon.
Two Schools in One: Management of high enrolment in refugee secondary schools

Murwanjama, Josephine and Phyllis Mureu. Two Schools in One: Management of high enrollment in refugee secondary schools. Windle Trust Kenya, 2016.

This is a case study of Two Schools in One (Kenya), an approach that uses secondary schools in an effective double shift model to accommodate more students.
We Love Reading: Promoting Literacy and Education through Reading Aloud in Community Settings

Dajani, Rana. We Love Reading: Promoting literacy and education through reading aloud in community settings. We Love Reading, 2016.

This is a case study of We Love Reading, a program that plants the love of reading within children by training adults to read aloud to children in a public space on a routine basis with books that are appropriate for children.

Each resource is assigned a rating of rigor according to the NESTA Standards of Evidence.

Define Metrics

Core Metrics

This starter set of core metrics — chosen from the IRIS catalog with the input of impact investors who work in this area — indicate performance toward objectives within this strategy. They can help with setting targets, tracking performance, and managing toward success.

Additional Metrics

While the above core metrics provide a starter set of measurements that can show outcomes of a portfolio targeted toward this goal, the additional metrics below — or others from the IRIS catalog — can provide more nuance and depth to understanding your impact.