Think Creative Spring 2022

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Think Creative Spring 2022 A new wave of learning in Nigeria The economics of stability in El Salvador Reducing ethnic strife in Ghana By Creative Associates International

Bringing Curriculum to Life Improving Arabic Literacy in Morocco

snap shot Turn the page to learn the story behind this photo

Photo by Karen Chang

snap shot

Proyecto Tejiendo Paz By Sara Barker, Chief of Party Shared cultural traditions unite and harmonize communities. I recently attended a meaningful cultural activity organized by 48 Cantones—a highly respected group of indigenous authorities in Totonicapán, Guatemala—as a part of the USAID-funded Peacebuilding Project ( Proyecto Tejiendo Paz ). 48 Cantones is a multigenerational assembly charged with community duties, such as protecting natural resources, resolving local disputes and preserving the historical memory of the town. Observing their depth of respect and connection to their Mayan ancestors was incredibly moving. The event included traditional music and the presentation of historical relics

to 48 Cantones for safeguarding, including a 200-year-old silver staff representing integrity, authority and responsibility. Indigenous authorities like 48 Can tones are key partners in retaining traditions. They also serve as critical partners in peacebuilding by le veraging their ancestral knowledge and deploying effective dialogue, mediation and negotiation skills. The event was part of a training process led by Tejiendo Paz ’s local partner, the Center for Research and Projects for Development and Peace (CEIDEPAZ). Our partnership builds upon Tejiendo Paz’s goals of conflict mitigation and peacebuilding in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. n

Giovani Rosales, President of 48 Cantones, holds a 200-year-old silver staff presented to group. “With our staff, we feel the strength of our ancestors. … When I hold the staff and speak, I feel supported by past generations.”

In this Issue

West Africa Trade Hub In Focus 12 p.

07 Dispatches

Vamos Ler! By the Numbers 10 p.

Updates from around our world

08 // A NewWave of Learning 09 // • From IDP to Star Teacher

Bringing Curriculum to Life 14 p.

• Strengthening Governance Worldwide • Field Notes

10 // Vamos Ler! By the Numbers 12 // In Focus: West Africa Trade & Investment Hub

14 Cover Package Bringing Curriculum to Life: Improving Arabic Literacy in Morocco

ON THE COVER: A classroom full of eager learners benefiting from Morocco’s revised Arabic language curriculum. Photo taken by Erick Gibson for Creative Associates International.

Photos by Karen Chang (Snap Shot), Erick Gibson (Bringing Curriculum to Life); Aniebiet Bassey (West Africa Trade Hub); Erick Gibson (Vamos Ler!)

4 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Think Creative by Creative Associates International

Letter from Leland Kruvant President & CEO Creative Associates International


Founder & Board Chair Charito Kruvant

President & CEO Leland Kruvant

Executive VP & Chief Innovation Officer Pablo Maldonado

As this issue of Think Creative goes to press, our staff around the world are celebrating Creative’s 45th anniversary as a social impact company. Forty-five years of providing meaningful, lasting change for millions of people in nearly 100 countries. In 1977, four talented and visionary women knew that development could be done better and dared to fracture the old-boys network of government contracting. It is an amazing story that continues to inspire and motivate us today. Since then, Creative has grown to become a world-class organization, an achievement that is due in no

small part to its outstanding teammembers. My colleagues in Guatemala, Ghana, Jordan, the United States and elsewhere have made Creative what it is today with their dedication, optimism, resistance and fortitude. While we have developed the tools andmethodologies to support our globally resourced, locally focused work, our staff around the globe have brought it to life with their technical skills and community understanding. Our colleagues have taken on seemingly insur mountable challenges and created positive impact in the lives of everyday people. The stories of their efforts are

reflected in this and every issue of Think Creative .

Anniversaries are about more than reflecting on our past. They are a moment to look ahead and to use themomentumwe have built for our clients, partners and beneficia ries to address new challenges and reach new successes. The need for Creative’s expertise has never been greater, and this moment challenges us to do even more in the years ahead. As we look around the world today, there is still much work to be done. Sincerely,

Chief Operating Officer Sani Daher

Chief Growth Officer Benjamin Feit

Chief Financial Officer Oswaldo Holguin

VP, External Relations Jessica Kruvant

VP, Global Operations Noy Villalobos

VP, Education Eileen St. George

VP, Economic Growth Jim Winkler

VP, Communities in Transition Sharon Van Pelt

VP, Business Development Ailea Sneller


20 Feature Stories 20 // Building Community: How a Survey Reduced Ethnic Strife in Ghana 22 // The Economics of Stability: Creative study finds that formal bank accounts serve to anchor Salvadorans facing one of the top drivers of migration 25 Creative Life A mission-driven community 26 // Staff Spotlight: Manal Chafik 27 // • Staff Photos • Staff Celebrate Creative’s 45th Anniversary 28 // Breaking the Bias: Women across Creative discuss challenges and strides towards equality 30 // Walk this Way: A day in the life of Lukman Imoro, Ghana Upper East Field Monitor for USAID/OTI Littorals Regional Initiative (LRI)

Senior Director, Communications Michael J. Zamba

Art Direction Amanda Smallwood

Building Community 20 p.

Communications Manager Marta S. Maldonado

Strategic Content Manager Sabra Ayres

The Economics of Stability 22 p.

Digital Media Manager Olivia Chapman

Think Creative is published three times a year by Creative Associates International, a global development organization dedicated to supporting people around the world to realize the positive change they seek. The content is produced by Creative and does not represent the policies or positions of its clients, partners or host governments. Reproduction of any or all of Think Creative is prohibited without prior written permission. Copyright ©2022.

For more information about Think Creative , please email us at

4445 Willard Avenue NW, Suite 400 Chevy Chase, MD 20815 + 202.966.5804 Creative Associates International

30 p. Meet Manal!

Photos by Skip Brown (Leland Kruvant); Erick Gibson (Ghana); edfuentesg via (San Salvador); Ahmed Chafik (Chafik) | 5

Society for International Development


INCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT A Healthy, Prosperous, & Resilient Planet for All

2022 ANNUAL CONFERENCE MAY 26, 2022 Join us for SID-Washington’s first hybrid Conference, in Washington, DC and Online!

We stand with Ukraine.

How to Help Consider making a donation to one of many reputable relief organizations working on location in Ukraine. To explore organizations accepting donations and to learn about how donations are used, visit: war-in-ukraine

6 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Di spa t che s Updates from around our world

Students in Mozambique learning to read in their local language.

Photo by Leesa Kaplan | 7


updates from around our world

Left: The LEARN to Read program will build on USAID’s and Creative’s years of literacy work in Nigeria.

Nigeria // Leveraging Education Assistance Resources in Nigeria (LEARN) A NewWave of Learning

Creative has been awarded a new USAID- funded program that will develop solutions to strengthen early grade reading delivery in Nigeria. Called Leveraging Education Assistance Re sources in Nigeria (LEARN) to Read, the five year program builds on and fortifies the gains achieved in Bauchi and Sokoto states during the past 10 years of collaboration between USAID and local stakeholders. “LEARN is an example of the right project ar riving at the right time,” says ProgramDirector Scott Frick. “Building on proven approaches, LEARNwill continue an established trajectory of improvement and work with government systems to expand support for early grade read ing achievement. Given the current learning crisis [in the wake of the pandemic], this work has never been more important.” Creative implemented LEARN to Read’s pre decessors—Northern Education Initiative and the Northern Education Initiative Plus—which employed a holistic approach to addressing a broad range of factors affecting learning, teach ing, systems management, parental participa tion and community engagement in education. The projects worked to strengthen access and quality of basic education through new and engaging teaching approaches and learning materials, teacher training, nonformal learning centers and more in Bauchi and Sokoto states. NEI Plus, which concluded in 2021, ultimately reached more than 1 million school-aged chil dren and youth.

LEARN to Read will continue in Bauchi and Sokoto, expand to at least one new state, and provide technical assistance with government counterparts to a wider range of other states. This USAID-funded project will be imple mented closely with the Federal Ministry of Education and state offices. “Creative has been in partnership with Nige ria’s education system stakeholders for more than 16 years, working together to establish a

strong base for taking early grade reading pro grams to scale,” says Eileen St. George, Ph.D., the Vice President of Education for Develop ment Division. “NEI Plus provided evidence of operating at scale while making a positive difference in learning.” In-country team led by Nigerians St. George says Creative is proud of its strong Nigerian team at the helm of LEARN to Read,

Given the current learning crisis, this work has never been more important.” - Scott Frick, Program Director of LEARN to Read

which will be led by Nurudeen Lawal, the former Chief of Party for the successful NEI Plus program. The locally-led teamwill “lead the LEARN activities’ ambitious expansion and sustain ability goals that are to result in an education system equipped beyond the life-of-project to stay the course in expanding and improving the learning outcomes of its children and youth across Nigeria,” she says. While implementing NEI Plus, Creative made sure that “the systems were strong enough, robust enough, efficient enough and were smart enough to do what they are expected to do,” says Semere Solomon, Creatives’ Senior Director for Growth Strategy. n

The Northern Education Initiative and NEI Plus programs

strengthened basic education in Bauchi and Sokoto states.

Photos by Erick Gibson

8 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Field Notes

m Economic Growth

Honduras Dry Corridor From 2017 to 2022, nearly 26,000 people in 8,766 households living in extreme poverty benefited from the recently ended Honduras Dry Corridor Alliance—Promoting Food Security in the South. Known in Spanish as Alianza para el Corredor Seco—Proyecto de Seguridad Alimentaria en el Sur (ACS PROSASUR), the five-year program focused on building resilient agricultural livelihoods, while improving water, sanitation and nutrition in very poor communities in the Dry Corridor. The project was funded by the World Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program and led by the Government of Honduras through INVEST-Honduras. Ethiopia READ II The USAIDREAD II team in Ethiopia is training schoolteachers, directors, cluster supervisors and community leaders to support conflict-affected students. The training includes psychological first aid, psycho-social support and social emotional learning based onWorld Vision’s model. Since January, it has reached 1,222 teachers, 565 school directors and cluster supervisors, and 1,143 community leaders – benefiting 136,000 students in 347 primary schools and three temporary learning centers. READ II expects to reach 250,000 students byMay 2022. Morocco NPR Working along with the Moroccan government, the USAID-funded Reading for Success–National Program for Reading is narrowing the gap between developing a passion for reading at an early age and the lack of engaging reading materials in primary schools. In order to spark students’ interest in reading, 1.1 million colorful storybooks were delivered to 11,000 public schools, inspiring more than 2.5 million students in grades 1 through 4.

Somalia // Bar ama Baro From IDP to Star Teacher

Hassan Ibrahim teaches math and Arabic during the week and attends Plasma University on weekends as a part-time student. While Hassan loves education, he almost was not able to make it his profession. Hassan’s family lived for several years in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya before being repatriated to an IDP camp near Kismayo, Somalia. Despite having a high school diploma from Dadaab, Hassan could not find a job for two years in Somalia. His mother’s small business in the IDP camp supported the family, but there was not enough money for Hassan to attend the university nor for his seven siblings to study. “As returnees to Somalia, my family’s life in Kismayo was extremely difficult,” says Hassan. “At times, we even thought about going back to the refugee camp in Kenya because life in Kismayo proved to be more difficult than we initially had anticipated.” Hassan volunteered at several schools in Kismayo and was recruited to teach at Rugta Primary school as a staff teacher. While there, Hassan learned about USAID’s Bar ama Baro

accelerated basic education program and its need for teachers. To expand access to quality education to out-of-school children and youth in Kismayo, the Bar ama Baro program supports 48 schools with an enrollment of 6,241 students, 48 headteachers and 130 teachers. Hassan was accepted into Bar Ama Baro’s special training program. “The Bar Ama Baro seven-day teacher training program was an eye-opening experience for me because I learned a lot about how to deliv er lessons and manage students,” Hassan says. “I gained knowledge and perspectives during the training, and I’m grateful to be part of this nationwide education program that benefits many impoverished children.’’ Hassan says being an accelerated basic education teacher is about more than a source of income. It is a privilege to contribute and help those in the community who need free, quality education. The connection is also personal for him: Two of Hassan’s younger siblings are students in the accelerated basic education program. n

m Education

NewWin // Active Communities-Effective States Strengthening Governance Worldwide

USAID has awarded Creative the Active Communities-Effective States (ACES) indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ), which is designed to support the U.S. government’s efforts to strengthen good governance, transparency and accountability around the world. Creative led a team of 14 part ners to win the five-year ACES IDIQ, which will play a pivotal role in bolstering country own

ership and self-efficacy through improvements in governance systems and accountability. ACES supports USAID’s Strategy on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG Strategy), which the agency created in 2013 with the “overarching goal to support the establishment and consolidation of inclusive and accountable democracies to advance freedom, dignity and development.” n

Photos submitted by Alinor Osman (Ibrahim); ipopba via | 9


updates from around our world


Teacher and School Director Training:

• Cascading training model • Training included topics on bilingual education approach and teaching methodology as well as addressing general pedagogical & classroom management gaps • Continuous professional development through coaching, mentoring, and via WhatsApp

L1 and L2 Teaching & Learning Materials:

By the Numbers Vamos Ler!

• Implementation of a new approach to developing TLMs • Grades 1 – 4 teaching and learning materials available in Emakhuwa, Echuwabo, Elomwe and Portuguese • Attention to aspects of gender and inclusion

Vamos Ler! /Let’s Read!, a bilingual education program funded by USAID, began working with the Government of Mozambique in 2017 to improve early grade literacy rates by investing in the expansion of a national bilingual education program. During the five-year program, Creative worked with the Ministry of Education to train more than 14,000 teachers and school directors and distributed some 12 million local-language teaching and learning materials (TLMs) across the two provinces, reaching nearly 2,000 schools. The project trained and coached school directors and teachers to increase and strengthen school and classroom management and pedagogy to leave a lasting and sustainable systemic improvement in the country’s bilingual education instruction. n

Community Involvement:

• Bilingual education strategy campaigns • “Go to school” campaigns • Implementation of “let’s talk” • Reading clubs • Radio listening sessions • Community theater

Photos by Erick Gibson; Leesa Kaplan (top center)

10 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

1,991 Schools Reached

1 M Indirect Student Beneficiaries


70,000 Direct Student Beneficiaries

% Children Reaching Level 3 **



4.9% 43.2%

** Reading, understanding and analyzing texts

Vamos Ler! Let’s


+ 500 Teacher and Learner Materials Titles Created

+ 14,000 Teachers and School Directors Trained

12 M TLMs Printed and Distributed | 11


updates from around our world

Smallholder farmers like Hajiya Rabi Habibu will

benefit from a co-investment grant to Thrive Agric, which provides essential business support to Nigerian farmers.

12 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Program in focus A closer look at Creative’s work in action

Nigeria USAID West Africa Trade & Investment Hub

“I used to harvest 4 or 5 bags of corn per hectare. Now I harvest 70 bags or more per hectare.”

- Hajiya Rabi Habibu, smallholder farmer

More than 50,000 smallholder farmers in three Nigerian states will get a big boost from Thrive Agric, a technology company that connects farmers to resources, services and markets. The USAIDWest Africa Trade & Investment Hub is providing a $1.75 million co-investment grant to Thrive Agric to support local farmers who produce rice, maize and soybeans. Thrive Agric will raise $10 million to expand its capacity to assist farmers. Farmers will benefit from technology services, credit, insurance, logistics and storage support, as well as use of Thrive Agric’s Tradr and Tmoni mobile apps, which allow direct access to agricultural input suppliers. These farmer-focused apps also allow them to easily send and receive money, a necessity since most farmers are far from cities and banks. In West Africa, the Trade Hub has awarded 75 grants worth $70 million in its first two and a half years. These co-investments are expected to generate $560 million in private investment, 59,000 sustainable jobs and facilitate more than $456 mil lion in exports in agriculture, manufactured goods, energy and services by the end of the program. The private investment generated represents eight times the value of the Trade Hub funds. The Trade Hub manages a pipeline of more than $1.2 billion in transactions and has engaged with more than 700 private companies, as well as business associations, development finance institutions and government agencies. n

Photo by Aniebiet Bassey | 13

14 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

A classroom full of eager

learners who are benefiting from Morocco’s revised Arabic language curriculum.

Improving Arabic Literacy in Morocco Bringing Curriculum to Life

By Ashley Williams | Photos By Erick Gibson | 15

bringing curriculum to life

Moujtahid Abdilah transferred his twin boys, Ismail (left) and Yassine, to public school and was impressed by how much they have grown with the revised Arabic language curriculum.

Moujtahid Abdilah, 46, is the director of the Amphitrite Palace Resort situated between Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco. A career in tourismmanagement means he keeps an irreg ular schedule, but between the early mornings and late nights, he works to ensure his three young children are getting a good education. Originally, he sent his children to private school. However, Abdilah went to public school as a young boy in Casablanca and was curious if his children would thrive there. He transferred his first grade twins to public school last year and was amazed by the results. “I really noticed a big improvement in terms of teachers, follow-up, respect of security mea sures during COVID, and also involving parents in their kids’ learning process,” says Abdilah. Part of this success can be attributed to the newly revised Arabic language curriculum for grades one through six. USAID and the Moroccan Ministry of National Education collaborated on improving Arabic literacy skills through Reading for Success – National Program for Reading. Abdilah’s twin sons began school as the pro gram’s work was coming to fruition and are a testament to what can come from a successful curriculum that centers a love of reading. “This reading [program] improved their learn ing attainment, their eloquence, and even the vocabulary they use at home … It makes me feel honored and proud,” says Abdilah. Streamlining curriculum and engaging students When USAID and Creative delivered the final Arabic language curriculum to the Ministry in June of 2021, it was the culmination of seven years of intensive cooperation between the U.S. and Morocco. A response to the country’s longstanding strug gle with reading performance, the Reading for Success projects aimed to give teachers what they need to accelerate children’s acquisition of Arabic reading and writing. MohammedMekkaoui, Director of Saadiyine School in Skhirate, has worked in education since 1991 and felt shortcomings in the classroom.

This reading [program] improved their learning attainment, their eloquence, and even the vocabulary they use at home … It makes me feel honored and proud.” - Moujtahid Abdilah, Parent “

“We had noticed in recent years that there was an obvious weakness in reading for our children, and that is why officials began to look for a new way to improve the quality of Arabic language reading,” says Mekkaoui. He explains that before the curriculum was revised, instructors would start by teaching a complete sentence and then extract words and letters. “Now, the process is reversed. We start with a letter, move to the word and then to the sen tence,” he says. Reading for Success activities launched in 2015 with a pilot project that tested a phonics-based

approach to strengthen reading in first and second grade in four regions of Morocco. The Reading for Success program then expanded the pilot to third and fourth grades, before scaling up the revised curriculum nationwide for grades one through four in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years. “The phonics approach helps learners recog nize letters and symbols that represent sounds, which helps in word recognition, in other terms reading fluency,” says Linda Wafi, the program’s Project Director. “It equips young learners with tools to break down words and build new ones, which eventually supports

The revised curriculum puts an emphasis on engaging classroom time to help students improve their reading, writing, listening, speaking and comprehension.

16 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Right : Phonics helps students connect letters to sounds, so that they can start to recognize words and their building blocks.

Colorful reading materials help engage young learners.

their understanding of each word and their ability to remember and use language in their daily lives.” While the former approach focused on teach ing grammar rules to young children, the re vised curriculum emphasizes reading compre hension and student engagement. It also newly places equal emphasis on reading, writing, listening and speaking, and most importantly comprehension. “Most students had good word recognition and decoding skills but scored very low in compre hension. Young learners are unable to remem ber words and use them in their daily vocabulary if they cannot understand them,” saysWafi. The new approach has been embraced by the Ministry. “The difference between the [revised] cur riculum and the previous one is radical,” says the Ministry’s Director of Curricula, Fouad Chafiqi, Ph.D. “When we started experimenting [with this new early grade reading approach], it became immediately clear that the students were able to make more progress than we had previously hoped.” The results were so successful that the Minis try asked the program to expand the curricu lum to grades five and six, a rare request with education development programming. In addition to the revised curriculum getting down to the micro level of how and when to teach letters, words and sentences, it also zooms out to streamline the curriculum over all. Previously, the curriculumwas packed with material that teachers would feel obligated to get through. The revised approach lightened the amount of subject material for the year and reprioritized participatory classroom time. It also focuses on introducing skills at age-

and level-appropriate times, fostering a more natural progression through literacy learning within and between grades, and interactive activities such as storytelling, movement and roleplaying. “The old curriculum, focused largely on quan tity, whereas the revised curriculum is flexible and focuses on quality. It takes care of all stages of the learner’s growth,” says Hind Ouaghad, a primary school teacher at Al Farabi school, in Skhirate-Temara. Ouaghad notes that the revised curriculum promotes “the interdependence and harmony of literacy components like reading, oral ex pression, structures and grammar, seeing them as equally important.” To further support this holistic approach, the Ministry implemented a weekly 30-minute reading enrichment period to build skills and foster a love of reading. Enrichment can in clude reading individually or as a group, playing reading games on the computer and acting out stories with classmates, among other activities. “These students will have clear reading fluency [when they reach higher levels of school]. I hope it will endear them to the Arabic language and encourage them to readmore,” says Ouaghad. Learning to read in a multilingual culture Morocco is a multilingual country where Arabic, the indigenous Amazigh languages and French are spoken widely. Arabic and Amazigh are official languages of instruction and French is taught as a foreign language from the first year of school. This makes for a less straightforward, but linguistically rich, environment to teach

The National Program for Reading helped teachers move from a more rigid curriculum that emphasized quantity to an approach that streamlines content and encourages play.

A young student reads in front of her class. | 17

bringing curriculum to life

children to read for the first time. The revised curriculum reconciles this by creating thematic units throughout the year to serve as an anchor regardless of which language is being taught at that point in the day. “For instance, students study a unit about food and health in Arabic, French and science les sons simultaneously during the same period in the school schedule,” says Fathi El-Ashry, Ph.D., the project’s Chief of Party. “This is a response to ‘integration’ being one of the basic principles on which the curriculum is built upon.” Each grade is structured into six six-week units with topics ranging from friendship to the environment. Students complete a cor responding project during each unit to foster engagement in the theme and the literacy skills being applied. Training teachers during a pandemic The curriculum can only reach its full potential when it is in teachers’ hands and being deftly applied in classrooms. Once it was designed, the programbegan preparing trainers and teachers on how they can adopt the new approach. The COVID-19 pandemic created a hurdle in the challenging task of reaching thousands of educators. Fortunately, the programhad al ready planned to integrate digital solutions and was able to expand themwhen the pandemic made in-person trainings impossible. The primary tool the program relied on was massive open online courses, also known as MOOCs. MOOCs offer an online way to provide high-quality, flexible coursework to an unlimit ed number of teachers. It introduces the revised Arabic language curriculum through training videos, class simulations and other useful tools. This format enables teachers to learn the theoretical con cepts and then immediately see how the skill is being taught to students. “As the proverb goes, ‘in every curse there is a blessing’,” says Abdelaziz Abdelhadi, Director of Zouhair Ibn Abi Salma School in El Hajeb. “The COVID-19 pandemic pushed us to intro duce more distance training opportunities.” The MOOCs trained 339 teachers from pilot schools from September 2021 to January 2022. The platform that hosts the MOOCs will even tually be opened nationwide to train thousands of teachers. Beyond serving as a pandemic solution, MOOCs have made it easier for teachers to

avail of professional development. “Remote training is flexible. You can be at home, in a café, or at work and access the plat form to participate in these trainings at your own convenience,” says Mohamed Hosni, Head of Division at the CNIPE e-learning center, an institution in Rabat that collaborated on creating the MOOCs. This flexibility is critical for female teachers, who may have trouble attending in-person trainings due to family responsibilities or their husbands not wanting them to travel alone. Khadija Chahid has been an educator for eight years, but the MOOCs were the first curriculum training she received since graduating from college. “This was my first time teaching grade two, and the Arabic language curriculum completely changed,” says Chahid. “The MOOC helped me learn new concepts to

The program used online training in the form of massive open

online courses (MOOCs) to train teachers on the revised curriculum despite pandemic hurdles.

The National Program for Reading hopes to endear students to reading by making it enjoyable and interactive.

Strong reading skills help students to succeed in other subjects.

18 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Morocco has had a longstanding

struggle with reading performance. Parents, teachers and members of the Ministry of Education have been impressed by the results of the revised curriculum to date.

children are enjoying. “I like the dialogues, the texts, the stories, the help in the textbook and everything in it,” says Youmna Belbakri, a sixth grade student in Temara. She has noticed the way her improved reading has spilled over into other areas of her academic life. “Reading the Arabic language helps me in Islamic education, mathematics, scientific activity, social studies and other things. It helps me a lot,” says Belbakri. In addition to working with publishers on textbooks and teacher guides, the project also forged a partnership between the ministry and the Dubai-based Assafeer Digital Library to develop Morocco’s first digital reading platform dedicated exclusively to elementary school learners. This platform contains 315 illustrated titles that are leveled by grade, edited to include Mo roccan terms and cultural references, as well as storylines and illustrations that promote gender equity and social inclusion principles. It provides elementary school children with free access to these readingmaterials, so they can continue to read and learn outside of the class roomand develop their digital literacy skills. Nour El Houda Eddaoudi, 11, has seen her Arabic-language skills improve over the last few years, and finds the digital library a useful resource. “When I have free time, I read the stories from a smartphone and write them down in a note book I have that is dedicated to stories,” says El Houda Eddaoudi. “After I write it, I read the story to my brother who has autism and explain it to him. I add many new words to my vocabulary this way, and when my teacher asks me something in class, I find myself ready with answers.” While the results of the revised curriculum have been quick to manifest, they are planting seeds for even more impressive growth in the long term. “When students acquire language tools, espe cially reading, they acquire learning tools,” says Director of Curricula Fouad Chafiqi. “The more we have students who are able to learn these, the more we will ensure greater success for students in the future.” n With reporting by Mounya El-Asri and Daniel Lynx Bernard

When students acquire language tools, especially reading, they acquire learning tools. The more we have students who are able to learn these, the more we will ensure greater success for students in the future.” - Fouad Chafiqi, Director of Curricula “

better teach reading. If I had tried to learn this on my own, I wouldn’t have been able to understand as much as I do now.” She found the training engaging and was eager to learn. “When you do the training, you are 100 percent focused and find yourself progressing from unit to unit. Actually, this is what happened to me. I kept going on and on,” says Chahid. This is thanks to thoughtful preparation by the Reading for Success program, the Ministry, the National Center for Educational Innovations and Experimentation (CNIPE) and the Center of Learning Technologies at Al Akhawayn University. These collaborators drew on neuroscience principles—attention, active engagement and anchoring—to create an engaging train

ing for teachers and produce corresponding videos. The team found creative pandemic workarounds to continue producing remotely, including training people on how to record videos at home. Engaging the private sector to create powerful books Another way the curriculum was brought to life in the classroom is by creating new teaching and learning materials. The Reading for Success program worked with local publishers to translate the curriculum into inspiring textbooks. This included training them on elements like page layout and how to make the books useful for teachers and students, like including suf ficient space for students to write. The result has been colorful and engaging textbooks that | 19

Building Community

Chief Mahamudu Alburi-Hammah was surprised when a team arrived at his com pound with a curious request. They wanted to interview him about the relationship between ethnic Fulbe and non-Fulbe in his communi ties in the area. The outsider interviewers, called enumera tors, from the NGO SAVE Ghana, also sought Alburi-Hammah’s permission to distribute questionnaires to a selection of residents in the 61 communities of his chiefdom. The ques tionnaires were about residents’ social and economic contributions to the region, as well as the years of discrimination and marginaliza tion they have suffered. “It was the first time that someonewas in terviewingme, so I was a bit shy and afraid at the same time,” recalledAlburi-Hammah, a traditional Fulbe leader inGhana’s UpperWest Region. “I was not surewhether granting the in

How a survey reduced ethnic strife in Ghana

By Atiewin Mbillah-Lawson

Photo by Erick Gibson

20 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Left : The Littorals Regional Initiative in Ghana mapped relationships between herders and settled farmers. This helped lead to ethnic Fulbe people being invited to participate in community decision-making.

Bridging community gaps Researchers found that ethnic Fulbe who are typically herders made significant economic and social contributions to society, though they regularly faced outright discrimination from residents and authorities. The findings were shared with local assemblies, immigration officials, traditional leaders and key community influencers. Alburi-Hammah explained that since the findings were made public, there have been sig nificant improvements in relations among the Fulbe, local authorities and other ethnic groups. “Previously, the Fulbe were not invited to par ticipate in community meetings,” the chief re called. “And, when we would voluntarily attend, we were mocked and not allowed to speak.” Since the release of the research, the environment has improved. “For the first time, I received an invitation to an assembly meeting, where I advocated for reducing cattle rate taxes for the Fulbe,” the chief said. The local assembly granted his request by reducing the $3.24 tax per head of cattle by 50 percent. Reacting to the assembly’s decision, Alhaji Saadu, a Fulbe leader and cattle herder in Tumu, was overjoyed. “You have no idea how excited I am!” he said. “For once, something has been done in our favor. We thank the assembly for listening to our concerns and reducing the rates!” The assembly also benefits from the reduced cattle rates because more herders now pay

their taxes on time, the Tumu municipal devel opment planning officer acknowledged. “Reduction in the cattle rate has resulted in an increase in the revenue collected,” he said. “The Fulbe now feel part of the community and are more willing to pay taxes. There is also no need to involve the security service to force them to pay.” Through the research, he added, the assembly now has a better idea of the Fulbe population’s size and is putting in measures to provide life-sustaining services—such as potable drinking water—that are lacking in many Fulbe communities. At the community level, relationships have equally improved. “In many communities, women are no longer denied the opportunities to access the grinding mill, and hospital staff treat us on a first-come, first-served basis and not last because we are Fulbe,” the chief explained. While some communities have yet to embrace the new status quo entirely, Alburi-Hammah remains optimistic that it is only a matter of time. “I am happy I granted the interview to the data collectors who came to my house. It has benefitted my people, and we are committed to working with authorities to ensure we live together in peace.” By mapping these relationships, OTI will be able to prioritize and to design relevant inter ventions to address grievances that leave Fulbe communities vulnerable to extremist influence and recruitment. n

terviewwould escalate or deescalate the conflict.” Ghana’s Upper West Region is home to a large mix of Fulbe populations—long-term settlers and pastoralist populations who historically move their livestock from neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali during the dry season. Longstanding prejudice, exclusion and competition for land between Fulbe herders and settled farmers cause increasing conflict and destabilizing dynamics. “The main source of conflict is crop destruction and the unfair treatment we receive from authorities and other ethnic groups,” Alburi Hammah noted. Supported by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives Littorals Regional Initiative, which is implemented by Creative, the project used qualitative research to map relationships between Fulbe herders and settled farmers in six districts.

I am happy I granted the interview to the data collectors who came to my house. It has benefitted my people, and we are committed to working with authorities to ensure we live together in peace.” - Chief Mahamudu Alburi-Hammah, Fulbe leader “ | 21

The Economics of Stability

Study finds that formal bank accounts serve to anchor Salvadorans facing one of the top drivers of migration

By Michael J. Zamba

Based on findings from the report “Economic Insecurity & Irregular Migration.” Authored by Manuel Orozco and Mariellen Jewers for Creative’s Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization.

Photo by edfuentesg via

22 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Right: Creative’s study revealed that roughly one out of every three Salvadorans intended

to migrate the following year.

Nearly one-fifth of Salvadorans interviewed in 2020 who intended to

migrate were unemployed.

A study by Creative found economic insecurity to be a major driver of irregular migration from El Salvador. Building individual income and stability, particularly in the country’s capital city, can help reduce the need to leave, report the researchers. Economic insecurity remains at the heart of people’s decision to migrate fromEl Salvador. “For someone living without hope for a better economic future in their country— when faced with a violent outbreak like that of March 2022—migrating without a legal pathway becomes even more compelling.” says Mariellen Jewers, Ph.D., co-author of Creative’s study. She and lead author, Manuel Orozco, Ph.D., discovered that opening a formal bank account is one simple step that greatly reduces a person’s intention to migrate. Increasing high quality formal employment is another solution, the report said. “Increasing people’s savings in formal institutions, as opposed to holding money in cash, changes people’s decision-making frame away from putting resources toward irregular migration and toward wealth-building activities, such as property ownership,” Orozco While asset ownership, specifically owning property, decreased the intention to migrate fromEl Salvador in 2021, having savings outside a financial institution has the opposite effect, the study said. Migration is most likely to occur among those with some disposable income, but who do not have savings in financial institutions. The research explored Salvadorans’ migration intentions with broader trends and analysis about migration from the Central American country. Based on a phone survey of 718 Salva dorans, the questions coveredmigration, eco Photo by Janey Fugate (top); undefined undefined via and Jewers write in Creative’s study. Unbanked are likely to leave

Lack of economic opportunities, persistent unemployment and exposure to crimes that exacerbate economic insecurity are among the most common reasons cited for migration.

Increasing people’s savings in formal institutions, as opposed to holding money in cash, changes people’s decision-making...” - Economic Insecurity & Irregular Migration, 2021 “

nomic perspectives, socioeconomic background of the respondents and remittance receipts. The new report highlights that the lack of economic opportunities, persistent unemploy ment and exposure to crimes that exacerbate economic insecurity are among the most com monly cited reasons to migrate. El Salvador has a history of migration. From 1980 to 1990, up to a quarter of El Salvador’s population fled the country to escape their civil war. 1 Punctuated by natural disasters in 2001, El Salvador has experienced a steady outflow since 2000 and the vast majority reside in the United States. 2 Since 2019, San Salvador alone accounted for 18 percent of total emigration from the country. Creative’s survey found that 71 percent of Salvadorans had a relative living abroad, and roughly one out of every three Salvadorans

intended to migrate the following year. In tandemwith so many transnational Salvadoran families, remittances account for nearly a quarter of El Salvador’s GDP. Remittances play a key role The average remittance recipient receives $175 per transaction roughly nine times per year. These funds allow households to meet current needs and facilitate investment in education, housing, and nutrition, which improve individuals’ earning capacity over a lifetime. “Remittances are crucial for households in times of crisis, as research shows that remittances increase or remain consistent in economic downturn,” the report said. “Remittances are also a long-term source of income; Creative survey participants received remittances for an average of 6.75 years.” | 23

The economics of stability

1 out of 10 Roughly one of every ten migrants in the United States interviewed in 2021 reported investing in El Salvador, with primary investments being in property or businesses.

Remittances help families make ends meet.

Q & Awith Dr. Mariellen Jewers Technical Advisor to Creative’s Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization

Beyond sending remittances, many Salvadoran migrants in the United States have investments in El Salvador. Roughly one of every 10 migrants in the United States that were interviewed in 2021 reported investing in the country, with primary investments being in property or businesses. El Salvador’s economic contraction from 2020 to 2021 has been accompanied with an increase in intention to migrate among Salvadorans. Surveys of Salvadorans in high outmigration municipalities showed the share of individuals intending to migrate rose from 24 percent to 36 percent amidst the pandemic. El Salvador had the most dramatic economic contraction among Central American countries due to shutdown orders to halt the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, with Salvadorans at highest risk for migration suffering the most during the country’s closure. Formal employment opportunities have decreased dramatically in the wake of the pandemic. As of October 2021, El Salvador experienced the largest gap between formal employment opportunities available for new job seekers in decades. 3 “The gap in available employment for youth seeking jobs is particularly troublesome in El Salvador, given that unemployment is a substantial driver for youth to migrate,” the study said. The new report builds on Creative’s comprehensive work in the Northern Triangle on the intentions to migrate in 2019, which was called Saliendo Adelante: Why migrants risk it all . n

1 Tell us about the Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization’s approach to understanding and addressing migration. Jewers: Our understanding of migration is built on on-the-ground research and deep expertise of the intersection between migration and economic development. We know that a first mile approach—one that addresses the specific factors that force someone to leave their home without a legal pathway for immigration— can significantly mitigate irregular migration. Our decades of experience working with migrants informs our approach of leveraging the potential of migration policy and migrants to contribute to economic progress in receiving and sending communities. Finally, we identify evidence-based innovations that engage migrants as agents of sustainable development. How does Creative’s approach to addressing irregular migration work in the context of current policy and attitudes toward migration? Jewers: Irregular migration is a complex phenomenon. Creative has led the way in understanding the drivers of irregular migration by asking people why they choose to migrate. Creative’s 2019 Saliendo Adelante research project found that economic issues were drivers of migration from the Northern Triangle. We are very excited about the opportunity to engage more audiences with our new and previous research to inform decisions, as well as to put into action targeted programming to mitigate the economic and other drivers of irregular migration throughout the region. How does the most recent report on El Salvador fit into Creative’s ongoing work on migration? Jewers: Creative’s work in El Salvador is part of our ongoing advocacy of a first mile approach to mitigate irregular migration from the Northern Triangle. Building on Creative’s comprehensive work in the Northern Triangle on the intentions to migrate in 2019, our 2020 survey in El Salvador confirmed that economic insecurity remains a major—though not the only—driver of migration from El Salvador. When combined with financial education that promotes behavioral changes, digital wallets and similar technology can boost financial inclusion, asset building and personal investment, all of which are documented factors that lower individuals’ likelihood to migrate.



1 (Gammage, S. Migration Policy Institute, 2007) 2 (Velásquez, A. Center for Global Development, 2021) 3 (Argumedo, P. & Zuleta, A. FUSADES 2021)

Photos by Janey Fugate (top, center); submitted by Mariellen Jewers

24 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

Crea t i ve Li f e A mission-driven community

Ishaya Dadi, Grants Officer for the Nigeria Northeast Connection, joined Creative staff members around the world in celebrating the company’s 45th birthday.

Photo submitted by WisdomHanson | 25

Creative Life

a mission-driven community

Manal Chafik didn’t take what she describes as the typical path to a career in international development. She was never a Peace Corps Volunteer. Her undergraduate degree was in computer science. Her first career goals were in the information technology sector. But Chafik grew up in a Moroccan Ameri can family, where Arabic and French were interchangeably spoken, and the customs and culture of North Africa were ingrained in her upbringing. The strong cultural connections formed in her youth gave her a sense that she was part of the wider world around her. Finding a way to incorporate that global perspective into her career became her challenge. Visiting friends who lived inWashington, D.C., proved to be the catalyst for her career change. Many of themworked in international develop ment, an industry Chafik admits now she knew very little about at that time. Chafik made the switch from IT in 2005, starting out as many early career development professionals do in project backstop roles. She worked in the home offices for Chemonics and then AECOM, with trips across sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. She attended graduate school while working full time, receiving her master’s in public policy with a focus on international policy fromGeorge Washington University. Diverse background and experiences “My diverse background is a reflection that there is no direct route to working in develop ment,” she says. “It was my cultural background coupled withmy language skills, exposure and familiarity with several cultures and countries frommy own travel and educational experi ences, as well as my upbringing that drove my curiosity and interests towards working within the international development sector.” Chafik joined Creative in 2018 as a Project Director in the Political Transitions Practice Area. Within six months, she was asked to be the Chief of Party to manage the FURAT Plus Manal Chafik A diverse perspective for project success Staff Spotlight

“My diverse background is a reflection that there is no direct route to working in development,” says Chafik.

program, a governance project working in non-regime controlled northeast Syria and funded by the U.S. State Department’s Near East Affairs Bureau, as part of Creative’s Syrian portfolio based in Berlin, a position that she says aligned with her professional goals. The Al Rashad project was added to Chafik’s Syria portfolio soon after the FURAT Plus program launch. It, too, is funded by the State Department in cooperation with the German Foreign Office to support northeast Syria’s security sector in concert with community engagement across areas not controlled by the regime. Chafik’s team coordinates across three time zones—northeast Syria, Berlin andWash ington, D.C.—several different donors, and includes subject matter experts across both programs. The team is predominately Syrian, allowing Chafik to tap into her language and cultural skills and support the team in their

capacity building and professional growth. The fast-paced portfolio and short-term funding horizons require the team to be flexible and to adjust to shifts in USG funding, as the volatile security situation and other geopolitical vari ables play out, she says. A perfect fit Despite the challenges, being the Chief of Party for the Syrian portfolio was a cumulation of Chafik’s 17 years of experience in an industry she entered in on her own unique path, she says. Couple that with her knowledge of the Middle East, and the position was a perfect fit. She was Creative’s COP of the Year in 2021. “Here I am, as an Arab American as Chief of Par ty, so I already have familiarity with the culture and Arabic language,” she says. “It’s wonderful to have that, because it allowed for an instant rapport when I stepped on to this project. I’m grateful to have that cultural insight and accessi bility. It made such a difference.” n

Photo by Ahmed Chafik

26 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

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