School Leaders as Agents of Change Towards Equity and Inclusion

Project Information
Project Status: Ongoing
Implementing Organization/s:
Foundation for Information Technology Education and Development (FIT-ED) [Lead], Allama Iqbal Open University, Kathmandu University, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), Community World Services Asia
International Development Research Centre / Global Partnership for Education Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (GPE-KIX)
June 2021 to June 2024
Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan
Project Landing Page
School Leaders as Agents of Change Towards Equity and Inclusion
Project Leader:
Freda Wolfenden, The Open University, UK
Saraswati Dawadi
Research Associate
The Open University, UK


Equity and inclusion in education are policy priorities yet many children and young people are frequently excluded from quality education. This project investigates how a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) approach can be adapted and deployed in three countries—Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan—to develop the capabilities of school leaders to identify barriers to equity and inclusion, and enact data-driven solutions towards sustainable change in access and learning of girls, children with disabilities (CWD) and other marginalized learners.

School leaders are essential change agents: to motivate teachers and communities, and to collect evidence, adapt pedagogy and create safe, inclusive conditions for all learners. In this project, school leader Networked Improvement Communities (NICs) aim to collaborate and learn from practice-based evidence. NIC members collectively test theories of action about what works and under what conditions to improve equity and inclusion for learners in their schools. They are supported to develop agency to problem solve by local experts and resources from an open course (localized for each country context) that offers ideas and proven strategies for addressing equity and inclusion.

Mixed methods research will generate data from NIC members’ school level actions together with interviews, focus groups and course analytics to explore NIC members’ experiences of the NIC and to understand the factors for successful collective action by school leaders to improve equity and inclusion.  The research explores the drivers and barriers to nurturing social connections and trust in the NICs and mechanisms for initiating and sustaining NICs in multiple contexts. Project findings will be relevant across other developing countries in understanding adaptations to the approach to enabling NICs to flourish at scale in different contexts.

Global Research Team

Freda Wolfenden
Project Lead/Co-Principal Investigator
The Open University, UK
Saraswati Dawadi
Research Associate
The Open University, UK
Deborah Cooper
Co-Principal Investigator
The Open University, UK
Elena Noacco
Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Officer

Country Teams

Manish Pokhrel
Country Principal Investigator
Kathmandu University


Sushil Shrestha
Country Co-Principal Investigator
Kathmandu University
Zia Ul-Qaayum
Country Project Director
Allama Iqbal Open University
Zahid Majeed
Country Project Coordinator
Allama Iqbal Open University

Project Management Team

Victoria L. Tinio
Project Manager
Monique Gutierrez
Project Coordinator

Key Organizations

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