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The Demographic and Health Surveys Faculty Fellows Program: Successes, Challenges, and Lessons Learned
Authors: Wenjuan Wang, Shireen Assaf, Thomas Pullum, and Sunita Kishor
Source: Global Health: Science and Practice, DOI: 10.9745/GHSP-D-20-00318
Topic(s): Data collection
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: JUN 2021
Abstract: Primarily funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Faculty Fellows Program is designed to strengthen the institutional capacity of universities in low- and middle-income countries to use and analyze DHS data. This article provides an overview of the program's evolution and its current form; presents successes and impacts; and discusses challenges, lessons learned, and potential further directions. Initiated in 2008, the Fellows Program underwent several rounds of improvement. The current model involves a competitive team application process, 2 intensive in-person workshops, completion of a working paper of publishable quality, and the transfer of analysis skills learned during the fellowship to students and colleagues at home universities, all completed over 1 year. Since 2011, the Fellows Program has trained 152 researchers from 45 universities in 25 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The program has not only strengthened individual skills in conducting research with data from large surveys but also substantially increased institutional capacity to analyze DHS data through fellows' capacity-building activities at their home universities. These successes have happened despite the many and continuing challenges related to fellows' diverse backgrounds, experience, skills, language barriers, logistical difficulties in organizing in-person workshops in fellows' countries, and sometimes fellows' varying levels of commitment. With continuous support from USAID, the program hopes to expand to more universities and countries, especially francophone countries. Overall, the DHS Faculty Fellows Program has proven to be highly successful and provides a model for other groups aiming to strengthen capacity for data use and research in low- and middle-income countries.