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The MPA Capstone

Enhancing skills, advancing careers

 

LSE MPA Capstone LSE MPA Capstone

What is the MPA Capstone?

The Capstone is a compulsory course undertaken by all second year MPA students. This one unit course is a key part of the MPA core curriculum and it is designed to ensure that students have an intensive and closely supervised experience of working in a group on a real-world public policy project.

The Capstone groups tackle socially relevant and topical policy issues and the contribution of MPA students is highly valued by the Capstone clients. The project is a team effort to carry out analysis and research in order to address a practical policy issue relevant to the client organisation. It allows students to extend their capabilities and apply what they have learnt in the MPA core courses in a professional manner. 

How does it work?

During the second year of study, MPA students are assigned to groups of 3 to 6 members. Team members are strongly advised to dedicate around 1.5 to 2 days a week to the project between October and March, including some vacation time.

Each project is supervised by a member of the MPA academic staff, who provides advice and monitors progress. There are special training sessions to develop particular skills and analytical techniques for the Capstone. The project earns a collective grade and students are expected to manage the division and development of work amongst themselves.

Who are our most recent partners?

The MPA programme has collaborated with a diverse group of highly reputable organisations. Our most recent partners include:

  • private sector companies: Centre for Public Impact of the Boston Consulting Group and ARUP
  • international organisations: UNICEF, UNESCO, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, OECD, and Gates Foundation
  • international development consultancies: Oxford Policy Management
  • NGOs and foundations: Migration Policy Institute, Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation and Fatherhood Institute
  • public corporations: Bank of England
  • UK government agencies: Greater London Authority and DFID

Capstone projects 2017/18

Below is a selection of projects representing different organisations from this academic year. Find out what second year MPA students have been working on... 

“Community Centres in Sub-Saharan Africa”, Hewlett Packard

hp-logo

The organisation

HP is a global leader in printing and personal systems technology. HP’s vision is to create technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere. In an ever-changing, connected world, HP keeps reinventing itself, its technologies and what tomorrow holds so industries, communities and individuals can keep reinventing how they operate, think and create what matters the most to them.

The HP Foundation makes strategic investments to create opportunities in underserved communities and transform education, using their technology, capital, and resources to help develop strong, resilient communities.

The capstone

The project maps and assesses different types and models of Community Centres in Sub-Saharan Africa and identifies factors that influence their effectiveness. Community Centres are set up by government entities, donor organizations, development organisations, foundations, NGOs and private companies to support vulnerable people, for example, the young, jobless, women, refugees, and others. They provide a wide range of services, such as entrepreneurial training, basic healthcare, literacy support and post-disaster management. The project will generate recommendations for developing well-functioning and viable Community Centres in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The methodology

The project is based on literature review and primary interviews with staff working in Community Centres in various countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. 

“Is land value capture only for elite cities?”, ARUP

arup-logo

The organisation

Arup is an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists, working across every aspect of today’s built environment. Arup was founded in 1946 by a gifted engineer-philosopher Ove Arup. Today, Arup employs more than 13,000 people, in more than 35 countries. It provides engineering, design, planning, project management and consulting services for all aspects of the built environment. 

The capstone

The project assesses whether land value capture mechanisms (LVCs) for infrastructure investment only work in already successful places with high land values, or whether second or third-tier cities can successfully implement LCV. Land Value Capture (or LVC) essentially allows public transport authorities to ‘pull forward’ the land value benefits of public transit in order to fund current development. The project will develop case study examples of the barriers to land value capture faced by second and third tier cities and draw implications for transport authorities, ‎developers, and policy-makers.

The methodology

The assessment includes an in-depth qualitative analysis of business cases and other public documents relating to the LVC mechanisms as well as political differences between the two city types, which may exacerbate the difference between LVC usage.

 

“New models for labour migration – a review of programmes that create livelihood opportunities for migrants”, Overseas Development Institute

odi-logo

The organisation

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is a leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues. Its mission is to inspire and inform policy and practice which lead to the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the achievement of sustainable livelihoods in developing countries. It generates high quality applied research, practical policy advice, and policy-focused dissemination and debate, working with partners in the public and private sectors, in both developing and developed countries.

The capstone

The project examines the existing legal pathways for creating livelihood opportunities for migrants. While migration policies are frequently thought of as large-scale national programmes, there are in fact numerous small-scale initiatives targeting specific sub-groups of migrants. These kinds of initiatives have often been developed in response to temporary crises, needs or labour market shortages – ranging from humanitarian visas to seasonal agricultural worker schemes. As such, they aim to both provide livelihood opportunities to migrants, as well as meet skills gaps. The project will map such opportunities and collate information on their design and effectiveness.

The methodology

The project utilises the rigorous evidence-based review method that combines elements of a systematic evidence assessment with a more reflexive form of evidence-focused literature review. This approach involves developing a clear protocol to guide the literature search, coding the evidence found, recording search strings, and appraising the quality of the evidence reviewed.

“What Makes a High Performing Hospital?”, NHS Improvement

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The organisation

NHS Improvement is responsible for overseeing foundation trusts, NHS trusts and independent providers. It offers the support these providers need to give patients consistently safe, high quality, compassionate care within local health systems that are financially sustainable. By holding providers to account and, where necessary, intervening, it helps the NHS to meet its short-term challenges and secure its future.

The capstone

The project identifies evidence on what makes a high performing hospital. Hospitals need to deliver high quality patient care, NHS Constitution access standards and financial balance, eliminating unwarranted variation across all these areas. At the same time, they also need to make the transformation that is needed to ensure long-term sustainability and, in so doing, to improve health and wellbeing, quality and finance. The project will develop a framework for identifying what is meant by “high performing”, identify factors which could determine how well a hospital performs, and carry out econometric analysis to test whether and how the different factors determine whether a hospital is “high performing”.

The methods

This project uses mixed methods, with a substantial econometric component. It involves a literature review, primary interviews and econometric analysis to test whether and how the different factors determine whether a hospital is “high performing”.

“Business as Usual is Not an Option: Innovative Financing for Children in Kenya”, UNICEF

UNICEF

The organisation

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supports rights-based approaches to improving the lives and opportunities for children and youth globally. UNICEF’s work directly engages with the most critical issues impacting children and youth, from access to educational opportunities and healthy living environments, to protection from violence.

The Capstone

The project examines the role and success of social impact bonds globally with a specific focus on Eastern and Southern Africa and Kenya. While social impact bonds are on the rise as an innovative financing instrument globally. The analysis will seek out best practices of such financial instruments and identify their useful for financing of social sector programming.

The methodology

The project is based on literature review and primary key informant interviews.

“UK trade policy – institutions and procedures for the 21st century”, British Chambers of Commerce

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The organisation

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) network comprises 52 accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK and a fast-growing Global Business Network of Chambers. In the UK, the BCC network brings together over 75,000 member businesses, and engages with a further 200,000 non-member companies each year. Overseas, its Global Business Network offers practical, on-the-ground help to UK exporters, and supports two-way trade. Chambers are voluntary, non-profit, membership organisations independent of government. They deliver services to their members and wider business community including: export documentation and trade facilitation; training; advice and guidance. They campaign for the business interests of their areas and represent business to government.

The capstone

The project identifies trade policy-making procedures and institutions to ensure effective and legitimate representation of business interests during trade negotiations between the UK and the European Union. Drawing on wider practices, it will aims to understand how the interests of businesses of all sizes and sectors can best be represented in trade agreement negotiations. The project will provide evidence-based policy recommendations on smart institution building and process design, to both business and trade associations such as BCC as well as policymakers in the UK.

The methodology

The project is based on literature review and primary key informant interviews.

Capstone projects 2016/17

Below is a selection of projects representing different organisations from previous academic year.

“The Role of Financial Inclusion in Social Protection”, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The organisation

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a non-for-profit global organisation that seeks to reduce poverty and hunger, improve health, education and access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Its Financial Services for the Poor (FSP) programme aims to help people in the world’s poorest regions improve their lives and build sustainable futures by connecting them with digitally-based financial tools and services.

The capstone

This capstone examined the effect of combining social protection with financial inclusion initiatives, which seek to deliver financial services at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low-income people. In the last decade, both social transfers and financial inclusion have been regarded as poverty alleviation mechanisms, helping the poor to overcome income shocks and achieve better living standards. The project assessed the extent to which these two policy instruments have been combined in government social protection programmes and examined the effects generated by their interaction. Particularly, the project aimed to understand the effect of combining these two instruments on monetary and social dimensions of human welfare.

The methodology

The project conducted a literature review and statistical analysis to assess welfare effects of financial inclusion.

The client feedback

The Financial Services for the Poor team at the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has now completed three successful Capstone projects with LSE MPA students. We immensely value the rigour, creativity and thoughtfulness that always characterises the work they do for us, as well as the advice and supervision of the LSE's top flight researchers.

Rebecca Mann, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“The Intermediate Cities Index in Colombia”, Findeter, Colombia


Findeter

The organisation

Findeter is a regional development bank for sustainable infrastructure in Colombia. It grants concessional loans through financial intermediaries to finance public and private infrastructure projects throughout the country, and provides technical assistance in the execution of infrastructure programs.

The capstone

This capstone assessed the quality and policy relevance of the Intermediate Cities Index. This composite index has been developed by Findeter for monitoring development of intermediate (or medium-sized) cities in Colombia. To evaluate quality, it focused on various components of the Index, including data sources and data quality, index construction methodology and selection of variables. To establish policy relevance, the capstone examined whether the Index enabled Findeter to target its loan investments toward a city’s key development priorities. The analysis provided concrete, actionable recommendations for improving the quality and utility of the Index.

The methodology

The project was based on a review of literature on existing indices and methods for measuring city development as well as quantitative data analysis. 

The client feedback

The capstone project is a terrific initiative that enables students to work on important projects at public and private organisations around the world. Findeter was part of this initiative, which involved a project to evaluate the intermediate cities index - a tool for territorial entities and policy makers to understand the development of cities throughout years.

A group of five students had the task to analyse this index and make recommendations to improve it, not only in terms of data collection but also improving its accuracy. The application of theories and concepts to the analysis of empirical issues enriched the conception of the index. The project’s recommendations are going to be part of a plan to recalculate the index to provide better and more accurate information to policy makers.

Jaime Alejandro Urrego, Coordinator for Centre of Economic Analysis, Findeter

“Estimating the rate of return to capital in the EU”, The European Investment Bank


European Investment Bank

The organisation

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the bank of the European Union (EU) and the largest multilateral borrower and lender by volume in the world. It provides finance and expertise for investment projects with the goal of contributing to furthering EU internal and external policy objectives.

The capstone

This capstone sought to develop a new methodology to estimate rates of return on investment using widely available national accounts data. It applied this tool to four EU countries to provide a step-by-step practical illustration of the methodology. In recent years, the view that public investment crowds out alternative investment has gained relevance. Estimating the cost of the crowding out of investment for a country requires estimates of rates of return on investment. The ultimate aim of the project was to develop methodology that is simpler than other existing approaches, based only on one data source (national accounts), applicable both to the public and private sectors, and flexible to the differences of the EU countries.

The methodology

The project was based on a review of literature on the rate of return estimation methods and quantitative analysis of data from national accounts.

The client feedback

The project was extremely useful. I was expecting a student report and got instead a piece of work comparable to that of commercial consultants. Indeed the MPA students already had substantial working experience and were taking two years off to upgrade their knowledge. The output of the report is ready for use in actual investment operations. I look forward to another Capstone project.

José Doramas Jorge-Calderon, Senior Economist, European Investment Bank

“Regulating innovation in financial services markets”, Oliver Wyman


Oliver Wyman

The organisation

Oliver Wyman is a global management consulting firm. It’s an industry expert with specialized knowledge in strategy, operations, risk management, and organisation transformation. Its clients include the CEOs and executive teams of the top Global 1000 companies.

The capstone

This capstone examined the challenges for governments and their regulator bodies in finding ways to leverage innovation and competition in financial services markets, whilst maintaining sustainability and viability of regulatory solutions. In particular, it identified the main constraints in the UK regulatory environment related to the growing financial technology (FinTech) industry and offers policy recommendations for addressing these regulatory challenges. In addition, it analysed the ways in which Brexit will affect FinTech regulation, both in terms of limitations and opportunities it brings. The project advanced a new qualitative framework for analysing a country’s (not just the UK’s) financial services regulatory environment.

The methodology

The project used qualitative methods, including a literature review; primary desk-based research on current measures and interventions by governments and their supervisory bodies; and interviews with government regulators, niche firms, large banks and other decision-makers.

The client feedback

We had a terrific experience in our first collaboration with the MPA Capstone team. The team provided high-quality insight into the interesting and fast evolving topic of the Regulation of Fintechs with well-researched deep-dives into the impact of Brexit. We will definitely be repeating the collaboration again next year. In fact, we enjoyed working with them so much we hired one who will be starting with us in September!

Lisa Quest, Principal, Oliver Wyman

“Ethical challenges of using algorithms in government”, Centre for Public Impact (a BCG Foundation)


Centre for Public Impact copy

The organisation

CPI is a not-for-profit foundation founded by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to help improve the positive impact of governments. It brings government leaders together to learn and exchange ideas about strengthening public impact.

The capstone

This capstone aimed to develop a framework to help policy makers address ethical challenges associated with the use of algorithms. Algorithmic decision-making and prediction are novel tools in government. Governments will require a solid comprehension of the costs and benefits of using algorithms in the policy cycle in order to capitalise on the promise of the technologies. The project identified main ethical trade-offs around the use of algorithms for decision-making, policy design and implementation. It documents tools available to governments to overcome or minimise the identified challenges.

The methodology

The project employed qualitative methods, including a literature review and interviews with academics, government representatives, IT-experts, and experts from the private sector and civil society. 

The client feedback

We always look forward to our Capstone projects with the LSE MPA students. Their professionalism, talent and dedication to delivering great insights are consistently impressive. Every time we've worked with a Capstone group we have learned a tremendous amount.

Danny Buerkli, Programme Director, Centre for Public Impact

“Investing in young people during periods of rapid demographic change”, UNICEF


UNICEF

The organisation

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supports rights-based approaches to improving the lives and opportunities for children and youth globally. UNICEF’s work directly engages with the most critical issues impacting children and youth, from access to educational opportunities and healthy living environments, to protection from violence.

The capstone

This capstone mainly focused on implications of demographic change for ageing populations rather than for children. Low income and lower middle income countries with high fertility levels are expected to experience a ‘bulge’ in their populations of children and youth. Levels of per capita social spending on young people are potentially harder to increase in these countries. The project analysed the consequences of demographic change for spending in education and health sectors and draws implications for policy and practice.

The methodology

The project used a panel dataset comprised of various demographic, health and education data to generate descriptive statistics and perform correlation analysis. The students also employed a panel fixed effect methodology to assess the elasticities of demographic change in social expenditure.