Organization Details

What is your organization's name?

Dignitas Limited

What is your organization's classification?


In what city, town, or region is your organization headquartered?

Nairobi, Kenya

Provide your organization’s mission and/or vision statement and list its core values.

Mission: Dignitas is a leading education organisation whose mission is to equip and empower school leaders and teachers who will transform opportunities for the next generation. Dignitas partners with schools to strengthen leadership and improve instructional quality, in order to create an environment where all children can fulfil their potential. 

Vision: We imagine a world where schools are a vibrant place for all children to develop the skills and strength of character to thrive and succeed.

Values: We are passionately purpose-driven; we co-create solutions with schools, communities, and system actors; we find joy in our work, our team, and our communities; we are always listening and learning; and we found partnerships in trust and transformative impact.

Our Approach: We are committed to turn schooling into learning in partnership with communities, and collaboration with key stakeholders, informed by data, and embracing technology. We actively listen, and support the most vulnerable, leaving no passionate, trained educator behind. We are committed to sharing insight, evidence and expertise across the sector.

How many products or programs does your organization operate? Please use numeric values only.


What stage of development is your organization’s product or program that is the focus of your LEAP Project?

Growth: An organization with an established product or program that is rolled out in one or more communities.
Team Lead Details

Who (first and last name) is the Team Lead for your application and LEAP Project?

Deborah Kimathi

Describe the role the Team Lead plays in your organization. [100-200 words recommended]

Deborah is the Chief Executive Officer and has led Dignitas' strategic growth since late 2017, building on 21 years of experience in the development sector with a particular focus on education and child protection. As well as overseeing significant organisational growth, Deborah has rallied a global conversation on the role of School Leaders as agents of change, particularly for underserved communities. Deborah also serves on the Leadership Team for RELI Africa, a member driven organisation bringing together 70 education actors from across East Africa, all focused on improving learning outcomes for children furthest behind, and on the Advisory Board for EGER (Evidence for Gender and Education) Kenya.

Explain how your Team Lead and supporting team members are well-positioned to effectively support the LEAP Project, given other priorities within your organization. [200-500 words - recommended]

Deborah will be supported by Ng’ang’a and Nancy. 

Ng’ang’a is our Advocacy & Development Director. He is a development practitioner with 10+ years' experience in program design, implementation, and evaluation. Over the years he has demonstrated great strength in quality program implementation, generation of evidence for policy, and establishing relationships with key policy and implementation agencies within Kenya and Somalia. He is driven by his love for transformational change and empowerment of the most marginalised. 

Nancy is our Research & Development Manager. She is a Research and Monitoring and Evaluation professional with 7 years’ experience in project design, monitoring and evaluation systems design, qualitative and quantitative research, data interpretation, and reporting writing.

Our Team Lead and the supporting team members are highly capable and well-positioned to effectively support the LEAP Project, even with the presence of other priorities within Dignitas. Several key factors contribute to their effectiveness in managing this project:

Expertise and Experience: The team possesses extensive knowledge and experience in project management, specifically in handling complex and time-sensitive initiatives. They have successfully led similar projects in the past, demonstrating their ability to coordinate teams, manage resources, and deliver results within challenging environments.

Cross-functional Collaboration: Our supporting team members are carefully selected to ensure a diverse range of skills and expertise. They come from different departments within the organisation, bringing valuable perspectives and insights to the LEAP Project. This cross-functional collaboration enables us to leverage the strengths of each team member and address various aspects of the project effectively.

Effective Communication Channels: Communication plays a crucial role in project success, especially when juggling multiple priorities. Our team has established robust communication channels that facilitate regular updates, feedback sharing, and quick decision-making. By ensuring clear lines of communication, we can efficiently manage competing priorities and keep all stakeholders informed about progress and potential challenges.

Prioritization and Resource Allocation: The team possesses excellent prioritisation skills and a deep understanding of the organisation's overall goals and objectives. They can effectively assess the significance of different tasks and allocate resources accordingly. By strategically managing resources and priorities, our team can balance the demands of the LEAP Project with other ongoing initiatives in a manner that minimises conflicts and optimises outcomes.

Adaptability and Resilience: The team is accustomed to working in dynamic environments where competing priorities are the norm. They possess the ability to adapt quickly to changes and remain focused on achieving project milestones. Their resilience ensures that they can navigate challenges effectively, maintain productivity, and deliver results, even amidst shifting organisational priorities.

By leveraging their expertise, fostering cross-functional collaboration, maintaining effective communication channels, prioritising tasks, and demonstrating adaptability, our Team Lead and supporting team members are well-positioned to effectively support the LEAP Project while handling other priorities within Dignitas. Their collective skills and experience enable them to manage resources efficiently and deliver successful outcomes, ensuring the project's success.

Solution Details

One-line solution summary: In 20 words or less, summarize your organization's product or program that is the focus of your LEAP Project.

Stawisha Instructional Leadership Institute: Vibrant Schools, Thriving Children.

Define the problem that your solution seeks to solve. [200-500 words recommended]

Foundational learning rates are alarmingly low in many low-middle-income countries (LMICs), with learning poverty at an estimated 70% overall, and nearly 90% in Sub-Saharan Africa (The State of Global Learning Poverty: 2022 Update). According to the 2021 Uwezo Kenya Report, less than 50% of Grade 4 learners meet expectations in Grade 3 literacy and numeracy tasks which demonstrates that children are not gaining the necessary foundational literacy and numeracy as they progress through their early years. A recent study of 36 schools (Dignitas, 2020) found that only 13% of teachers encourage learners to ask questions and to interact with new ideas and concepts, and only 12% of teachers incorporate group work and tasks that increase student participation. The World Bank highlights critical interventions to address the global learning crisis, including effective school leadership that is focused on learning, improved pedagogy, and better teacher development and support.

Dignitas was founded in the informal settlements of Nairobi. 60% of Nairobi’s population lives in these marginalised communities, 80% of whom cannot access government schooling. With these children not only living in poverty, but also excluded from public education provision, their communities respond by opening informal schools to meet their educational needs. These schools are usually under- resourced, lack professional leadership, and skilled teachers that will enable the delivery of quality education to children who are desperate to learn.

Dignitas empowers School Leaders (Formal and Emerging) from partner schools through an intensive Leadership Development and Instructional Coaching fellowship. As a result they are equipped with the mindsets, tools and techniques to ensure their schools become vibrant places of learning for all children. Dignitas’ program is designed to drive transformation across the school leadership, and teaching team in any partner school, with the aim of transforming teaching and learning in ways that improve student achievement, and unlocks student potential.

Dignitas’ solution, informed by an external evaluation of previous program implementation (2018) designed to identify levers of impact on student learning, leans on 1) instructional leadership, 2) learner engagement and 3) classroom culture, as critical levers of change.  This, coupled with a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework designed to measure gains in soft skills at the learner level, makes Dignitas’ programming unique and innovative.  

Five years into the implementation of Stawisha Instructional Leadership Institute, there have been significant strides in the fidelity of implementation, collection and utilisation of program data, and expansion of the program into public schools in collaboration with the government.  Of course, this implementation period overlapped with the rollout of Kenya’s new national curriculum which predicated significant shifts in teaching and learning; included two-years of pandemic school closures, and the subsequent integration of technology for blended training and coaching. As a result it would be timely to review the journey so far, and consider the impact of the program on school leaders, teachers and learners.  This would offer significant insight and evidence that would contribute to a global knowledge-base that informs policy and practice related to school leadership, and teacher professional development.

Describe your solution and how it works in simple terms. [200-500 words recommended]

Investing in school leadership to improve school quality is a policy solution that is potentially cost-effective yet infrequently used. The strength of leadership at the school level is critical in determining school quality and student learning outcomes. A study spanning over 65 countries found that students led by the top 25% of school leaders had the equivalent of three extra months of learning per year compared to students led by the bottom 25% of school leaders (GSF, Evidence Review Report 2021), most broadly, quality school leadership can influence student learning outcomes. Dignitas is founded on the belief that school leaders and teachers are agents of change when it comes to transforming the next generation's lives.

At Dignitas, our main aim is to equip and empower School Leaders, through leadership development and instructional coaching, with the mindsets, tools, and techniques needed to ensure schools are vibrant places where all children can thrive and succeed. When we coach and train an educator, we are not just equipping an individual; we are empowering a leader to transform their school and shape the future of their community. Dignitas has uniquely and innovatively embedded Coaching and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) within its programs to ensure a long-term pursuit of whole school  improvement at the community level. It does so by building the capacity of school teams to set and pursue goals for improvement, and the mechanism (PLCs, Peer  Coaching) to track and implement new practices aligned to these goals. 

Dignitas' coaching is individualised, school and classroom based support, designed to  help transform practice in impactful ways. Dignitas' use of teacher and school leader  competency rubrics to track growth, and help educators set goals that will improve  learning, ensures that coaching and training are in support of a clear framework for  improvement. This is complemented by the regular and consistent use of data to track  competency gains, and target training and coaching to personalised gaps.  Training and coaching covers instructional leadership, learner engagement, and school and classroom culture, and includes a focus on the use of formative assessment to drive differentiated teaching and learning for the inclusion and progress of every child.  By considering children’s diverse needs and strengths, schools can ensure that every child has an opportunity to thrive and succeed. 

Dignitas partners with schools to strengthen leadership and improve instructional quality and has a proven track record in improving educator competency, shifting classroom practice, and improving learning and well-being outcomes for learners.  

Our specific objectives are to ensure that through our programing:

  1. School Leaders are better supported by the systems in which they work.

  2. There is increased accountability and collaboration between teacher leaders, school leaders and their supervisors for school improvement.

  3. There are improved learner outcomes for children in foundational learning and 21st century skills.

  4. School Leaders and Teachers improve their competency and practice in measurable ways proven to strengthen learning.

  5. There is increased attention to and action for the role of School Leaders, and quality education for marginalised learners

Select the key characteristics of your target population. Select all that apply.

  • Pre-primary age children (ages 2-5)
  • Primary school children (ages 5-12)
  • Rural
  • Peri-Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income

In which country or countries does your solution currently operate?


Upload your solution's Theory of Change or Logic Model.

Where would you place your solution on Nesta's Standards of Evidence?

Level 4: You have one + independent replication evaluations that confirms these conclusions.

To date, what research/studies has your organization conducted that have helped demonstrate the effectiveness of your solution? [200-500 words recommended]

The design of Stawisha Instructional Leadership Institute in 2018-9 was informed by extensive foundational research, including literature reviews and desktop research, with particular interest in Kenya’s new national curriculum, and the core design elements, such as the learner competencies.

This design was an iteration of an earlier version of the program which was conducted in low-cost private schools.  The program’s post-ex evaluation was formative in the design of the Stawisha Instructional Leadership Institute.  Over the course of five years of implementation, each annual cohort has undergone a baseline and endline study, with monitoring data (qualitative and quantitative) collected in between 3-5 rounds of data collection in each annual cycle. A number of these cohorts have also featured data collection from comparison groups.  These exercises have collected data from school leaders, teachers and learners, and have sought to track particular shifts in practice that impact on learning.  In the process, the team has also experimented with different tools to support the measurement of learner competencies such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and self-efficacy.

A number of further studies have been conducted to deepen our understanding of program impact, each supported by external research and evaluation consultants to ensure rigour.  A number of small studies were supported by American University, and an impact evaluation of one cohort, leveraging a difference-in-difference design, was conducted by an external party.  Additional analysis was provided via a donor exercise, in which a funder conducted an impact evaluation of their entire portfolio of work, including Stawisha.  

At intermittent points over the five years of implementation, there have been smaller qualitative studies which have collected data through focus groups discussions, case studies and the like.

What has the research/studies you have conducted revealed about your solution and how did it inform your work moving forward? [200-500 words recommended]

Dignitas sees average gains of 35% across school leadership competencies. Impact evaluation studies have demonstrated gains in learner outcomes of children in Dignitas intervention schools of up to three times those of children in comparison schools, with particularly significant gains in numeracy and 21st century skills.

For example, 2021 cohorts of partner schools tracked gains in instructional leadership competencies such as classroom support, quality instruction, material development, learner assessment, behaviour management, learner engagement, and setting learner expectations. From a baseline score across the schools of 25% in Classroom Support, Instructional Leaders improved their support of teacher instructional practice with classroom observations and feedback, support for lesson planning, and by establishing and running Professional Learning Communities within the schools to score 53% by the end of the academic year.  This gain of 28% demonstrates a pursuit of mastery in the required competencies that will improve teaching and learning within the school. In Learner Assessment, which covers Instructional Leader’s abilities to leverage formative assessment, support data-driven instruction, and differentiate instruction to support all learners, the study observed gains from the baseline score of 26% to the endline score of 59%, an increase of 33%. In Setting Learner Expectations, Instructional Leaders showed significant gains in competence from 25% at the baseline study to cohort scores of 83% at endline, impressive gains of 58%.  The gains in this competency area include learner goal setting and achievement tracking, as well as holding appropriately high expectations from all learners.

The study also tracked classroom practices such as effective lesson planning, creation of learner safe spaces, learner centred instruction and student-teacher interactions. In Creating and Maintaining Learner Safe Spaces, teacher competency rose from 38% at baseline to 79% at endline, with an increase of 41% indicating shifts in safeguarding, child protection and well-being practices.  This includes how behaviour is managed, with learner-led behavioural goal setting and discipline planning, and shifts from corporal punishment to new strategies that value learner well-being. Learner Centred Teaching practices, closely aligned to implementation of Kenya’s Competency Based Curriculum, including learner engagement strategies, inquiry based learning and other key instructional methodologies were supported by a competency increase from 27% at baseline to 60% at endline, a gain of 33%. 

Further, the study observed gains in learner outcomes.  With the support of external researchers, it was established that learners in Stawisha schools demonstrated gains in numeracy and 21st century skills that were three times those of their peers in comparison school.  However, in literacy, there was no statistically significant difference, and whilst this result is of interest, this study did not have scope to explore further. Analysis showed that whilst gains in learner outcomes could not be explicitly attributed to specific shifts in school leader or teacher practice, there was a correlation between the schools whose leaders and teachers had the most significant competency gain, and the improvement in learner outcomes.

LEAP Project Details

Describe your organization's need to strengthen the evidence base of your solution. [200-500 words recommended]

Learning poverty statistics demonstrate that children are in school but not learning, worsened by COVID-19. To address this crisis, Dignitas is committed to strengthening school leadership teams who will improve the quality of teaching and learning so that all children can thrive and succeed. Our programs are aligned with effective implementation of Kenya’s Competency Based Curriculum and national education reforms, centering learning on 7 core competencies (communication & collaboration, critical thinking & problem solving, imagination & creativity, citizenship, learning to learn, self efficacy, and digital literacy).

Driven by evidence, Dignitas identified three strategic pillars (Instructional Leadership; School & Classroom Culture; and Learner Engagement) that enable critical improvements in learning outcomes alongside government actors, school leaders, teachers, and for children that will help to resolve the current learning crisis. We understand the importance of strengthening the evidence base of our solutions to ensure their effectiveness and impact, and to allow us, in partnership with the government, define an evidence-driven pathway to scale. Engaging in the LEAP Project is crucial for us at this time for several reasons.

By enhancing the evidence base of our programs, we can better support School Leaders within the systems they operate. This means understanding the specific challenges they face, identifying effective strategies, and providing the necessary tools and resources to address those challenges. By engaging in LEAP, we can gather data and insights that inform our program design and implementation, resulting in more tailored and impactful support for School Leaders.

Secondly, increasing accountability and collaboration between teacher leaders, school leaders, and their supervisors is essential for school improvement. LEAP allows us to gather evidence on the effectiveness of collaborative practices, identify areas for improvement, and promote accountability in the education ecosystem. This collaborative approach fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth, benefiting both School Leaders and the entire school community.

Moreover, our commitment to improving learner outcomes requires a strong evidence base. By conducting research and gathering data through LEAP, we can measure the impact of our programs on foundational learning and 21st-century skills. This evidence will allow us to refine our instructional approaches, identify best practices, and ensure that our interventions result in tangible improvements in student achievement and well-being.

In line with our values of leaving no passionate, trained educator behind, we recognize the need to address the educational needs of marginalised learners, including neurodivergent children such as those with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and others. Engaging in LEAP will enable us to investigate learning variability and develop targeted interventions to support these learners. By generating evidence on effective strategies for inclusion and support, we can advocate for better recognition, understanding, and provision of appropriate resources for these children, particularly in urban informal settlements where they often face significant barriers.

Overall, now is the right time for us to engage in LEAP to strengthen the evidence base of our solutions. By doing so, we can enhance our support for School Leaders, promote collaboration and accountability, improve learner outcomes, and address the specific needs of marginalised learners. Through rigorous research, data analysis, and evidence-sharing, we aim to lead the way in transforming education and ensuring that every child has access to quality learning opportunities.

What are 2-3 research questions that you would like your LEAP Project to help you answer? [100 words recommended]

  1. What specific challenges do School Leaders face within their systems, and what strategies and resources are most effective in addressing these challenges?

  2. How can collaborative practices between teacher leaders, school leaders, and supervisors be effectively implemented to promote school improvement?

  3. What are the specific instructional practices that support learner gains in foundational learning and 21st century skills?

  4. What might be appropriate instructional strategies for the inclusion and support of marginalised learners, particularly neurodivergent children (e.g., ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia), and what targeted interventions can be developed to support their inclusion and learning?

What type of research/studies do you think will help answer your stated questions? Select all that apply.

  • Formative research (e.g. usability studies; feasibility studies; case studies; user interviews; implementation studies; pre-post or multi-measure research; correlational studies)

Please elaborate on your selection above by describing your desired outputs of the 12-week LEAP Project sprint. [200 - 500 words recommended]

1. Learning Brief with recommendations on strategies and resources that are most effective in addressing the challenges that school leaders face within their systems.

2. Learning Brief with recommendations on collaborative practices that teacher leaders, school leaders and supervisors can use to foster school wide improvement within their institutions.

3. Learning Brief with recommendations on specific instructional practices that support learner gains in foundational learning and 21st century skills.

4. Formative study that might contribute to program design and rationale that will focus specifically on learning variability.

The goal is to have these briefs and recommendations leaning on existing Dignitas’ Program Evidence.

How will your organization put these outputs into action? [200-500 words recommended]

a. Conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to identify the specific challenges and gaps in supporting neurodivergent learners within the target schools or education system. This assessment should involve gathering data on the prevalence of neurodivergent learners, their learning profiles, existing support mechanisms, and barriers to inclusion. 

b. Design program components that focus on the unique needs of neurodivergent learners. This may include:

  • Developing training modules and workshops to raise awareness about neurodiversity, inclusive education practices, and evidence-based strategies for supporting neurodivergent learners. Provide educators with practical tools and resources to enhance their instructional practices.

  • Establishing networks and communities of practice where school leaders and teachers can collaborate, share experiences, and learn from one another. Encourage the exchange of best practices and the implementation of evidence-based interventions for neurodivergent learners.

  • Supporting schools in creating inclusive and accepting environments through awareness campaigns, parent engagement initiatives, and student-led activities that celebrate neurodiversity. Foster a culture of empathy, understanding, and respect for the diverse needs and strengths of all learners.

  • Promoting the use of data and technology to inform instructional decisions and personalise learning experiences for neurodivergent students. Provide educators with tools and training to collect, analyse, and utilise data effectively to monitor student progress and adjust interventions accordingly

c. Develop competency frameworks that outline the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for school leaders and teachers to meet the needs of neurodivergent learners. These frameworks should align with the program's objectives and reflect best practices in inclusive education. This would include incorporating domains such as understanding neurodiversity, differentiation strategies, behaviour management techniques, collaboration with support professionals, and effective use of assistive technologies.

d. Conduct a systematic review of existing research, evidence-based practices, and interventions that have been successful in supporting neurodivergent learners. Identify effective training and coaching approaches that align with the program's objectives.

e. Develop training modules and coaching materials based on the identified evidence-based practices. These materials will be accessible, practical, and tailored to the specific needs of school leaders and teachers.

Overall, the implementation framework will prioritise collaboration, inclusivity, and evidence-based practices to ensure that school leaders and teachers are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to support neurodivergent learners effectively. Regular monitoring, evaluation, and feedback loops should be established to drive continuous improvement and ensure the program's impact on learner outcomes.

Describe your desired short-term and long-term outcomes of the 12-week LEAP Project sprint for both your organization and solution. [200-500 words recommended]

Short-Term Outcomes:

  1. Increased Awareness: Through the professional development modules and workshops, educators gain a deeper understanding of neurodiversity and inclusive education practices. They become more aware of the specific challenges faced by neurodivergent learners and the importance of personalised strategies to meet their needs.

  2. Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing: The establishment of professional learning communities allows school leaders and teachers to exchange experiences, share best practices, and implement evidence-based interventions. This collaborative approach promotes a culture of learning and continuous improvement within schools.

  3. Inclusive School Environments: The program's focus on creating an inclusive school culture leads to increased awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity. Awareness campaigns, parent engagement initiatives, and student-led activities help foster empathy, understanding, and respect for neurodivergent learners, creating a more inclusive and supportive school environment.

  4. Data-Informed Decision-Making: Educators develop the skills to collect, analyse, and utilise data effectively. They become proficient in using technology and data to inform instructional decisions, personalise learning experiences, and monitor the progress of neurodivergent students. This data-driven approach enhances the effectiveness of interventions and supports student growth.

  5. Enhanced Competency: School leaders and teachers acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes outlined in the competency frameworks. They gain a deeper understanding of neurodiversity, differentiation strategies, behaviour management techniques, collaboration with support professionals, and the effective use of assistive technologies. This enhanced competency enables them to provide targeted support to neurodivergent learners.

Long-Term Outcomes:

  1. Improved Student Outcomes: The program's focus on evidence-based practices and personalised support leads to improved academic, social, and emotional outcomes for neurodivergent learners. They experience increased engagement, improved learning outcomes, and enhanced overall well-being.

  2. Inclusive School Practices: The program's strategies for creating inclusive school environments become ingrained in the culture and practices of the participating schools. Schools embrace inclusive policies, celebrate neurodiversity, and provide appropriate support structures for all learners, fostering a more inclusive and equitable education system.

  3. Sustainable Change: The program's impact extends beyond the duration of the intervention. The training, coaching, and support provided to school leaders and teachers create a ripple effect, as they become advocates for neurodivergent learners and agents of change within their schools and communities. The program's principles and practices are sustained and embedded in the education system over time.

  4. Policy Influence: The program's success and evidence-based approach influence policy frameworks at the regional, national, and international levels. The program's outcomes and best practices inform policy decisions and resource allocation, leading to systemic changes that support neurodivergent learners in a more comprehensive and equitable manner.

  5. Empowered Neurodivergent Learners: By addressing the specific challenges and gaps in supporting neurodivergent learners, the program empowers these learners to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. They develop self-advocacy skills, build confidence, and feel valued within the education system, enabling them to reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully to society.

Solution Team

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