Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools Global Evaluation

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Special Olympics (SO) Unified Champion Schools (UCS) program fosters opportunities for social inclusion of youth with intellectual disabilities (ID) in the school community through Unified Sports as the core activity, reinforced by Inclusive Youth Leadership development and Whole School Engagement activities. The program has been adopted by 135 countries across the seven global regions and includes more than 100,000 schools outside the United States (U.S.). Studies have shown that the UCS program in the U.S. positively affects a range of outcomes for students with and without ID, including social inclusion, school environment, and participant attitudes (Siperstein, Summerill, Jacobs, & Stokes, 2017). However, little is known about whether this program has been implemented with fidelity or has similar effects outside the U.S. To inform ongoing international implementation efforts, it is critical to increase evaluation efforts to better understand how the UCS program is being adapted to local contexts and needs within those countries and how this strategy affects students with and without ID. Addressing this knowledge gap is especially important in low- and middle-income countries, where almost 90% of children with disabilities do not attend schools (UNICEF, 2014). However, there are several challenges in conducting international evaluations of the program—especially in low-and middle-income countries,—including lack of financial resources, lack of local capacity to conduct rigorous research, and varying educational systems for students with ID in these countries. These challenges, combined with the need to use contextually appropriate research instruments, have prohibited SO from directly applying its domestic evaluation framework and data collection protocols outside the U.S. To support Special Olympics International (SOI) in increasing evaluation efforts in UCS programs outside the U.S., the proposed principal investigator, Dr. Michelle Yin, collaborated with SOI in 2018 to develop a Special Olympics Global Unified Strategies Evaluation Guide and data collection protocols, which were pilot tested in China, Greece, India, and Kenya. Through this effort, Dr. Yin developed a training and capacity-building process to assist local university partners in collecting high-quality data and conducting implementation and impact evaluations outside the U.S. Building upon the prior experiences, Dr. Yin proposes to partner with SOI to (a) provide ongoing virtual capacity-building trainings on implementation and impact evaluation, including data collection methods and analysis and technical assistance (TA) to local partners who will adapt the evaluation framework to local context; (b) coordinate with local university partners on planning and conducting data collection; (c) manage a community of practice (CoP) across all local partners to communicate on common challenges and effective solutions; (d) conduct data analysis and prepare evaluation reports that summarize findings, with assistance from local partners; and (d) disseminate findings in formats and platforms accessible to people with ID with the assistance of SOI and local partners. Dr. Yin has extensive international experience in the design and implementation of TA as well as mixed-methods evaluation research in more than 20 countries. Dr. Yin has in-depth understanding of the challenges faced by local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments in conducting research in developing countries. Dr. Yin’s previous experience and knowledge gained from worki
Effective start/end date9/1/218/31/23


  • Special Olympics Inc. (Award Letter 2/20/20)


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