Started in the Fall of 2014, the Embedded Education Research Project team at the Ash Center of the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government has been conducting research on Embedded Education practices. Embedded education is the practice of educating people through encounters they already have within organizations and networks that exist primarily for non-educational purposes. Embedded education is an important innovation in education and governance that has the potential to reach the millions of youth and adults across the globe who otherwise would not have access to continuing education.

The team identified and conducted field research on four cases. Two cases were identified in China, one on HIV prevention education targeted at road construction workers in Guangxi and Yunnan sponsored by the Asia Development Bank (ADB), and one on women’s reproductive health education targeted at migrant female workers factories sponsored by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and their member corporations. We also identified one case in the US that sought to achieve health equity by providing health-related resources to patrons in African American barbershops. And lastly, a case in the Netherlands that targeted adults with low literacy through a network of organizations that these adults already interact with, such as public libraries, healthcare institutions, and commercial job-placement agencies, etc.

Following the conceptual framework described more fully here (link to SSIR article) and here (link to HER article), this case study begins with some background information on the context in which the educators and their partners implemented their embedded education program. It then presents the strategic and design elements of the program and the evidence regarding its impact. It ends with a discussion of the strategic and design elements, focusing on the challenges the educators faced at a number of different junctures in the development of the program.


This project is funded by the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business and the Hui Fund at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to our research participants, who gave us their time for interviews and shared with us their reflections and experiences at the frontiers of service delivery. This case study was the product of a collaborative effort of the following people: Dr. Jorrit de Jong and Dr. Guy Stuart, who are the principal investigators of the project; and Dr. Linda Kaboolian, Hua Chen, Gaylen Moore, Deloris Wilson, Siwen Zhang, and Songyu Zhu, who are key contributors to the project.