The challenge of moving from conflict and fragility to resilience and growth is immense. More than half of the countries counted as low income have experienced conflict in the last decade. Twenty per cent of countries emerging from civil conflict return to violence in one year and 40% in five years.
While the use and production of reliable evidence has become more common in much of the international development debate and in many developing countries, these inroads are less prevalent in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS). Programming and policy making in countries affected by conflict and prone to conflict is often void of rigorous evidence or reliable data. It is easy to argue, and many do, that it is impossible to conduct rigorous evaluations of programs in conflict-affected states. However, in spite of the very real challenges in these environments, such evaluations have been conducted and have contributed valuable evidence for future programming, for example in Afghanistan, the DRC, Colombia, northern Nigeria and Liberia.
My unit Center for Conflict Security and Development, (CCSD) is teaming up with the Department of Impact Evaluation (DIME), as well as the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), in a series of activities to enhance the evidence base on development approaches to peace- and state-building challenges. A first goal is to scope out where our evidence base is thinnest: what are the programs and interventions that remain least tested, but have theories of change suggesting great potential? We are hoping to take stock of what we and other donor institutions have been doing in this area of development, and map this into what we have learnt and what we most need to learn more about. USIP, USAID, IRC as well as leading academics in this field and IEG, are kindly helping in this endeavor, and we hope to be able to share some initial findings at our fragility forum later this year.
We all love good news. This simple fact of life explains a well known syndrome known as publication bias: studies with positive results are more likely to be published than those with negative results. But the syndrome goes beyond academic publications.
In education as well as in other areas of public policy, the pressure to show results (and to justify budgets) creates strong incentives to report on positive stories over and above those showing a lack of results. It is, indeed, easier and more pleasant to write about what works than about what doesn’t work.
A few months ago we launched a new note series, "Evidence to Policy," (or E2P for short) to present in non-technical language results from impact evaluation studies the World Bank has conducted of human development programs. From the start, I wanted to ensure that E2P remains a vehicle for evidence-based development policy and not a vehicle for intellectual bragging and biased reporting.
In Jishnu Das' Notes From the Field: Playing Chicken in India post, he explored an impact evaluation he was involved in, over a decade ago on India's mid-day meal scheme. Keeping on this topic of school meals is especially pertinent at this time.
In the United States, earlier this week (as reported on Sara Mead's new Policy Notebook), the House Education and Labor Committee began considering changes to the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act, which reauthorizes funding for the federal school lunch program. With an allocation of around $12 billion, this year, the federal school lunch program aims to increase access to school lunch and out-of-school programs, whle improving the nutritional value of school meals.
It’s 1998 and I am 23 years old. My thesis advisor, Abhijit Banerjee of MIT, along with some others, is trying to do, what would become his first, randomized evaluation in Rajasthan, India. The sacrificial goats appear to be me and Chris (the other research assistant on the project). Our threesome is completed by an old Yezdi motorcycle that has a tendency to go into reverse on starting it up.
We are piloting a feeding program in Non-Formal Education schools run by a local NGO. We spend enormous amounts of time measuring out lentils and giving them to schools, and driving from one village to another on the motorcycle. Lost in lentils, we are not entirely sure what this research is getting at. But we carry on, regardless.The sample size for the feeding program appears to be two schools. We then discover the local game---hiding behind bushes on very winding roads and throwing livestock or chicken in front of cars and motorcycles to claim compensation. We spend a lot of time avoiding such randomly thrown animals.