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How to attract and motivate passionate public service providers

David Evans's picture

In Gaile Parkin's novel Baking Cakes in Kigali, two women living in Kigali, Rwanda – Angel and Sophie – argue over the salary paid to a development worker: "Perhaps these big organisations needed to pay big salaries if they wanted to attract the right kind of people; but Sophie had said that they were the wrong kind of people if they would not do the work for less. Ultimately they had concluded that the desire to make the world a better place was not something that belonged in a person's pocket. No, it belonged in a person's heart."
 
It's not a leap to believe – like Angel and Sophie – that teachers should want to help students learn, health workers who want help people heal, and other workers in service delivery should want to deliver that service. But how do you attract and motivate those passionate public servants? Here is some recent research that sheds light on the topic.
 

If you pay your survey respondents, you just might get a different answer

Markus Goldstein's picture
When I was doing my dissertation fieldwork, the professor I was working with and I had a fair number of conversations about compensating the respondents in our 15 wave panel survey.   We were taking a fair amount of people’s time and it seemed like not only the right thing to do, but also a way to potentially help grow the trust between our enumerators and the respondents. 
 

The Toyota way or Entropy? What did we find when we went back 8-9 years after improving management in Indian factories?

David McKenzie's picture

Between 2008 and 2010, we hired a multinational consulting firm to implement an intensive management intervention in Indian textile weaving plants. Both treatment and control firms received a one-month diagnostic, and then treatment firms received four months of intervention. We found (ungated) that poorly managed firms could have their management substantially improved, and that this improvement resulted in a reduction in quality defects, less excess inventory, and an improvement in productivity.

Should we expect this improvement in management to last? One view is the “Toyota way”, with systems put in place for measuring and monitoring operations and quality launch a continuous cycle of improvement. But an alternative is that of entropy, or a gradual decline back into disorder – one estimate by a prominent consulting firm is that two-thirds of transformation initiatives ultimately fail. In a new working paper, Nick Bloom, Aprajit Mahajan, John Roberts and I examine what happened to the firms in our Indian management experiment over the longer-term.

A new answer to why developing country firms are so small, and how cellphones solve this problem

David McKenzie's picture
Much of my research over the past decade or so has tried to help answer the question of why there are so many small firms in developing countries that don’t ever grow to the point of adding many workers. We’ve tried giving firms grants, loans, business training, formalization assistance, and wage subsidies, and found that, while these can increase sales and profits, none of them get many firms to grow.

What a new preschool study tells us about early child education – and about impact evaluation

David Evans's picture
When I talk to people about impact evaluation results, I often get two reactions:
  1. Sure, that intervention delivered great results in a well-managed pilot. But it doesn’t tell us anything about whether it would work at a larger scale. 
  2. Does this result really surprise you? (With both positive results and null results, I often hear, Didn’t we already know that intuitively?)

A recent paper – “Cognitive science in the field: A preschool intervention durably enhances intuitive but not formal mathematics” – by Dillon et al., provides answers to both of these, as well as giving new insights into the design of effective early child education.

Money for her or for him? Unpacking the impact of capital infusions for female enterprises

Markus Goldstein's picture
In a 2009 paper, David McKenzie and coauthors Chris Woodruff and Suresh de Mel find that giving cash grants to male entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka has a positive and significant return, while giving the same to women did not.   David followed this up with work with coauthors in Ghana that compared in-kind and cash grants for women and men.  Again, better returns for men (with in-kind working for some

Technoskeptics pay heed: A computer-assisted learning program that delivers learning results

David Evans's picture
Some years ago, a government I was working with really wanted to increase the data they had on their own education system. They didn’t have great data on student attendance or teacher attendance, much less on tardiness or instruction time. They designed an information management system with swipe cards for every student and teacher to use going in and out of classrooms, all of which would feed wirelessly into the district office, allowing real-time interventions to improve education. It sounded amazing! And it fell apart before it ever began.

How do you scale up an effective education intervention? Iteratively, that’s how.

David Evans's picture
So you have this motivated, tightly controlled, highly competent non-government organization (NGO). And they implement an innovative educational experiment, using a randomized controlled trial to test it. It really seems to improve student learning. What next? You try to scale it or implement it within government systems, and it doesn’t work nearly as well.

What are Schools Worth? That Depends on the General Equilibrium Effects - Guest post by Gaurav Khanna

Large-scale educational expansions represent substantial investments of public resources and benefit households by increasing education levels, and therefore productivity in the local economy. However, since they impact both individual behavior and labor markets, convincing causal estimates of their overall benefits are hard to generate.

Why did the farmer cross the road? To bridge the productivity divide: Guest Post by Sam Asher

This is the sixth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
 The productivity of workers in agriculture is generally much lower than in other sectors of the economy (Gollin, Lagakos and Waugh, 2014). This is particularly true in low-income countries, yet these countries generally have the highest shares of the population living in rural areas and working in agriculture (McMillan et al, 2014). So why don’t workers switch jobs into higher productivity (and better paid) occupations? Development economists as far back as Lewis (1954) and Sen (1966) have studied the labor market imperfections that may keep workers in low productivity agriculture despite higher wages elsewhere.

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