A “meta” problem facing not only impact evaluation work but all development policy dialogue is perverse behavior in the public sector to not pursue evidence-based, technically sound policies. Politics and governance come between statistically significant research results and real impact in the world. We confront these problems in a policy research report that has been described as having transformational implications for the business of international development assistance. And we derive implications for a research agenda that involves atypical impact evaluations that would complement work on how to fix the pipes with work on how to fix the institutions that would fix the pipes.
This is the ninth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
In developing countries a large fraction of public and financial services are provided by NGOs and mediated by community groups. These organizations are typically external rather than native to the communities where they operate and it is believed that increasing local ownership can improve legitimacy and sustainability of development programs. For this reason development organizations are increasingly turning to participatory decision-making practices. A notable example is the World Bank’s focus on ”Community Driven Development”-projects in the last decade (See Mansuri and Rao (2013) for a review). Previous studies that evaluate Community Driven Development projects point to several advantages of direct local participation compared to central decision making by an NGO or by representatives (see e.g. Olken (2010), Beath et al. (2012), Madajewicz et al. (2014)). Yet, so far we know very little about the relative benefits of different types of direct participation. For example: can we expect a secret ballot vote to be comparable to an open discussion in a village meeting?
An interesting new paper by Abhijit Banerjee, Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Esther Duflo, Daniel Keniston, and Nina Singh shows how sometimes top-down reforms might be a good move through a look at a range of reforms tried out by the police in Rajasthan, India.
At least not in Benin. This week, I take a look at interesting paper by Leonard Wantchekon documenting an experiment he did in Benin with this year’s presidential election. In this paper, Leonard compares the results from a deliberative sharing of a candidate’s platform in a local town hall against a one-way communication of the candidate (or his broker) with a big rally.