The practical value of RCTs

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Commenting on a post I wrote last month on randomized control trials (RCTs), Scott Guggenheim, a Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank, points out the practical value of this approach:

I've worked closely with several of the JPAL people to carry out randomized evaluations of our big community development programs in Indonesia and Afghanistan over the years. These evaluations have been extremely useful for improving our programs, and they've done it through findings that were both counterintuitive and which almost certainly could not have been obtained any other way. To cite one example, we did a big, RCT study on what reduces corruption in community programs. Whereas my entire team thought that increasing participation and transparency would be most effective, in actual fact increasing the frequency of locally publicized audits had far greater effects. That finding has now translated into a revised audit policy and procedure for $1.7 billion/yr in CDD investments. Surely this sort of work is both constructive and useful for development programs. Other RCTs are looking at what can improve community-state interactions in Afghanistan, MDG performance in Indonesia's poorest villages, and what incentives will lower police extortion. Again, surely these are positive and relevant -- and where it's important to be sure that we've nailed the right factors that explain them before we urge governments to translate them into national policies.

The whole comment is worth reading. Guggenheim is an authority in the field of social capital and community development, having done pioneering work in Indonesia via the Kecamatan Development Project.


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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