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  • Reply to: Setting up your own firm for a firm experiment   8 hours 59 min ago

    Setting up a new "division"

    An in-between approach can sometimes be effective. Instead of starting a new firm or trying to tinker with an existing company, you help an existing organization/firm launch/develop a new "division" where you can "naturally" build in randomizations and measurement. It also means the company is more likely to try something new since there isn't an existing way of doing things. This sort of change is often the hardest part of the process when working with firms.

    With Solene Delecourt (see above), Sharique Hasan (Duke), and Ronnie Chatterji (Duke) we worked with a leading Indian business association to design a new executive retreat for their members. The design of the retreat included peer randomizations and surveys designed to help attendees benchmark their startups. I think the fact that we helped with the design of a new program allowed us to do these two things. Using this data, we find peers are valuable sources of management advice impacting firm outcomes two-years after the retreat, but only when a founder doesn't have an MBA and is not in a startup accelerator. We think this is evidence for a tradeoff between formal training and informal knowledge sharing. The paper here: I

    With Sharique Hasan we founded a startup bootcamp with IIIT-Delhi. Papers still under review, but we learned a lot from this. The first thing we learned is that getting an adequate sample size is tremendously hard. These sorts of "new" programs often attract dozens to a few hundred participants/employees. Even when there is more demand, your partner might want to skim from the top to keep the program selective. Attrition is often meaningful. We ended up with 112 participants in the startup bootcamp. Enough to analyze some research questions, but was limiting and worth thinking through earlier than we did.

    The second learning is one of duration, similar to bullet 2 above. The program was three-weeks long, and all our measurement happened during the bootcamp. In retrospect, I think it would have been better to design interventions during the bootcamp and track longer-term measures after the fact. Reviewers can always push back that outcomes are not long-term, which is something we experienced. Also, if you have kids or teaching obligations, running a program for longer than a month or two is often infeasible.

    Finally, I want to add three names to the firm-founder+researcher list.

    One is a Sociology/Strategy student on the job market our of HBS, Stefan Dimitriadis, started his own training program in Togo to test how different styles/cultures of communication impact knowledge sharing, the development of social captial, and firm performance.

    The second is Vanessa Burbano at Columbia Business School who has built "firms" on UpWork to look at who applies to a firm that signals it engages in CSR.

    Paul Niehuas of UCSD and GiveDirectly is also another model for this sort of work. He started GiveDirectly as a graduate student, and from my understanding, experimentation is built into the non-profit. A right tail outcome, but worth keeping in mind when contemplating the potential impact of starting your own venture.

  • Reply to: Tips for Randomization in the Wild: Adding a Waitlist   2 days 21 hours ago

    Thanks for these thoughts Dave. It's an old post but it's come in handy for a project of mine underway.

  • Reply to: When it comes to modern contraceptives, history should not make us silent: it should make us smarter.   1 week 7 hours ago

    Great post, thank you for writing it! One nuance not mentioned is that there is lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest that, even when official policy emphasizes that MC must be completely voluntary, providers on the ground sometimes pressure women into accepting methods they’re not comfortable with. That is a real problem but should be addressed via human resource and management solutions, not by blaming the methods themselves. One other thing: if you haven’t done so check out the literature on the Colorado Family Planning Initiative.

  • Reply to: When it comes to modern contraceptives, history should not make us silent: it should make us smarter.   1 week 9 hours ago

    Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking piece. A few things we've learned through our qualitative and small-scale quantitative studies on contraceptive use is the importance of engaging both men and women on this topic, using the approach you describe above --helping them make informed choices about their options (and as you point out, the LARCs are not always available in low-resource settings). Women seem forced to choose between short-term contraception (condoms, pills) and sterilization. We work with savings groups of women, and family planning often comes up as a demanded topic for education support. We've learned what drives their decision on contraception use is often guided by what they hear other women say (especially regarding side effects others experience) and what they can access by secretly seeking out a health clinic since men and women rarely talk about family planning. Many barriers to break down--but you've rightly said, we can't push a particular type of contraception --because at any given moment, some women (and men) do want to become pregnant, some would like to avoid pregnancy for a while, some want t avoid it altogether, and every contraception has its benefits and side effects. Contraception use is neither a silver bullet nor a one-size-fits-all approach. We have to look at it from both a supply and demand side and both require transparency, openness, and honesty--as well as an agreement that at the most basic level we shall do no harm!

  • Reply to: Should we pay kids to read?   1 week 2 days ago

    Thanks for the article. I think we need to remember that the entire government educational system is already built upon the extrinsic rewards of grades and test scores. Which means: "payments" of approval and social validation. One might argue that paying a high school freshman to read novels might actually be healthier than encouraging a fear of disapproval and/or a desire to impress others.