My Talk about CGD “Products” at the NBER Summer Institute

I’ve taken pride over the years in CGD’s success as a think-and-do tank in coming up with new “products” (outcomes of think/research) and working with officials around the world to see them adopted and implemented (outcomes of do/outreach and advocacy). New products that change people’s lives in good ways are worth thinking about: What are they exactly? Where do they come from? How have they gone at CGD from research-based insights to real-world phenomena?

With that in mind, I accepted an invitation to participate at the annual NBER Summer Institute on productivity and innovation (in July in Cambridge, Massachusetts). Over 1,000 economists, mostly in US academia, participate annually in this Summer Institute. I was one member of a five-person panel at a session entitled “Challenges and Opportunities in Translating Innovation Research into Policy,” put together and chaired by Heidi Williams, a professor of economics at Stanford. Her bio says she specializes in “the causes and consequences of technological change, with a particular focus on health care markets.” That explains why she knew about CGD’s “advance market commitment” work; she mentioned it when she first contacted me—which  got me thinking about CGD’s success with “products” and how those successes differ from “policy” victories. 

The other members of the panel included the current dean at the Kennedy School, someone from the Sloan Foundation, and two think tank leaders. As a group we were non-academic economists who think about, sponsor, and work on translating innovations in economic ideas and research findings to the policy world.

I took the opportunity to talk about “products” that start with a research-based insight, and largely bypassing the usual (and often tortured) policy change process, make a difference directly in advancing global development. “Bypassing” is the operative word above.

In this PowerPoint presentation is a list of the five products I featured (slide 2) and another six created at CGD over the years (slide 18). The latter is probably not complete.

The featured five are a mix of four CGD products that have made it into the real world, in some form, or that still could and should; and one non-CGD product most readers studying or working in development will recognize. Behind each is the idea (and often passion) born of one or more individual scholars’ research insight (as shown); in three cases a CGD working group to take the research-based insight to real-world product; and/or in two cases persuasion, blog posts, private roundtables and outreach to policymakers and officials on implementation:

As with the research and the ideas behind them, each of these products is a public good in itself.

Here are additional, notable CGD products:

CGD current and former staff, board members, and other supporters to take pride!

For more on these and other CGD products over the years, check out this interactive timeline.

Special thanks to Helen Dempster for comments, and to former and current CGD staff members and fellows: Ruth Levine, Owen Barder, Michael Clemens, Helen Dempster, William Savedoff, Nora Lustig, Todd Moss, Ben Leo, David Wheeler and Amanda Glassman.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.

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