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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

RCTs in Development, Lessons from the Hype Cycle

Last month, I was on my way to speak at an IDB sponsored conference on evaluation.  Getting on the shuttle to DC I bumped into a friend of mine who is the head of a technology related company.   On the plane I was telling him I was on my way to talk about the fad of doing RCTs in my field of development.  He told me he had a great slide from the tech consulting company Gartner about the “Hype Cycle” in tech industries.  As you see, this wonderful graphic shows a typical cycle of a tech idea or tech

The Parable of the Visiting Impact Evaluation Expert

Visitans Perito works at the World Bank as an education specialist, and has just set off on a two week mission to the country of Peripheria, a poor, land-locked former Soviet Republic in Central Asia, about which he knows very little, except that everyone seems to agree it has a totally dysfunctional public school system.

Post-2015: Taking Zero Goals to the Body Shop

Up to now, the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (sadly still not widely AKA the HiPoPoDomAe) has done a pretty good job of displaying public collegiality.  But in the lead-up to today’s Panel meetings in New York, that began to break down.  A story in the Guardian suggested that drafts of the report have been described as “absolutely awful&

It Takes Two to Quango: Does the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact Duplicate or Add Value?

The United Kingdom has been a stalwart funder and innovator in foreign assistance for almost 20 years. In 2011, it created the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) to report to Parliament on the country’s growing aid portfolio. ICAI is a QUANGO in Brit-speak – a quasi-public non-governmental organization - with a 4-year mandate which is undergoing review this year. Recently, I took a look at the reports it has produced to see whether the organization is fulfilling its role in holding the country’s overseas development aid programs accountable.  I found one fascinating report which shows what ICAI could be doing and many more reports that made me wonder whether ICAI is duplicating work already within the purview of the agency, Department for International Development (DFID), which accounts for most of the UK’s foreign assistance programs.

Evaluate India’s Direct Benefits Transfers

Earlier this year, Nancy Birdsall and I laid out why India’s new cash transfer program is superior to current in-kind subsidy programs on which the government spends $26 billion a year with no discernible impact on poverty. While not a panacea, the new program has a lot going for it – cash transfers have been shown to work for poverty reduction in many settings, the program uses a biometrics-based system to identify beneficiaries and process payments, and the country has experience in implementing similar programs like the JSY – a cash transfer conditional on a facility birth.

Reinhart-Rogoff: The Problem and Solutions

Paraphrasing "jesting Pilate", "what is truth when academic superstars supposedly produce it?" is possibly the most important yet neglected question raised by the recent Reinhart-Rogoff (R-R) affair.

The essential facts of this episode are these: two Harvard professors, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, used their academic research to become strong advocates in the policy realm, although not among fellow academics, of the need for fiscal austerity when economies approach a threshold level of debt-to-GDP ratio of 90 per cent. Their superstar reputations (deservedly earned through previous work) rendered their advocacy influential, even highly so, in the charged policy debates in the United States and all over Europe. The research - especially the critical and attention-grabbing finding of a sharp growth discontinuity at that 90 per cent threshold - was subsequently exposed as flawed.

A Critical Moment for COD Aid or “The Trouble with Targets”

As mentioned in our last post, aid agencies are experimenting with programs that incorporate the main features of COD Aid: paying for outputs and outcomes, giving the recipient greater discretion to spend as they see fit, independent verification, and transparency. Once these results-based programs are up and running, they face a critical test when the first results are reported. In particular, most programs create expectations by setting annual targets and are then judged relative to those targets rather than to their baseline. And this means that even successful programs will be viewed as failures (a point also made in an earlier blog). By refusing to set targets, a results-based program can avoid this pitfall. How is it that targets can create such a problem?

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