Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD in the News

January 25, 2019

Global Fund must copper-bottom claims it has saved 27 million lives, say experts (The Telegraph)

From the article:

One of the world’s largest development funds risks “overstating” the number of lives it has saved and must improve transparency, experts have warned. 

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But according to experts writing in the Lancet journal, the claim is based on “obscure” methodology, which risks overstating the fund’s role in reducing deaths from HIV/Aids, TB and malaria and taking credit for other people's work. 

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The Lancet article suggests that the fund needs to more rigorously evaluate partner performance and prioritise evidence-based approaches to make a more compelling argument about why countries should invest once again. 

“Funders have tough choices to make," said Amanda Glassman, chief operating officer at the Center for Global Development. “A more grounded and evidence-based assessment of The Global Fund’s actual impacts would help the organisation make its case in the difficult replenishment cycle ahead.”

December 12, 2018

Trump signed a good law this week. Yes, really. (Vox)

By Dylan Matthews
 
From the article:
 
PEPFAR is the federal government’s anti-HIV/AIDS foreign aid program, established by the Global AIDS Act of 2003 and renewed in 2008 and 2013. It is the single-largest global health initiative targeting a single disease in history. It currently provides support for antiretroviral treatment for 14.6 million people, both directly and through technical support to partner countries.
 
”PEPFAR has helped changed the equation on what was once — not too long ago — seen as an insurmountable plague,” the Center for Global Development’s Amanda Glassman and Jenny Ottenhoff write.
 
Read the full article here.
 
October 3, 2018

Venezuela’s Deadly Mass Exodus (Global Health Now)

By Global Health Now 

Economic collapse has pushed over a million Venezuelans across the border to Colombia in the past 18 months, marking “the biggest exodus of people in modern Latin American history,” Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. After arriving in Colombia, Venezuelan HIV/AIDS patients have died seeking life-or-death medical care no longer available at home.   Venezuela’s once-celebrated HIV/AIDS treatment program is in tatters. The health ministry is unable to unlock funds to re-up antiretroviral drug supplies. The ARV shortage hits LGBT+ patients particularly hard, and inconsistent treatment regimes have raised further concerns about rising drug resistance.   As the Venezuelan government declines assistance, the country's mass exodus and its under-5 mortality rate have come to rival Syria's.To help release new channels of support, WHO/PAHO should classify the situation as a level 2 or 3 emergency, writes Amanda Glassman of the Center for Global Development.  

September 17, 2018

A Lesson from Rwanda: Don't Confuse Scale with Impact (Nonprofit Chronicles)

By Marc Gunther 

From the article:

Ah, scale. Foundations, nonprofits, anti-poverty programs all pursue scale. Advice on how to scale abounds, in reports and articles like Getting to ScaleStrategies to Scale Up Social Programs and Three Things Every Growing Nonprofit Needs to Scale.

But scale is not impact. Indeed, there’s often tension between the two. “If you have $1 million to spend, do you want to target 1,000 people or 100 people?” asks Andrew Zeitlin, a development economist who teaches at Georgetown. Unintended consequences arise when governments or nonprofits try to serve too many people with too few dollars, as Zeitlin and Craig McIntosh of UC San Diego found when they did a study in Rwanda comparing a conventional USAID nutrition and sanitation program with a program that simply gives people cash, with no strings attached.

Their study is the first to be released as part of a bold new cash benchmarking initiative at USAID that I wrote about last week in the New York Times, under the headline Is Cash Better for Poor People Than Conventional Foreign Aid? Some coverage of their study, in Vox and Quartz, said, at least in the headlines, that “cash won,” and while that’s arguably true, the study’s findings were more complicated: It found that neither the nutrition program nor the equivalent dollars given away in cash did much good, but that a larger amount of cash had significant impact. 

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There’s lots more to say about all this. You can read a summary of the study, a blogpost from Zeitlin and McIntosh, this story from Dylan Matthews in Vox and these thoughts from Sarah Rose and Amanda Glassman of the Center for Global Development. A second study, already underway in Rwanda, will compare a youth workforce training program to cash; plans call for programs in Malawi, Liberia and the DRC to be evaluated rigorously as well. Kudos to USAID, GiveDirectly, Catholic Relief Services, google.org (which helped financed the research), Innovations for Poverty Action and economists Zeitlin and McIntosh for moving this important work forward. 

Read the full article here

 

September 14, 2018

Which Foreign Aid Programs Work? The U.S. Runs A Test — But Won't Talk About It (NPR)

By Nurith Aizenman 

From the article: 

It was the summer of 2013 and Daniel Handel had just moved to Rwanda. He was unpacking boxes in his new house, when his wife walked over with her laptop and said, 'You have to listen to this radio story!' The piece she played him was by NPR's Planet Money team, and it profiled a charity that was testing a bold idea: Instead of giving people in poor countries, say, livestock or job training to help improve their standard of living, why not just give them cash and let them decide how best to spend it? 

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Supporters of such "cash-benchmarking" exercises are heralding this particular one as a milestone. For years, anti-poverty advocates and researchers have complained that the U.S. government doesn't do enough to make sure its aid programs actually work. "The number and quality of impact evaluations at USAID has risen over time, but it's still really small," says Amanda Glassman, the chief operating officer for the think tank Center for Global Development. Now, she says, USAID's nascent cash-benchmarking experiments suggest the United States – which is one of the world's largest donor countries — could be on a path to greater accountability. 

Read the full article here.

September 13, 2018

The small study in Rwanda that could change the way the US does foreign aid (Vox)

By Dylan Matthews 

From the article: 

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US government’s main foreign aid organization, has started doing something radical. It has begun testing programs it runs in Africa, and seeing if they actually do any more good than just handing out cash. And with the first such evaluation now in, the answer seems to be that they’d be better off giving away cash.

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It gets better for the cash side, though. Remember how 34 villages got a much, much bigger transfer, of $532 per household? Not only did wealth and consumption on regular goods like food and housing go up in that group, as you’d expect after giving someone a whole bunch of cash, but beneficiaries had more diverse diets, healthier child heights relative to age, and, most strikingly, lower child mortality.

This was a study covering a year period. Any intervention having a noticeable impact on child mortality, let alone an intervention that did nothing directly related to health, is surprising. And yet in only a year, child mortality among people getting the big cash transfer was 70 percent lower. In the control group, 13 out of 2,596 children died. Among the group getting the big transfer, only two out of 1,200 children died.

That’s a really startling finding. It’s such a big shock that I’m not even really sure I believe it. A 2013 literature review by the Center for Global Development’s Amanda Glassman, Denizhan Duran, and Marge Koblinsky identified three cash studies with infant or maternal mortality as a measured outcome. Two, in Mexico and India respectively, found that cash reduced mortality, while the third, in Nepal, did not find any significant effects. Nothing in that evidence base suggested a 70 percent reduction in one year was possible. I’m certainly open to the idea that the cash had some effect, but maybe the big difference between the treatment and control villages was a fluke. 

Read the full article here

 

September 11, 2018

Is Cash Better for Poor People Than Conventional Foreign Aid? (The New York Times)

By Marc Gunther 

From the article: 

In Matinza, a village in eastern Rwanda, Esther Nyirabazungu, a 63-year-old widow, lives with her son, daughter and two grandchildren in a hut with a dirt floor and no electricity or running water. Her life is hard, but not as hard as it was before she received six monthly cash donations worth about $100 each, with no strings attached, from a United States government trial program. 

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In a report on the agency, Sarah Rose and Amanda Glassman of the Center for Global Development wrote: “U.S.A.I.D. talks a lot about its results, but much of what it highlights are outputs. Much less is said about actual outcomes or development impact, even though understanding these is critical.”

In an interview, Ms. Glassman said that “most programs and policies are not being evaluated rigorously.” 

Read the full article here.  

September 10, 2018

Study: giving out cash in Uganda helped after 4 years. After 9 years, not so much. (Vox)

By Dylan Matthews 

From the article: 

I write a lot about the benefits of fighting poverty by giving poor people cash, rather than, say, giving them chickens or food parcels or water pumps. Giving cash directly to the poor is relatively easy, it respects the decisions of poor people as to how to spend it, and it avoids the central planning challenges of some other anti-poverty policies. Moreover, there is, I think, pretty good evidence demonstrating its effectiveness. 

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Then there’s the fact that beneficiaries were still doing better after nine years in terms of assets. “I wouldn’t underrate the asset findings,” said Amanda Glassman, chief operating officer and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, who’s read the study. “Having those assets is also associated with higher earnings over the lifetime, and it’s possible that might be pretty important over the long term.” Blattman and his co-authors didn’t find that assets like livestock and trees were leading to a lot more income nine years out — but that could change in the future. 

Read the full article here

 

July 12, 2018

UBS Brought the Bond Market to Philanthropy and It Paid Off (Bloomberg)

By Emily Chasan

The world’s first development-impact bond to fund girls’ education in India performed better than expected, suggesting the tools of the fixed-income market can be harnessed to supercharge philanthropy in emerging markets.

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Development-impact bonds are a twist on a growing effort to use financial structuring to back projects that address broader societal goals. About 108 social-impact bonds have raised $392 million since 2010 for causes such as reducing prisoner recidivism, fighting obesity in at-risk populations and helping refugees find employment, according to U.K. nonprofit Social Finance.

The development bonds work with nonprofits and aid agencies rather than governments. Five of the bonds implemented so far have raised $38 million from investors, estimated Amanda Glassman, chief operating officer of the Center for Global Development, a Washington-based nonprofit. 

Read the full article here.

May 21, 2018

What To Watch At This Year's World Health Assembly (Devex)

From the article:

GENEVA — With Ebola back in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this year’s World Health Assembly sees the threat of pandemic diseases and the fragility of global health security once again at the forefront of the global health leaders’ minds.
 
While the virus is endemic in DRC, this latest outbreak has raised particular concern after a patient was confirmed to have contracted the virus in one of the health zones in Mbandaka, a city of more than 1 million and a major port town next to the Congo river. Nine countries, including the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, are at high risk of transmission.
 
...The focus Ebola is receiving against the backdrop of the organization’s most important annual meetings provides the U.N. aid agency an opportunity to showcase leadership and demonstrate that the reforms it has taken since the last outbreak are proving to be effective.
 
Improved confidence in the agency could have ripple effects on other agenda items at the weeklong meetings in Geneva. Member states will be evaluating funding for WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies, which as of March 2018, had received “no new multi-year funding agreement,” and deciding the fate of the organization’s draft 13th General Programme of Work, which Tedros said is the “most important” action item at this year’s assembly.
 
Tedros aims for member states to endorse the GPW in this year’s assembly, allowing him to fast-track a process that traditionally takes at least two years.
 
But again, whether that confidence will translate to a fully funded GPW remains to be seen.
 
“We do remain encouraged by the emphasis on measurable goals, outcomes, and impact throughout the [GPW]. However, the aspirational plans versus the high-level financial estimate of $10.8 billion over five years of course I think will remain a key debate. This represents about $1.2 billion over the previous GPW, and consequently, while the strategy is promising, there will be discussion related to the feasibility of the proposal,” said Elisa Adelman, health officer from the Office of Health Systems and WHO liaison at the U.S. Agency for International Development, in a panel at the Center for Global Development last week ahead of WHA.
 

Read the full article here

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