Community-based approaches to development, also called community-driven development (CDD), seek to empower local communities to identify and implement the projects they most need. Researchers in this study in the Philippines are evaluating the impact of a national community-driven development program on governance, social capital, and socio-economic welfare.

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Cox's Bazar intervention

Despite the scale and persistence of forced displacement, little data and evidence exists to inform long-term policy responses. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in southern Bangladesh beginning in August 2017 poses a significant policy question: how to integrate refugees into the host economy while simultaneously maintaining or improving the wellbeing of nationals.

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Improving tax administration is an important priority for many developing country governments. An efficient and equitable tax system can increase government revenue, lessen dependence on foreign aid, and strengthen state authority. Researchers studied the impact of an innovative taxpayer recognition program that appealed to business owners’ desires for social recognition on firms’ VAT tax compliance and payment rates in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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In order to manage the delivery of social services, central governments often delegate authority to local supervisors. Despite possibly having greater knowledge of the local context, these supervisors may still be unable to fully monitor the performance of public workers. Researchers partnered with the Government of Paraguay to measure the impact of a new monitoring technology—GPS-enabled cell phones—on the job performance of agricultural extension agents (AEAs).

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Despite large investments in elections globally, questions remain about whether officials are truly representing their constituents. Researchers partnered with the two major political parties in Sierra Leone and conducted a randomized evaluation to test the impact of providing reliable information on potential candidates’ qualifications and sharing voter preferences with party officials during Parliamentary elections.

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Ghanaian girls dancing in drama presentation

Women face significant barriers to participation and leadership in politics and government in many countries, including Ghana. Shortly before Ghana’s 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, researchers evaluated whether community meetings focused on encouraging women’s participation in local politics could close the gender gap that exists in grassroot politics. The evaluation found no change in women’s political participation or in views of gender norms in local politics.

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Programs that allow citizens to contact their government representatives may help to improve the delivery of basic services, such as resources in schools and health clinics, in low-income countries. However, citizen participation in these programs is often low.

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Previous research suggests having community members monitor health service providers can improve the delivery of health services, and greatly improve child health as a result. In Uganda, researchers conducted a large-scale randomized evaluation of a program called Accountability Can Transform (ACT) Health that followed this model.

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Many adults over age 65 across the world live in extreme poverty, however only 20 percent of seniors worldwide receive any form of pension. Non-contributory pension programs for seniors living below a certain income threshold may improve food consumption, mental health, and lower reliance on younger family members for economic support.

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Photo of Person Holding Phone

Globally, bureaucrats are responsible for the day-to-day matters of policy implementation and government service provision. However, we know very little about how bureaucrats’ own interests and biases influence the ultimate distribution of public goods and services. To measure how citizens’ identities and the characteristics of their petitions affect municipal bureaucrats’ bias and efficiency, researchers conducted a national-scale audit of two of Colombia’s largest social service programs.

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In Malawi, local tax compliance levels are low and the collection process is sometimes corrupt. At the same time, people are reluctant to pay taxes until they see material benefits from their taxes, contributing to a vicious cycle of non-payment and poor government service delivery.

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Public training sessions on democratic processes and ideals are a popular tool that aims to improve the performance of governments with “bottom-up” accountability via increased political knowledge and public participation. Researchers evaluated an accountability workshop program, which educated citizens on the distribution of extractive industry tax revenues and the formal means of local political participation.

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A surveyor working with a study participant.

Pensions are seen as an important tool for reducing poverty among a growing elderly population worldwide. Researchers are working with Innovations for Poverty Action and Paraguay’s Ministry of Finance to conduct a randomized evaluation of a national non-contributory pension program for low-income seniors. Researchers will measure the impacts of national pensions on senior citizens’ economic wellbeing and quality of life.

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Democratic elections are seen as a way of improving government accountability, but the means through which elections affect officials’ behavior is poorly understood, particularly in local elections where inter-party competition is rare. Researchers in Burkina Faso staged a community decision-making scenario with real financial stakes to understand how elections effect public embezzlement, social norms and trust in officials.

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Citizens in low-income countries are often unable to hold their government representatives accountable for the effective delivery of social services such as education and healthcare. Increases in mobile phone access present new opportunities for direct communication between citizens and government officials that may help governments respond to citizens’ needs more effectively.

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