By Chelsea Downs and Getachew Kassa
One of the ways EASST fellows build their research capacity and connections while at UC Berkeley is through attending seminars and conferences in development economics, public health, and cutting edge topics in the social sciences. Every semester, our fellows attend weekly development seminars, which expose them to rigorous research at the forefront of the field. One-day conferences, such as Pacific Conference for Development Economics (PacDev) or Geospatial Analysis for International Development, are equally important for their networking value and awareness of innovative research being conducted by Professor’s and PhD students in the social sciences.
Two weeks ago, EASST staff and current fellows Getachew Kassa, Werner Maokola, and Apollo Maima traveled to the Development Economics session of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics (SITE) Summer Workshops, hosted by the Stanford Economics Department. The day featured a range of presentations, from a study on the barriers to sectoral mobility in Indonesia to a natural experiment studying the effect of redevelopment in Mumbai. Supreet Kaur presented her research on “Testing for Labor Rationing: Revealed Preference Estimates from Demand Shocks,” which is set in a low-income state in India called Orissa. Kaur explained how they orchestrated hiring shocks through temporary employment of low-skill manufacturing workers at external worksites. In the treatment villages, interested workers would sign-up for the job and from that list, a subset was randomly chosen to go to the worksites. Through examining the impact of this supply shock in both peak and lean season, the study found that seasonality plays an essential role in the labor market and overall there is labor underutilization. Another compelling presentation was by Michael Gechter on “The Welfare Consequences Of Formalizing Developing Country Cities: Evidence From The Mumbai Mills Redevelopment.” The study found significant spillovers, in the form of increased housing quality and formal employment density, from formal development in central Mumbai. Alongside the positive effects, the formal development had negative effects on equity due to increased gentrification.
One of our current fellows from Ethiopia, Getachew Kassa, is pursuing his PhD in Reproductive Health Sciences and has a background in public health. As his first development economics conference while at Berkeley, Kassa said, “the conference provided a total shift in how I perceive the importance of economics in the field of public health.” Specifically, he thinks “the concept of economics should be brought more into the design of public health research and policies, especially in developing countries, such as Ethiopia, where the two fields are currently considered separate.” Kassa also highlighted that the conference was a great opportunity to meet with Professors and PhD students and discuss potential future research collaborations in health economics. For the remainder of the semester, he will continue to develop his skills in impact evaluation and apply this to his research project, a behavioral intervention to reduce HIV and other Sexual Transmitted Infections (STI) among the youth in Ethiopia. Kassa points out that opportunities like attending the SITE workshop are essential for young researchers like him, in order to gain IE knowledge, discuss their research with experts in the field, and make way for future collaborations.
By Christine Simiyu
On July 27th 2018, EASST fellow Christine Nanjala Simiyu led a one–day training on Impact Evaluation (IE) Methodologies focusing on Randomized Control Trials, Difference–in–Difference and Regression Discontinuity methods for 68 participants drawn from various universities, research institutions, and ministries in Kenya. Christine was joined by EASST fellows Anthony Mveyange and Samuel Muhula to conduct the training, which was funded by the EASST Catalyst Grant Program.
Impressed by the quality of the training delivered, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and Evaluation Society of Kenya requested an in–house training for their employees on IE using STATA. Furthermore, the IE short–course Simiyu is developing was mentioned and more than 50% of the participants expressed interest in the course, especially the online version. Therefore, the organizers will continue engaging with the participants and make them aware when the short–course is offered at KCA University.
By Chelsea Downs and Fitsum Mulugeta
The impacts of EASST don’t stop with training fellows at UC Berkeley-- fellows are funded through the program to catalyze changes within their home countries to strengthen the local ecosystem for evidence production and adoption into policies. See an example of a recent training in Uganda here and one held in 2016 here.
This past month, our first ever EASST fellow Fitsum Mulugeta along with Getachew A. Ahmed of IFPRI conducted an impact evaluation (IE) training with 33 competitively selected faculty, masters, and PhD students at Addis Ababa University. Ahmed drew upon his work measuring the impact of the agricultural programs to illustrate the challenges and strategies for managing field work. Mulugeta also shared examples from his experience evaluating the Ethiopian Social Accountability Program (ESAP), which aims to improve citizen engagement in service delivery. These practical examples helped participants to digest the impact evaluation methods and relate it to the research they do.
These learnings don’t end at the training, as Mulugeta and Ahmed have offered participants tailored support on their ongoing IE research. The facilitators plan to hold a similar training for policy makers in July. The upcoming training will focus on teaching the fundamental concepts of IE, with the goal of convincing policymakers to seek the critical evaluation of the programs they are implementing.
Announcing "Infectious Disease in East Africa: A Behavioral and Economic Research Collaborative (IDEA-BERC)"
The EASST Collaborative is excited to announce that our program will be expanding with a 5-year training grant from the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to start the “Infectious Disease in East Africa: A Behavioral and Economic Research Collaborative (IDEA-BERC).” Falling under the EASST umbrella, IDEA-BERC will offer rigorous semester long training for 12-15 doctoral and post-doctoral East African researchers over the grant period. Our partner institution, the African Population Health Research Center (APHRC), will conduct short-term training courses on the ground across East Africa. Researchers trained through the program will enhance their skills in the scientific evaluation of interventions through coursework and mentored field research, with a specific focus on applying implementation science methods to infectious disease challenges. The IDEA-BERC training program will also provide extensive support to the trainees upon return to their East African institution, including distance mentoring by their US faculty mentor, meetings with their East Africa-based mentor, and access to research and training grants. Moreover, the program will provide trainees access to a valuable network of researchers at University of Nairobi, University of Rwanda, and Makerere University—additional partner institutions of IDEA-BERC.
On February 23-25, 2018, EASST fellow Damazo Kadengye led a 3-day Impact Evaluation and Research Transparency workshop in Kampala, Uganda for 21 early career researchers from Mbarara University, Makerere University, and Busitema University. Kadengye was joined by fellows Jayne Tusiime and Kizito Omala to conduct the workshop, which was funded through EASST’s Catalyst Grant program, which offers fellows $10,000 to institutionalize learnings from their fellowship within their home countries. Trainees were competitively selected for the workshop and trained on impact evaluation, field methods, designing observational studies, and research transparency and reproducibility methods.
From the workshop, four promising participants were chosen for one year of close mentorship from fellows and a small short-term grant to complete an Impact Evaluation related output (e.g. completion of a research paper, analysis of existing data, development of a research concept, or finishing a working report). The researchers selected will also be required to present at least at one graduate research seminar or conference in Uganda. We hope to further incorporate these selected participants into the EASST network by inviting them to attend the 7th Annual EASST Summit this summer.
This year, EASST will come full circle, holding our Annual EASST Summit in Kampala, Uganda--where EASST was first launched in 2012. We are pleased to cordially invite you to the 7th Annual EASST Summit, to be held on July 6, 2018 at the Fairway Hotel & Spa.
The 7th Annual EASST Summit convenes a network of local and international researchers, EASST fellows, and local policy-makers to share new evidence on East Africa. EASST supports the development of East Africa's impact evaluation community by offering visiting fellowships, funding for collaborative research and training, policy engagement grants, and networking opportunities. The Annual EASST Summit brings this network together with regional policymakers to support partnership development, share research results, and work toward a common goal of large scale, positive impact across the region.
This year's summit will feature presentations on Health, Education and Empowerment, Agriculture and the Environment, and more. Please note that a working agenda for the event is forthcoming.
In order to secure your attendance, please register here at your earliest convenience, and ideally no later than June 15th, 2018. Please feel free to reach out to Chelsea Downs, firstname.lastname@example.org, with any questions
On Saturday, March 10th CEGA staff and EASST and BRAC fellows joined top researchers in development economics at UC Davis for the 2018 Pacific Development Conference (PacDev). The conference, held annually at a university on the West Coast, featured a variety of presentations ranging from women’s empowerment, to behavioral economics in health, to violence and conflict. GiveDirectly’s Paul Niehaus delivered the keynote address, where he emphasized the need for the development economics community to “think bigger” to conduct large-scale experiments that could have greater policy impacts than smaller studies. Both staff and fellows found PacDev a valuable experience—BRAC fellow Danish Us Salam shares three new insights he gained from the conference below:
1) I attended a presentation titled “Income, Psychological Well-being, and the Dynamics of Poverty: Evidence from South Africa” by M. Alloush, a PhD Candidate in Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, and came to know about the 10-item Center for the Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale, for measuring depressive symptoms. This is relevant since my present research will also be measuring depression and I only knew about the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) as a method of depression measurement.
2) It was interesting to attend a session by Mingming Ma, a PhD Candidate in Economics at the University of Southern California, who presented on the causal association between education and longevity of parents lives. More specifically, parents with educated kids were found to have positive health effects in later life. The potential pathways of these effects are, “financial support, access to economic resources, clean fuels and sanitation.”
3) A presentation by Emma Riley, a PhD Candidate in Economics at the University of Oxford, on using a movie starring Queen of Katwe, a likely role model, to boost student aspirations and performance in exams gave me some serious pointers on an intervention that uses board games to nudge student behavior. It would be interesting to see how that intervention relates to student confidence, discipline, and their involvement in anti-social activities
In January 2018 , the Working Group in African Political Economy (WGAPE) held its international meeting at New York University-Abu Dhabi (NYU-AD). WGAPE is an international forum for academic researchers, ranging from graduate students to faculty, who meet semi-annually to have discussions on selected papers--providing a unique opportunity for presenters to receive extensive feedback from participants. EASST fellows Constantine Manda, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Political Science at Yale University, and Michael Mbate, who is currently pursuing a PhD in International Development at the London School of Economics, were among the five African scholars selected to present at the NYU-AD meeting. Ten more students and junior faculty from sub-Saharan Africa participated in a Learning Days training opportunity sponsored by Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) and the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS). In a recent blog post, CEGA affiliate Brian Dillon delves into the details of Manda’s paper, “Minority Presidents, Ethnic Diversity, and the Onset of Civil War.” Read the full post here.
EASST Fellow, Dr. Kizito Omala, was recently featured on CEGA's Blog, speaking about the influential role of his background in teaching and his work to adapt Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL), a proven education program, for students in Uganda. In the post, Dr. Omala also touches on the impact of the EASST fellowship, "I am completely different since the fellowship. I can see that EASST has widened my network and improved my teaching methods." Read the full post here.
On January 22nd the EASST Collaborative announced its 2018-2019 Visiting Fellowship Application.
With a network of 21 fellows already, the Fellowship seeks to continue equipping East African social scientists with the skills needed to carry out rigorous evaluations of social or economic development projects in East Africa. During a four-month fellowship (Fall 2018 or Spring 2019) based at UC Berkeley, fellows will audit courses, present research, attend economic development seminars, develop curricula, and design collaborative research projects.
To be eligible, researchers must be residents of an East African country (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, or Uganda) and hold a staff or student position at a research institution, university, or other organization headquartered in East Africa. Applicants must already have a PhD or be working towards a PhD. Researchers from economics, epidemiology, statistics, and other quantitative social science disciplines are encouraged to apply.
This year, we will give preference to researchers interested in infectious diseases, agriculture, and digital financial inclusion. Female researchers are especially encouraged to apply.
Please see the EASST 2018 Visiting Fellowship Announcement, for more information and detailed application instructions.