On July 20th, 2015, Zachary Wagner, a UC Berkeley PhD student of Health Economics and Dr. John Bosco Asiimwe, an EASST Fellow and Lecturer from the Makerere University School of Statistics, organized the workshop Introduction to Impact Evaluation at the School of Economics in Makerere University, Uganda. The workshop included lecturers from multiple schools at the university, researchers from the Economic Policy Research Center, and graduate and undergraduate students of economics, statistics and other disciplines. Participants attended in the hopes of learning more about impact evaluations, how it differs from monitoring and evaluation, what types of evaluation methods exist, how to apply them and, last but not least, to learn more about the EASST network. Zachary’s presentation, introducing impact evaluation, tackled issues of counterfactuals and causal inferences, experimental methods and quasi experimental methods. John Bosco's presentation focused on his upcoming study with Zach, a project that will focus on the role of village health teams in the delivery of oral rehydration salts to mothers. John Bosco's presentation led to an animated discussion on the possibilities of applicability and implementation.
There is no doubt that the two hour workshop was useful for its participants, bringing to light the need to hold these events on a more frequent and regular basis. Previous EASST Fellows Annet Adong and John Bosco Asiimwe, along with current EASST Fellow, Kizito Omala, are exploring new avenues to accomplish this. An initial proposal to hold an Impact Evaluation Learning Workshop Series for Staff and graduate students at Makerere University has been made, but new ideas are welcome as they continue to delve into the possibilities.
The Working Group in African Political Economy (WGAPE) brings together faculty and advanced graduate students in Economics and Political Science who combine field research experience in Africa with training in political economy methods. It is co-led by Daniel Posner (Department of Political Science, UCLA), Edward Miguel (Department of Economics, UC Berkeley), and Brian Dillon (Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington). We are collaborating with partners at NYU -- Abu Dhabi, J. Andrew Harris and Peter van der Windt to host a special WGAPE meeting with a research discussions component and training module. We look forward to inviting a larger group of African scholars who can benefit from these meeting objectives. Thanks to NYU-AD, WGAPE will be able to provide funding for travel, accommodation, and related expenses to accepted WGAPE participants.
WGAPE meetings are held in four regional sub-groups each fall and in a national meeting each spring. This call for papers is for a special, supplementary WGAPE meeting, which will be held January 7-9, 2016 at New York University – Abu Dhabi.
This meeting will expand upon the WGAPE model to include both research discussion sessions on papers in progress, as in previous years (see an archive of papers from past WGAPE meetings), and a short training workshop to expose African/developing country scholars to the newest tools and approaches to conducting rigorous research on political economy of Africa.
1) Our research discussion sessions are built around in-depth discussions of papers that are circulated and expected to be read in advance. Presenters provide little more than a few brief, orienting comments before the floor is opened for discussion. WGAPE is more a forum for presenting work in progress than polished, finished projects and provides an unparalleled opportunity for useful feedback.
2) Our short training workshop component will provide African/developing country scholars a chance to learn experimental methods in studying topics relevant to political economy of Africa, best research practices, and resource module to guide scholars to data sources, training materials, and networking fora.
This call is broken into two tracks. Please review the following carefully.
1) Paper Submissions for research discussion sessions
We invite paper submissions which reflect WGAPE’s broad research agenda on core issues within the political economy of African development, including ethnic politics, civil conflict and violence, decentralization and democratization, and corruption and local governance. Experimental research with field data will be given priority. Graduate students and junior faculty are particularly encouraged to apply. Each submission that is selected will receive one-hour discussion slot at the meeting.
We invite two types of paper submissions:
a) Full paper submissions. These submissions can be works in progress.
b) Research design submissions. These submissions should describe a fully planned research study on topics relevant to WGAPE, as listed above. A suggested format for these submissions is the Pre-Analysis Plan, detail and examples here. This document details the statistical analyses that will be conducted for a given research project before the researchers conduct the study and look at the data. Hypotheses, outcomes, control variables, and regression specifications are all written in as much detail as possible.
Anyone submitting to this category must provide the following materials:
a) Paper submission in PDF / Word format
b) Most up-to-date Curriculum Vitae or Resume with contact information, including country of current location.
2) Application to attend as a non-presenting participant in the workshop and training module
This year, we invite junior scholars to apply to attend the workshop as participants. We highly encourage African scholars/developing country scholars to apply. NYU-Abu Dhabi will cover all costs of travel, visa, and accommodation for this purpose. We ask that you submit the following materials to apply:
a) Most up-to-date Curriculum Vitae or Resume with contact information, including country of current location
b) The name, title, and contact information of one reference (from a current/previous collaborator or advisor) that would be able to comment on your research interests and future research trajectory
c) A sample of the applicant’s academic writing that relates, even if only loosely, to the topics relevant to WGAPE, as listed above.
To submit your materials:o
Participant costs and travel:
Thanks to NYU-AD, WGAPE will be able to provide funding for travel, accommodation, and related expenses to accepted WGAPE participants. Visas and travel will be arranged by NYU-AD.
For further information, please contact Elisa Cascardi (CEGA) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Partners/donors: New York University – Abu Dhabi and Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA)
Additional meetings: During January 4-19, 2016 NYU-AD will host the Winter Experimental Social Sciences Institute (WESSI). Select WGAPE participants will be able to attend this training, after successful application to WGAPE through one of the categories listed above.
The 4th Annual East Africa Evidence Summit took place last month and was the product of collaboration efforts between the Center for Effective Global Action’s (CEGA) East Africa Social Science Translation (EASST) Collaborative and five partner organizations. As an earlier post illustrated, the Summit highlighted the need for evidence-based policies in Africa and concluded that the only way to accomplish this is by establishing a strong core of African researchers that engage in dialogue with East African policymakers.
Considering the leading role that East African research institutions and academics played during the summit, it’s important to highlight initiatives actively working to change the paradigm of development. Just a few weeks ago, The Guardian published an article covering exploitation of developing country researchers by academics at Western universities and the unfair terms of global research partnerships and collaboration programs. While it may be true that there are those who capitalize on developing country researchers, there are many good examples of strong, equal partnerships to follow out there, one of which is EASST. The vast majority of presentations during the Summit, for instance, exhibited rigorous research led by capable academics and policymakers from the region.
“Reading the article in the Guardian,” explained CEGA fellow, Reajul Chowdhury, “made me realize that unlike many of my colleagues in developing countries, I have been lucky not to be used just as a data collector or field coordinator in Africa for the academicians in the US. I hope academic institutions in developed nations will follow the path of CEGA and will establish full partnerships with researchers in South Asia and Africa. Otherwise, the sustainability of such partnerships will be at stake in the long run.”
There is no question about it: the main protagonists of this annual Summit were the EASST Fellows. EASST is a network of East African universities and research institutions, with a mission to promote rigorous evaluation of social and economic development programs and inform policymaking in East Africa. The EASST Collaborative has three main components. The first relates to the Evidence Summit and focuses on matchmaking, creating a space for East African and Western researchers to disseminate their latest research and foster potential research collaborations. The second component of EASST is the fellowship, whereby a group of researchers from East Africa come to UC Berkeley (or other CEGA affiliated campuses) for a semester to develop their skills, improve research techniques and network with influential academics in the field of development economics. This allows both parties to get to know each other and their research interests. If there is a match in the interests, then they will take this relationship to the next level, and collaborate with one or more CEGA affiliates in the future.
Key to these research partnerships is a mutual respect and shared project responsibility, which lies in both the African researcher and his or her UC counterpart. “My CEGA experience has allowed me to sharpen my abilities to write, present, and publish academic papers… My PhD applications were boosted by being a part of the EASST network,” asserts EASST fellow, Constantine Manda. “The Guardian caricatures research collaborations in a way that is not reflective of all collaborations. There are many great stories of African researchers who began as junior researchers in such collaborations and ended up being the Principal Investigator in well-funded research collaborations that hire western researchers! It is up to us as Africans to work to improve our ability to compete for funding.”
During their time abroad, fellows do not only strengthen their technical skills, but they also learn about new ways to replicate these lessons and train the next generation of researchers. Fitsum Mulugeta related how his experience as an EASST Fellow has changed his perspective: “I attended my college studies at Addis Ababa University, where student-teacher relationships are based on fear. But at UC Berkeley, professors were willing to give me their time to discuss my ideas, give me their comments, support me in anyway they could. This is a great lesson I brought back with me for the occasional classes I teach in Addis”. Accessibility and capacity building for the upcoming generations will be an essential step to address the demand for data-driven policymaking in Africa.
The third and final component of EASST is to fund research grants that provide opportunities for Visiting Fellows upon returning home, and encourage the development of joint research. EASST invites pairs of researchers from East Africa and the CEGA network to submit proposals that take innovative approaches towards poverty reduction. Through a rigorous, peer-review process, projects are selected to receive funding. The criteria for selection include project feasibility and the potential to scale-up and have an impact on development policies. Priority is given to projects that establish a strong partnership between East African researchers and researchers in the US.
So far, EASST has conducted four impact evaluation summits, with more than 250 academics, development practitioners, donors and government officials in attendance. The EASST fellowship has received over 300 applications and offered 11 visiting fellowships to researchers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Seven of them have successfully obtained EASST funding for their joint research projects, with an additional three grants going to East African researchers that did not participate in the fellowship. Every year, we have stronger applications for funding and the fellowship, and the Annual EASST Summit attracts more attention from donors, development practitioners and government officials. CEGA expects two new fellows to join us in the Fall semester, and two more in Spring 2016.
Post by Alexandra Orsola-Vidal & Julianne Baker-Gallegos
Original post by Alexandra Orsola-Vidal, Global Networks Director at the Center for Effective Global Action, can be found on the Berkeley Blog. The 2015 East Africa Evidence Summit was held from July 8-11 at the African Population and Health Research Center in Nairobi, Kenya.
The demand for rigorous, robust data to inform African decision makers has never been higher. Earlier this month, the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) East Africa Social Science Translation (EASST) Collaborative partnered with the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), the World Bank, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action (J-PAL) to host the fourth annual East Africa Evidence Summit and commemorate 20 years of randomized experiments in Kenya.
The three-day Summit featured more than 30 research papers showcasing rigorous evidence from East Africa and policy lessons gleaned from the Agriculture Technology Adoption Initiative (ATAI) portfolio. The Summit also included a media training for researchers, on how to translate evidence for mainstream audiences, and concluded with a discussion on how Kenya can use rigorous evidence to ensure the country reaches its Vision 2030 goals.
With more than 100 researchers, NGO representatives, policymakers and partners in attendance, the transformative element in the Summit was the push for robust evidence to inform concrete, actionable steps going forward. The Summit was led by EASST, a network of East African universities and research institutions with a mission to promote rigorous evaluation of social and economic development programs in East Africa. Administered by CEGA and Makerere University in Uganda, EASST aims to empower the next generation of East African researchers to conduct rigorous evaluations of development programs in the region, and translate their findings into better public policies and programs.
“A research community produces much more rapid scientific progress through collaboration,” said Ted Miguel, CEGA faculty director. “Being part of a network is important, and has led to research having a direct policy impact as a result of the tight-knit relationships researchers have had with policymakers from the outset.”
As other partners pointed out, this kind of collaboration is exactly what took place at the Summit. Showcasing findings in the fields of health, education, inequality and economic growth, researchers presented the results of an active year of exhaustive research cooperation, while discussing needs on the ground with leading government officials and ministries.
The most salient part of the Summit was the role the EASST Fellows and local African researchers played throughout; both in leading research projects and collaborating with policy makers. Ted Miguel captured the sentiment well, “we need informed African voices and research addressing African challenges. Out of EASST will come some of the leaders of the next generation who will pioneer work in the field of development and pull research up to where it belongs in East Africa”.
For all the organizations that participated in the Summit, this notion is clear: nourishing the next generation of African researchers is a priority. “In my experience,” says Fitsum Mulugeta, one of the first fellows to participate in the program, “the EASST Network promotes and fosters true collaboration. We, African researchers, bring our experience and deeper understanding of the region to the table while US researchers bring their technical skills, experience and network so that we can jointly come up with a more rigorous research output both for academic goals and to better inform policy.”
To strengthen the network and further these collaborations, the EASST Network is working with IPA, the World Bank’s Africa Region and the Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund. Discussions that took place during the Summit among these partners concluded with four key priorities for the collaborative going forward:
The need for rigorous data for policy development in Africa is prevalent, but so is the presence of a community working to address this need. If readers take one message away from the Summit, then it’s this: the only way we can ensure evidence-based policy development in East Africa is by securing a strong contingent of African researchers, facilitating collaboration with international academics and providing dialogue opportunities with African policy makers.
by Alexandra Orsola-Vidal, Julianne Baker-Gallegos and Kuranda Morgan