Sunday, April 25, 2010

Global Development Network

Some readers will remember my traveling around to places like Beijing, Delhi, Brisbane and York to consult on some projects managed by the Global Development Network (GDN) and funded by the Gates Foundation. The GDN's web page for the projects is here. The working papers from the projects I was most directly involved with are here, here and here.

The projects aimed to test innovative health interventions in developing country contexts. They also aimed to "build capacity" by training developing country researchers in modern econometric program evaluation. These two goals, of course, conflict. Most of the projects that turned out the best in terms of providing high quality evidence involved researchers who were trained at top North American economics departments and who did not really need much of the assistance provided by the methodological experts (me and some old and new friends) and substantive experts assembled by the GDN. In contrast, the projects that resulted in the most capacity building were more mixed in terms of the quality of the resulting evidence. At the end, I was left wondering if it really made sense to combine evidence production and capacity building in this way.

That is not to say I did not enjoy the work; I did, tremendously. The travel was great fun - though I wish I had been able to spend more time outside the hotel compound in Delhi - and so was getting to know the developing country researchers. Especially useful in that regard was getting to know the researchers in the Iranian group I worked with, both in the sense that it always humanizes international relations to know people in the countries we are presently unhappy with, but also because they helped me to understand better the domestic political equilibrium within Iran.

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