The world faces a huge challenge in providing food security for all in the face of growing populations, increasing demand for resource-intensive foods, and climate change. Leaders from G8 and G20 governments are pursuing a range of policy responses and it is crucial that they recognize the key role of technological innovation to ensure crop yields keep up with demand and available food meets nutritional requirements. But new inventions will do no one any good if they simply sit on the shelf.
Lant Pritchett discussed a new working paper, which reframes the impact evaluation debate. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) has always been an element of implementing organizations’ accountability to their funders, and recently there has been a push for much greater rigor in evaluations to isolate causal impacts and enable more ‘evidence based’ approaches to accountability and budgeting. Pritchett and his co-author extend the idea of impact evaluation, and show that the techniques of impact evaluation can be directly useful to implementers, rather than a potentially threatening accountability mechanism. They introduce the concept of experiential learning (“e”), which allows implementing agencies to leverage monitoring data to search across alternative project designs. Within-project variations in design can serve as their own counter-factual, dramatically reducing the incremental cost of evaluation and increasing the usefulness of evaluation to implementers. The right combination of M, e, and E provides the right space for innovation and organizational capability building, while at the same time providing accountability and an evidence base for funding agencies.
Over the course of one week, world leaders convened in Los Cabos, Mexico, for the G20 Summit and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The outcomes of these two high-level meetings have potentially important implications for poor people in the developing world in three key areas: food security and agriculture, energy, and green growth. U.S. representatives to the Los Cabos G20 and Rio+20 summits, and other distinguished speakers joined us for an assessment of these summits and the road ahead.
Over the last 15 years, development economists have carefully accumulated rigorous evidence about what works and what does not in promoting health in poor countries. While each individual evaluation tests specific questions or sets of questions in specific contexts, the large number of studies now means that it is possible to draw more general conclusions. In addition, randomized evaluations are increasingly being designed to test fundamental questions about how people behave and thus generate lessons that are relevant for the design of different types of programs. In this seminar, Michael Kremer will discuss a new research paper co-authored with Rachel Glennerster, Lessons from Randomized Evaluations for Improving Health in Developing Countries, which summarizes lessons from the growing body of randomized evaluations of health programs in developing countries. The paper finds considerable evidence that consumers do not always invest optimally in health. In particular, consumers underinvest in cost-effective products for prevention and non-acute care of communicable disease and are very sensitive to the price and convenience of these products. This underinvestment does not simply reflect a lack of information of the benefits of preventative health. While this suggests the need for government intervention, many government health systems perform poorly and there is little accountability and few incentives for health care providers. Of the approaches designed to improve accountability, community or nongovernmental monitoring has had mixed results but district-level contracting has been quite successful. Many programs can improve health without excessive reliance on dysfunctional health delivery systems—delivering health products through schools for example, or improving health through water treatment.
Partnership for Growth (PFG) is a new model for the United States to engage with a select group of countries to accelerate and sustain broad-based economic growth. It involves rigorous joint analysis of constraints to growth, the development of joint action plans to address these constraints, and high-level mutual accountability for implementation. One of PFG’s objectives is to engage not just aid but also a range of available tools to unlock new investment. CGD was pleased to host Gayle Smith who presented on PFG. Todd Moss moderated a conversation with representatives from the U.S. agencies involved in the partnership as well as representatives from the first set of PFG countries, El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines, and Tanzania.