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  • Author: Jeremy Bowles, Horacio Larreguy, Shelley Liu
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We examine how information from trusted social media sources can shape knowledge and behavior when misinformation and mistrust are widespread. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe, we partnered with a trusted civil society organization to randomize the timing of the dissemination of messages aimed at targeting misinformation about the COVID-19 virus to 27,000 newsletter WhatsApp subscribers. We examine how exposure to these messages affects individual beliefs about how to deal with the COVID-19 virus and preventative behavior. The results show that social media messaging from trusted sources may have substantively large effects on not only individual knowledge but also ultimately on related behavior.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Internet, Social Media, Pandemic, COVID-19, Misinformation , WhatsApp
  • Political Geography: Africa, Zimbabwe
  • Author: Jean Arkedis, Jessica Creighton, Archon Fung, Stephen Kosack, Dan Levy, Courtney Tolmie
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We assess the impact of a transparency and accountability program designed to improve maternal and newborn health (MNH) outcomes in Indonesia and Tanzania. Co-designed with local partner organizations to be community-led and non-prescriptive, the program sought to encourage community participation to address local barriers in access to high quality care for pregnant women and infants. We evaluate the impact of this program through randomized controlled trials (RCTs), involving 100 treatment and 100 control communities in each country. We find that on average, this program did not have a statistically significant impact on the use or content of maternal and newborn health services, nor the sense of civic efficacy or civic participation among recent mothers in the communities who were offered it. These findings hold in both countries and in a set of prespecified subgroups. To identify reasons for the lack of impacts, we use a mixed-method approach combining interviews, observations, surveys, focus groups, and ethnographic studies that together provide an in-depth assessment of the complex causal paths linking participation in the program to improvements in MNH outcomes. Although participation in program meetings was substantial and sustained in most communities, and most attempted at least some of what they had planned, only a minority achieved tangible improvements and fewer still saw more than one such success. Our assessment is that the main explanation for the lack of impact is that few communities were able to traverse the complex causal paths from planning actions to accomplishing tangible improvements in their access to quality health care.
  • Topic: Health, Health Care Policy, Children, Randomized Controlled Trials
  • Political Geography: Africa, Indonesia, Tanzania, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Matt Andrews
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Globalization has fed significant economic gains across the world. The gains lead some policymakers in developing countries to believe in the potential of ‘catch up’—where they leverage the gains of an open world economy to foster rapid progress and compete with more developed nations. This belief is particularly evident in countries like Rwanda, where policymakers aspire to turn the country into ‘Africa’s Singapore’. This paper asks if such aspiration is realistic: Do developing countries really gain enough from globalization to catch up to more developed countries? The paper examines the world economy as a league in which countries compete for winnings (manifest in higher income and production). Wealthier countries are in the top tiers of this league and poorer countries are in the lower tiers. The paper asks if gains from the last generation of growth have been distributed in such a way to foster ‘catch up’ by lower tier countries, and if we see these countries ‘catching up’ by moving into higher tiers. This analysis of the world economy is compared with a study of English football, where over 90 clubs play in an multi-tier league system. Prominent examples of ‘catch up’ in this system include Leicester City’s rise from the third tier in 2008 to become first tier champion in 2015. The paper asks if such ‘catch up’ is common in English football, given the way winnings are distributed, and if ‘catch up’ is more common in this context than in the world economy more generally.
  • Topic: Globalization, Developing World, Global Political Economy, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Africa, Rwanda
  • Author: Jeremy Bowles, Horacio Larreguy
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We examine how candidate selection into the supply of policy information determines its electoral effects. In a nationwide debate initiative designed to solicit and rebroadcast policy promises from Liberian legislative candidates, we randomized the encouragement of debate participation across districts. The intervention substantially increased the debate participation of leading candidates but led to uneven electoral returns for these candidates, with incumbents benefiting at the expense of challengers. These results are driven by differences in compliance: complying incumbents, but not challengers, positively selected into debate participation based on the congruence of their policy priorities with those of their constituents.
  • Topic: Politics, Elections, Accountability, Information Technology
  • Political Geography: Africa, Liberia
  • Author: Matt Andrews, Tim McNaught, Salimah Samji
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Governments across the world regularly pursue reforms that achieve less than was originally expected or is needed to make the state function better. The limits to reform success are often obvious in even the early days of reform, where gaps and weaknesses manifest. Many governments have no mechanisms built into their reform processes to see these gaps and weaknesses, however, and persist with predefined reform plans instead of adapting designs to close the gaps and address weaknesses. One antidote to this challenge is to create reflection points where reformers scrutinize their progress to identify weaknesses, reflect on these weaknesses, and adapt their next steps to address the weaknesses. In the spirit of John Kingdon’s work on ‘policy windows’, we call these reflection points ‘adaptation windows’—moments where reformers acknowledge problems in their reforms, adapt reforms to address such, and mobilize support for this adaptation. This paper discusses an effort to open an adaptation window for reformers to ‘see’ and then respond to public financial management (PFM) reform gaps and weaknesses in Mozambique. The paper details why and how this work was pursued, and also reflects on results of the government’s reflection at the adaptation window.
  • Topic: Government, Reform, International Development, State
  • Political Geography: Africa, Mozambique