Summer Internship Series #2

Our second internship post is from Natasha, MPP post grad 2014.

I’ve just finished my sixth week at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFRPI). IFPRI is pronounced “if- pre,” which I didn’t learn until three weeks of being that intern who mispronounces the acronym. Don’t worry guys, I’m making Batten proud! IFPRI is a policy think tank that specializes in “sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty.” They do a lot of program analysis for the World Bank.

My summer project is to evaluate an innovative poverty reduction model in Tanzania that the Bank launched in 2011. The program is the first time a conditional cash transfer (CCT) was combined with a community-driven development (CDD) framework.

CCT’s are welfare programs that are conditional upon receivers’ actions. For example, the program I’m evaluating requires that all participating households meet the following education and health conditionalities:

  1. all children age 7-15 must attend school, with a minimum 80% attendance rate
  2. all children age 0-5 must visit a health facility three times a year
  3. elderly household members (60+ years) must visit a health facility once a year

CCT’s represent a more holistic approach to poverty reduction- they aim to reduce short-term poverty with direct cash transfers, while also fighting long-term poverty by increasing human capital among the poor. CCT’s have had major successes, such as in Brazil where the Bolsa program saw poverty rates fall by 27.7% among treated households.

In the CCD framework, the poor are treated as partners in the development process. The model was developed in the 1990s when it became clear that the socio-political complexities of the field made topdown, state-led big development strategies ineffective. CCD initiatives give control of the development process, resources, and decision making to a community group. The underlying assumption is that communities are the best judge of how their lives and livelihoods can be improved, rather than an international group coming and saying, “we’re going to do this with the funds.” CCDs also offer the added benefit (at times) of ripple effects that include promoting equity, inclusiveness, efficiency and good governance.

The project I’m helping to evaluate represents the first time this combo-model has been tried, anywhere. So far the program has been evaluated at the baseline and midline (18 months after implementation) and I’m now working on the endline evaluation. I’ll be sure to report back on our findings- but (spoiler alert) we’re already seeing some exciting improvements!

It’s crazy how much Batten-knowledge I’ve used so far. My project, at times, feels like IPA II: The Eightfold Path Never Ends. And, I’ve now logged my 217th hour in Stata where I’ve been using…instrumental variables. Remember when we all considered skimming that chapter? Ha.

While our first year was challenging and grey-hair inducing, it feels good to look back and realize that all that work has now allowed me to be entrusted with interesting and meaningful work. (….Someone please remind me of this come midterms this fall!)




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