“Development programmes that work” – A short anthology of examples from research

22/10/2012 at 4:43 pm 2 comments

By Ciara Aucoin, for Dóchas.

(See also this blog post: “Basing the Post-2015 Development Framework on Programmes That Work“)

This blog post is an anthology of successful development programmes, as demonstrated by academic research, predominantly through randomized control trials (RCTs).

An RCT is a set of research methods historically used in medical research to test and compare the effects of treatment and placebo/lack of treatment on a sample of individuals. In development impact evaluation, for which RCTs are increasingly being used, study participants are assigned to treatment (intervention) and control (intervention-less) groups randomly and the impacts that the intervention had on the sample is monitored and the result analysed.

Below, we provide a list of examples of successful development programmes as revealed by recent RCTs studies. A short synopsis of each study is given, showing the main result of the study, the authors and a link where the study can be found. The studies are categorised according to their development outcome and not according to the nature of the intervention- i.e. the paper on the effects of deworming on school attendance is categorised under education rather than health.

It should be noted that although RCTs are increasingly heralded as the ‘gold standard’ in development impact evaluation they are no more than a collection of scientifically valid case studies. Each successful development intervention is contingent on a set of particular cultural/geographical/time-dependent factors and therefore generalisations about the merits of ‘successful’ intervention techniques as proven by RCTs should be made with caution. In other words, to coin the language used in the studies themselves, RCTs are often weakened by a lack of ‘external validity’. That being said, they offer unparalleled insight into particular social phenomena and the impact that development programming has in particular contexts. It is expected that the reader will carry out further research on the studies of interest in order to flesh out the subtle nuances, which contribute to the programmes’ different successes and limitations. (For a discussion about the pros and cons of RCTs, see e.g. here)

Agriculture and Food Security

Production/Efficiency

  • Agricultural interventions typically focus on increasing food production/efficiency. A study on an agricultural development programme in Ecuador which combines a focus on production along with a process to link small scale farmers to high-value agricultural markets found the approach much more effective in improving efficiency and the welfare of farmers than the production only approach. Cavatassi et al (2011) Found at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00220388.2010.536221#preview
  • Cash flow problems are a factor contributing to why small farmers put off buying fertiliser until after the harvest, when they least need it. However, one study found that when provided with appropriate incentives, ‘farmers can break the habit, leading to increased use of fertiliser and increased yields’. Duflo et al (2009) Found at: http://www.econ.upf.edu/docs/seminars/duflo.pdf
  • A study into land rights and agricultural productivity in Ghana found that secure land rights are crucial for efficient farm production.  The research suggests that demanding land rights through programmes pushing for greater political empowerment result in greater agricultural output. Goldstein and Urdy (2008).  Found at: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPUBSERV/Resources/477250-1186007634742/GoldsteinProfitsofPower.pdf

Seasonal famine adaptation

Economic Empowerment

Microfinance

  • A study found that teaching women microlenders about business and entrepreneurship greatly improved business knowledge, practices and significantly increased revenues and client retention rates. Karlan and Valdivia  (2010). Found at: http://ideas.repec.org/p/egc/wpaper/941.html
  • Microloans can be administered to a group or individuals. The insurance of group loans is based on a shared responsibility of members of the group to use funds for investment and to repay on time. However, there is a move towards more individual loans. A study into the differences between group lending and individual lending in rural Mongolia found that group lending schemes result in better investments and lenders in a group scheme are more likely to own their own enterprises than individual lenders. Attanasio et al (2011).  Found at: http://ipl.econ.duke.edu/bread/papers/policy/p027.pdf
  • Granting once-off start up loans have historically been regarded as insufficient in facilitating the creation of new and successful economic microenterprises however  a study on microlending in Sri Lanka shows the opposite and suggests that perhaps once- off micro loans are effective for long term profitability. de Mel et al (2012) Found at: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6071/962.abstract

Local prices/markets

  • A study into the impacts of in-kind (non-monetary) welfare transfers to poor families versus cash transfers on local food prices found that in-kind transfers had the effect of reducing prices of close subsitute goods to the ones on the scheme and an increase in the overall supply of goods by about 50% which further reduced local food costs. Cunha et al (2011). Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/price-effects-cash-versus-kind-transfers
  • An experiment into what motivates parents to purchase shoes for children (a preventative measure against hookworm, ringworm etc) using a random dispersal of vouchers for shoes and an education campaign on diseases contracted from barefoot-walking in Kenya found that cost was more significant a factor affecting investment in shoes than knowledge of potential diseases contracted by walking barefoot. It also found that giving mothers rather than fathers the shoe vouchers was far more likely to increase investment in children’s shoes. Meredith et al (2011). Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/influences-investments-preventative-health-products-kenya
  • Cell-phone based money transfer products such as M-PESA are hugely popular in East Africa and S.E. Asia. One study into the effect of M-PESA on consumption in Kenya found that the product is effective in helping resource constrained families spread the risk of income loss and also prevent the negative impacts that income loss have on consumption patterns. Jack and Suri (2011) Found at: http://www.mit.edu/~tavneet/Jack_Suri.pdf

Education and Child Development

School Attendance and Education Quality

  • Schultz’s seminal study into the Progressa cash-transfer scheme for poor families in Mexico was one of the first papers to highlight the effectiveness of cash-transfers on increasing primary school enrollment and attendance. The research also looked into the effects of the programme on fertility but found no evidence the programme had an impact. Schultz  (2004). Found at: http://ideas.repec.org/p/egc/wpaper/834.html
  • It is accepted that cash incentives can positively affect school attendance of low income families. Research into the impact of three different types of cash incentives for school attendance was carried out in Colombia and the results showed that a combined package of cash plus an incentive for graduation increased attendance, pass rates, enrollment, graduation rates and matriculation to tertiary institutions significantly more than cash-transfers alone. Barrera-Osorio et al (2007). Found at: http://ddp-ext.worldbank.org/EdStats/COLimp08.pdf
  • Similarly, in another study on school attendance in rural and poor Columbia, it was found that subsidised private school costs increased significantly private school attendance which in turn reduced the repetition of school years and also reduced teen cohabitation compared to the publicly-educated sample. Angrist et al (2002)  Found at: http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/24
  • Another recent study into conditional cash transfers on education in Brazil found that positive results in school attendance. Schaffland (2011) Found at: http://www2.vwl.wiso.uni-goettingen.de/courant-papers/CRC-PEG_DP_84.pdf
  • A seminal study into the effects of deworming on absenteeism in 75 Kenyan schools showed that distributing an inexpensive deworming medicine to children aged reduced absenteeism by 25% in the schools studied. Kremer et al (2004). Found at: www.people.hbs.edu/nashraf/Miguel_Kremer_2004.pdf
  • A seminal study into the effects of early treatment of diarrhea disease on fitness and cognitive ability of children in Brazil found that treating diarrhea has significantly positive impacts on children’s fitness, cognitive ability and general growth and development. Guerrant et al (1999). Found at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10586898

At home learning

  • A study into the socio-economic impacts of electrification in Rwanda highlighted that an increase in access to lighting had positive impacts on children’s education as at home reading was found to be increased. Bench et al (2009) Found at: www.csae.ox.ac.uk/conferences/2011-EDiA/papers/687-Peters.pdf

International child sponsorship

  • A study by Wydick et al 2011 into the effectiveness of child sponsorship showed that of the total sample of individuals from Bolivia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, the Philippines, and Uganda, the children that were part of a formal international sponsorship programme between 1980 and 1992 had better educational attainment, occupation outcomes, less child marriage, better quality dwellings and showed greater community leadership than their peers who were not part of a sponsorship programme. Wydick et al (2011). Found at: http://usf.usfca.edu/fac_staff/wydick/csp.pdf
  • An RCT study done by Duflo et al examines the role-model effect of local female politicians on adolescent girls’ aspirations and educational attainment. The study found that families in villages with female leaders had greater aspirations for their daughters and that . Beaman et al (2012) http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/impact-female-leadership-aspirations-and-educational-attainment-teenage-girls-india
  • Increasing the number of female leaders is a high development priority but what effect does female leadership  have on development? A study done in India by Beaman et al (2006) analysed the effect that female leaders in two different regions (elected through a quota system) had on local public goods and services and found that female leaders are responsive to the complaints of the women in their localities. The issues are typically ones which affect the whole family such as  clean water access. The study also found that despite a lack of experience and/or education, women leaders elected to fill a quota represent  more effectively minority views and the complaints of women than male leaders. Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/publication/women-policy-makers

Gender

  • An RCT study done by Duflo et al examines the role-model effect of local female politicians on adolescent girls’ aspirations and educational attainment. The study found that families in villages with female leaders had greater aspirations for their daughters and that . Beaman et al (2012) http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/impact-female-leadership-aspirations-and-educational-attainment-teenage-girls-india
  • Increasing the number of female leaders is a high development priority but what effect does female leadership  have on development? A study done in India by Beaman et al (2006) analysed the effect that female leaders in two different regions (elected through a quota system) had on local public goods and services and found that female leaders are responsive to the complaints of the women in their localities. The issues are typically ones which affect the whole family such as  clean water access. The study also found that despite a lack of experience and/or education, women leaders elected to fill a quota represent  more effectively minority views and the complaints of women than male leaders. Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/publication/women-policy-makers

Governance

Voting behaviour/corruption    

  • An experiment into the causes and consequences of vote buying/clientelism in over 70 districts in Benin and Sao Tome in West Africa highlighted that education campaigns against vote buying and good governance reduced the practice of vote buying in villages significantly. Similarly, increased access to media and higher quality media which discussed governance issues also significantly reduced vote buying. Wantchekon, Leonard (2003). Found at: www.nyudri.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/clientelism.pdf
  • Aker, Collier and Vicente (2010) studied the impact of a 3-pronged SMS voter education campaign on voter participation in Mozambique and found positive results regards voter turnout level and  perceptions of electoral problems.  Found at: www.unav.es/centro/desarrollo…/working-papers/…/WP-02-2011.pdf

Accountability

  • An experiment into the effects of community monitoring programme on health care services in Uganda showed that involving the community in the monitoring of health care workers with a village-led list of qualitative and quantitative indicators for monitoring the services provided improved the quality of health care service service and increased accountability of health care workers to the community. Bjorkman and Svensson (2009). Found at: http://qje.oxfordjournals.org/content/124/2/735.full.pdf+html
  • An experiment into the effects of dissipating information about public expenditure leakages in the education sector via radio in Uganda proved successful in both stimulating public response and in reducing leakage. Education outcomes improved as well.  Reinikka and Svensson (2005). Found at: http://econ.lse.ac.uk/staff/rburgess/eea/svenssonjeea.pdf
  • A study into the impacts of “citizen report cards” or tools used by community members to monitor and evaluate local leaders in Bangalore showed that using the media to dissipate the negative results of the report cards was effective in ‘shaming’ the officials into taking up more action however there is not much evidence that the report card tool improves services delivery. Surveys by CSOs since the study  in 2002 have shown improvements in service delivery over time. Ravindra (2004) Found at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/52/32/36489212.pdf
  • Research into the effect of Brazil’s publicly released audits of electoral outcomes  showed that  the state policy whereby municipal government expenditure documents are randomly audited by an independent public agency and findings released to the public via media and internet was effective in reducing the re-election of mayors found to be corrupt. The localities more access to radio saw the biggest reduction in  the election of corrupt officials. Ferraz and Finan (2008).  Found at: http://emlab.berkeley.edu/~ffinan/Finan_Audit.pdf

Health

Respiratory Infections

Malaria

  • A study into the effects of costs on uptake of insectide-treated bed nets in Kenya found that the demand for bed nets is relatively price sensitive and that of those households that purchased bed nets in year one were much more likely to purchase a second net 12 months later, proving that bednets were a cost effective intervention in this context. Dupas (2009). Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/role-exposure-social-networks-and-marketing-messages-households-willingness-pay-malaria-p
  • A study into the proper use of anti-malarial medication and the effect of subsidies on ACT treatment    in Kenya found that uptake of ACT treatment increased by 59% when subsidies for the drugs were 90% of the total cost but that only 59% of those buying drugs tested positive for malaria. The study showed that by reducing the subsidy for the drugs and introducing a subsidy for malaria diagnosing kits resulted in a higher percentage of positively infected people seeking treatment and thus reduced misuse and waste of life saving medication. Cohen et (2011). Found at: http://www.econ.ucla.edu/pdupas/CohenDupasSchaner_ACT.pdf

HIV/AIDS

  • A study carried out in Zambia into the role of incentives on the distribution of female condoms showed that 97% of hairdressers approached to sell packs of female condoms agreed to the job and that non-financial incentives such as an invitation to an awards night for highest sales was most effective in boosting sales of female condoms compared to a cash bonus. This study also analysed the potential for hairdressers, with their local credibility and close contact with people- to be patrons for local development programs -particularly female sexual behaviour. Ashraf et al (2011). Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/role-incentives-distribution-public-goods-zambia
  • In 2004 a study into the effects of free HIV testing and various valued vouchers that subsidise the cost of obtaining HIV results at nearby VCT clinics in Malawi found that participants that were given a voucher to obtain results were twice as likely to seek HIV results and upon diagnosis, participants that were found to be HIV positive were also found to purchase twice as many condoms as those HIV positive participants that did not seek their results. Thornton (2008). Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/demand-and-impact-learning-hiv-status-malawi
  • A study carried out from 2003- 2010 in Kenya investigated the effects that training teachers about HIV/AIDs and providing school uniforms to girls had on sexual behaviour and sexual health showed that while teaching training increased the quality of HIV/AIDS education, it did not reduce teenage pregnancy (proof of unprotected sex) or reduce the number girls with of STIs over the 7 year period. The study also found that providing uniforms to girls increased their likelihood to stay in school but did not reduce their chances of contracting STIs. The combined treatment of uniforms and teaching training was however, most effective in reducing drop outs and teenage pregnancy. Duflo et al (2011). Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/preventing-hiv-and-teen-pregnancy-kenya-roles-teacher-training-and-education-subsidies
  • A recent study into the effects of conditional cash incentives on STI infection rates in a large sample of Tanzanian 18-30 year olds found that cash-transfers of $20 a month combined with a condition for HIV testing signifcantly reduced the number of individuals infected with STIs compared to a group that received $10 a month conditional cash transfer with no condition for testing. Abdul et al (2011). Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/incentivizing-safe-sex-rural-tanzania

Water and Sanitation

  • Research into the effects of cost and persuasion on uptake of water chlorination products in Kenya found that  households were reluctant to pay for chlorination products despite being given vouchers. Only 10% of participants redeemed their vouchers but after a 7 month period chlorine was found to be used in 54% more households than at the baseline. Persuasion was highly effective at increasing uptake of chlorine products as 40% of participants who were visited by a community volunteer about the health benefits of using chlorination products were found to increase use compared to 4% of those participants that did not receive the home visit. Kremer et al (2009). Found at: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/source-dispensers-and-home-delivery-chlorine-kenya

Vaccination uptake

  • A study carried out to assess the efficacy of modest non-financial incentives on immunisation rates in children aged 1-3 against the effect of only improving the realability of the immunisation supply service  in rural India showed that improving the realibility of immunisation services increases uptake but that small incentives- such as a 1kg bag of lentils- greatly increased the uptake of the treatments. Banerjee et al (2010). Found at: http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/57503
  • Improved wood burning Onil stoves were shown to be effective in reducing wood consumption by almost 60% in Guatemala. Found at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/028k16424m766585/fulltext.pdf
  • A study into a recycling programme in Peru found that an intervention which aimed to incentivise at home-waste separation and recycling was made redundant by the presence of external informal recyclers that collect plastic items locally. The study suggests the importance of understanding context in development programming. Chong et al (2011) http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/recycling-program-take-and-participation-northern-peru
  • A central question in development is should aid reward performance ? A study in Indonesia investigated whether placing performance incentives on development aid improves the efficacy of aid programmes. On a large sample of villages it tested how 12 maternal and child health and education indicators were affected by making grant aid performance-based. It was found that performance-based funding incentive were correlated with better maternal and child health indicators but not better education. Olken et al (2012). Found at: http://papers.nber.org/papers/w17892#fromrss

Sustainability/Environment

Quality of Aid

  • A central question in development is should aid reward performance ? A study in Indonesia investigated whether placing performance incentives on development aid improves the efficacy of aid programmes. On a large sample of villages it tested how 12 maternal and child health and education indicators were affected by making grant aid performance-based. It was found that performance-based funding incentive were correlated with better maternal and child health indicators but not better education. Olken et al (2012). Found at: http://papers.nber.org/papers/w17892#fromrss 

See also: “Basing the Post-2015 Development Framework on Programmes That Work

Entry filed under: MDGs, Overseas aid. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Conas NGO éifeachtach a aithint? Basing the Post-2015 Development Framework on Programmes That Work

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Caragh Munn  |  01/11/2012 at 2:28 pm

    Additional studies relating to HIV that provide evidence of what works for HIV prevention:
    1. Bailey RC, Moses S, Parker CB, Agot K, Maclean I, et al. (2007) Male circumcision for HIV prevention in young men in Kisumu, Kenya: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 369: 643–656.

    2. Gray RH, Kigozi G, Serwadda D, Makumbi F, Watya S, et al. (2007) Male circumcision for HIV prevention in men in Rakai, Uganda: a randomised trial. Lancet 369: 657–666.

    3. Maryam Shahmanesh, Vikram Patel, David Mabey, Frances Cowan (2008) Effectiveness of interventions for the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in female sex workers in resource poor setting: a systematic review. Tropical Medicine & International Health, Volume 13, Issue 5, pages 659–679, May 2008

    4. Prevention of HIV-1 Infection with Early Antiretroviral Therapy
    Myron S. Cohen, M.D., Ying Q. Chen, Ph.D., Marybeth McCauley, M.P.H., Theresa Gamble, Ph.D., Mina C. Hosseinipour, M.D., Nagalingeswaran Kumarasamy, M.B., B.S., James G. Hakim, M.D., Johnstone Kumwenda, F.R.C.P., Beatriz Grinsztejn, M.D., Jose H.S. Pilotto, M.D., Sheela V. Godbole, M.D., Sanjay Mehendale, M.D., Suwat Chariyalertsak, M.D., Breno R. Santos, M.D., Kenneth H. Mayer, M.D., Irving F. Hoffman, P.A., Susan H. Eshleman, M.D., Estelle Piwowar-Manning, M.T., Lei Wang, Ph.D., Joseph Makhema, F.R.C.P., Lisa A. Mills, M.D., Guy de Bruyn, M.B., B.Ch., Ian Sanne, M.B., B.Ch., Joseph Eron, M.D., Joel Gallant, M.D., Diane Havlir, M.D., Susan Swindells, M.B., B.S., Heather Ribaudo, Ph.D., Vanessa Elharrar, M.D., David Burns, M.D., Taha E. Taha, M.B., B.S., Karin Nielsen-Saines, M.D., David Celentano, Sc.D., Max Essex, D.V.M., and Thomas R. Fleming, Ph.D. for the HPTN 052 Study Team
    N Engl J Med 2011; 365:493-505August 11, 2011DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1105243

    Reply
    • 2. Dóchas  |  02/11/2012 at 10:48 pm

      For those of us who have not read these studies, Caragh, can you summarise what they found? What this blog post tries to do is to make the conclusions accessible, not just to give references… Thanks!

      Reply

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