PEP Launches its Third Phase of Activities!

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It is with great pleasure that we announce the launching of the third phase of the PEP network! With over $CAN 7 million of funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), PEP is embarking upon a phase of over four years running to December 31, 2011. This phase will build extensively on our past work in many new and challenging ways.
In addition to our core grants and scientific support activities, a number of new joint research initiatives have already been launched:

The AusAID-funded Policy Impact Evaluation Research Initiative (PIERI)

Launching of AusAID-funded Policy Impact Evaluation Research Initiative (PIERI)
Thanks to the joint effort of a team of international experts and the financial support from the Australian Aid Agency, a series of up to six policy experiments will be conducted between 2007 and 2010 by teams of developing countries researchers from around the world. The experiments will make it possible to evaluate the impacts of various policies and programs that aim to improve human capital in rural areas.

Why should evaluations be conducted?
With the transition to market-based systems, many countries are designing and implementing social policies targeted to specific populations, e.g. social protection to poor people, job training programs to the youth and unemployed and agricultural development programs to farmers. Policy-makers, donors and taxpayers are interested in knowing whether the money is well spent. Conducting an evaluation can help answer important questions such as:

  • What is the average impact of the program on participants?
  • What would be the impact from expanding eligibility to the program?
  • What would be the average impact if the program was universal?
  • Who gains the most from the program?
  • Are some people missed by the program?
  • Do others benefit who should not?
  • Would it be possible to have the same impacts at lower cost?

In fine, conducting an evaluation can help generate political support for the continuation or expansion of a program. It can feed into the design of the intervention and lead to its improvement.

Why should experiments be run?
Rigorous assessments of public interventions are needed. Field experiments, just like controlled medical experiments, provide the most convincing evidence. The objective in modern evaluation research is to construct a comparison group of non-participants who are as similar to the participants as possible – with the exception that they do not receive the treatment. That is precisely what an experiment allows by randomly assigning the treatment to some people and not to others: the best “counterfactual” possible.
What can we learn from a series of experiments in different countries?
The advantage of a series of evaluation projects centered on a unified theme is that it makes it possible to contrast and compare results in order to draw out general results and identify country specificities. For this reason, it contributes to the accumulation of knowledge on the behavioral responses to incentives embedded in programs.
Why focusing on human capital-enhancing strategies in rural areas?
People around the world value education and health for themselves and their families. Policy-makers also value them because only a well-trained and healthy population is likely to create wealth. In recognition of this fact, human capital is at the center of the MDGs and many other poverty alleviation strategies that have been designed and implemented throughout the developing world. Health and education poverty is particularly stark in rural regions.
Why should the research be done by developing countries researchers with technical and financial support from PEP-AusAID?
Evaluation findings may also inform policies outside national boundaries. Their public good value justifies funding evaluations with resources beyond those available domestically. But, who should perform the evaluation? Program administrators conducting in-house evaluations, although very knowledgeable, may be more likely to emphasize positive impacts. In contrast, while possibly more objective, international experts may lack in-depth knowledge of the program and its environment. Researchers in developing countries are often the best placed to undertake program evaluations, as they can be as knowledgeable as program administrators while remaining as impartial as international experts. When appropriately trained and given resources to conduct the evaluations, they are likely to generate a valuable input into decision-making. A team of international experts from Australia, Canada, Peru and USA will provide the scientific support.
Some important details about the initiative:

  • With a total budget of CAN $1,284,000, with a generous contribution of CAN $1,104,000 from AusAID, this initiative will provide funding for six field experiments that will help evaluate the impacts of human capital enhancing interventions around the world (see Call for proposals).
  • With additional funding from other donors, this first phase of PIERI may be followed by additional phases focusing on other type of poverty-focused interventions relevant to policy-makers around the world.

The PEP-OPHI Human Development and Capabilities Initiative

PEP announces a new partnership with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI; www.ophi.org.uk). OPHI is a member of the Human Development Capabilities Association (HDCA, www.capabilityapproach.com), which promotes research from many disciplines on key problems including poverty, justice, well-being and economics. As a first step in this partnership, PEP will offer up to five grants of $CAN 20,000 (plus up to $CAN 30,000 in additional funding) for research on analyzing poverty in the multidimensional context of the capabilities approach. Two of these grants will be funded by OPHI and three will be funded by PEP. Scientific support for all grants will be provided jointly by OPHI and PEP staff under the leadership of Sabina Alkire (director of OPHI) and Jean-Yves Duclos (PMMA network leader). This initiative builds on the extensive work of OPHI on implementing Sen’s capabilities approach in developing countries and of the PEP network on multidimensional poverty analysis.
Other joint activities are in the planning stages including a possible training workshop on implementing the capabilities approach in developing countries at the next PEP general meeting. PEP and OPHI staff have contributed to each others’ general meetings beginning with Louis-Marie Asselin’s participation in the HDCA 2006 Conference in Groningen, Netherlands. Sabina presented OPHI at the 6th PEP general meeting in Lima as well as acting as a discussant and chair in several sessions. Jean-Yves Duclos conducted one day of training at the HDCA summer school in New York this October, deputy PMMA network leader Jean-Bosco Ki attended this summer school and John Cockburn participated in the 2007 HDCA Conference that immediately followed.
Proposals are welcome (deadline for submitting: January 7, 2008) for one of two themes, listed below (see Call for proposal) :

Theme 1: Missing Dimensions of Poverty Data – in this theme, research teams are invited to undertake empirical analysis of all data from five modules of the proposed ‘missing dimensions’ (information and survey modules are available on www.ophi.org.uk). Teams are not asked to conduct a large survey. They may choose to use new data that are in the process of being collected, or to undertake qualitative, ethnographic and/or participatory work alongside a small quantitative survey in order to probe the validity and strengths and weaknesses of the survey instrument in particular contexts.

Theme 2: Identification and Multidimensional Poverty – in this theme, research teams are invited to critically examine identification techniques and weighting options for multidimensional poverty measures. Research teams may choose to use a new identification method or various existing multidimensional poverty measures and intersection/union approaches. They may also choose to explore further issues of weighting and adjustments for interconnections between variables.

The PEP School: Training On Poverty And Economic Policy Analysis

The PEP school offers training programs on techniques and tools for the analysis of poverty and economic policy. It includes distance learning, training workshop and technical support components. Training is offered on poverty monitoring, measurement and analysis, on one hand, and on modelling the impacts of macroeconomic policies and shocks, on the other hand. PEP school is an annual 16-week training program organized by the PEP network in partnership with southern institutions. Scientific expertise is provided by PEP resource persons. The training aims to:

  • Enhance local capacity in monitoring, measuring and analyzing poverty;
  • Improve the understanding of the poverty impacts of macroeconomic policy and shocks through training  in the theoretical foundations and empirical implementation of their analysis;
  • Contribute to the design of effective national growth and poverty reduction strategies.

The "Consortium pour la Recherche Économique et Sociale" (CRES) in Dakar, Senegal, has taken the lead in establishing this initiative in Africa in collaboration with other African institutions. In particular, in October 2007 CRES is launching the first year of PEP school on the theme of modelling the micro impacts of macroeconomic policies and shocks.

Many other such research initiatives are currently under development.
Furthermore, as PEP seeks to expand and institutionalize its activities throughout the developing world, we are becoming increasingly dependent on our regional offices. In this context, we were very happy to learn that the Grupo de Analisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE), which so ably organized PEP's 6th general meeting, has accepted to host our new Latin American office, with Martin Valdivia as the director. At the same time, our rapidly growing African office features a new director, Abdoulaye Diagne, who is also the director of its host institution, the Consortium for Economic and Social Research (CRES). In this third phase, the African office is taking on a number of important responsibilities, including handling the overall administration and all  disbursements for the MPIA and PMMA networks, as well as the organization of the inaugural workshop of the PEP school. In Asia, the Angelo King Institute continues to run the CBMS network from its office in the Philippines, while the PEP-GTAP South Asian Network of Economic Modelers (SANEM) focuses on developing MPIA activities in the region. Finally, the CIRPÉE office in Canada will continue to coordinate the scientific evaluation and support, as well as the overall development of the MPIA and PMMA networks, in collaboration with PEP's regional offices, steering committee, deputy network leaders and resources persons throughout the world.
We believe that PEP is on the eve of a major expansion in its continuing efforts to put developing country researchers at the heart of research on poverty in developing countries. We appreciate efforts from all of you - researchers, policy makers, government officials, bilateral and multilateral donor representatives, NGOs, civil society and all other stakeholders and members of the public interested in reducing poverty - to foster the development of our network.

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