The Economic Development and Institutions (EDI) programme combines academic excellence with practical impact, delivering strong progress in 2019 and early 2020.

EDI is a multi-dimensional programme. It features four research areas, each with a different approach to research into institutions, and cross-cutting initiatives for communications and on policy engagement. Our objective to produce a body of evidence and insights into what practicable actions produce institutional changes that improve economic outcomes and increase growth.

The programme is underpinned by path-finding papers, twenty of which Princeton University Press published in January 2020 as the ‘Handbook of Economic Development and Institutions’. The book was edited by EDI’s Research Directors, François Bourguignon and Jean-Philippe Platteau and our Scientific Committee members Jean-Marie Baland and Thierry Verdier. It is available for purchase at Princeton University Press. Pre-publication working paper versions of the chapters are available to download free of charge on the EDI website.

We engage actively with government and policy stakeholders to understand better the institutional constraints to development. We published the institutional diagnostic of Benin in August 2019 and held a workshop with policymakers and researchers in Cotonou in January 2020. Closing this workshop, the representative of Benin’s minister of higher education and research, Mr Daton Medenou, thanked the EDI team for the work being done on Benin, and the great interest and high-level discussions that it brought among policy and decision makers.

This study built on our Tanzania institutional diagnostic that was completed in 2018, disseminated at large-scale events in April 2019 in Dar es Salaam and for which we published an ‘afterword’ accounting for current events in October 2019. Our third institutional diagnostic focused on Bangladesh is nearing completion, with expected publication in April 2020. The fourth study on Mozambique started in February 2019 and publication is planned for autumn 2020.

We test potential policy solutions in 30 pilot and full-scale Randomised Control Trials (RCTs). Led by OPM, the EDI programme adopted an innovate approach for commissioning these projects, including requirements for linkage to other studies, and a strong preference that each RCT has a partnership with a government ministry or public organisations. We are seeing significant impact and the first RCT working papers have been published on our website. We are also delighted to have funded pilot work by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, joint winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.

In EDI’s fourth research area, we commissioned 31 case-studies motivated by the academic research agenda on the interactions between formal and informal institutions. A significant number of case study working papers have been published on our website and direct policy impact is emerging in many cases.

Overall, EDI has contributed to five institutional reforms to date:

  • Mexico’s most significant labour reform in a century was ratified by the Mexican Senate in May 2019 and informed by EDI’s RCT on Mexico City’s Labour Court, with written input to the law by the RCT’s research lead Joyce Sadka.
  • The President of Mexico City’s Labour Court has now institutionalised the information booth provision of this RCT to be permanent, and provided by the Court itself.
  • In Sierra Leone, the main political parties have adopted the voter reports recommendations from Katherine Casey et al’s RCT on candidate selection and accountability, with measurable improvements in voter representation.
  • In Bangladesh, Hannah Uckat et al pioneered in their case study a garment sector female supervisor training programme, which has been so successful that the IFC and ILO have scaled this up to a national programme in Bangladesh now and the World Bank is considering its application in Ethiopia.
  • Martin Williams et al’s training for productivity programme has been adopted by Ghana’s civil service, which is now also using the case study’s promotion scoring system as a tool to improving public sector delivery.

There has been additional participation by EDI researchers in policymaking fora, as well as major other policy engagement and dissemination activities, including the publication of several media reports, blogs and videos. For example:

Academic impact is also forthcoming. In addition to Princeton University Press’ publication of the ‘Handbook of Economic Development and Institutions’, a number of EDI working papers have been submitted to some of the most prestigious academic journals. The EDI pathfinding paper on ‘conflict and development’ was published by the Annual Review of Economics Vol. 9 (2017), and other publications are forthcoming. EDI research is already being cited widely in other working papers and journals. The year 2020 will see an increasing number of EDI research projects completing, providing further opportunities for academic and direct policy impact.