EDI Year in Review 2020-21
When we published our last ‘Year in Review’ in February 2020 we could not have imagined the circumstances in which we would find ourselves living and working during 2020-21. By May 2020 the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on many areas of the EDI programme was apparent: almost all EDI staff and researchers were ‘locked down’ and working from home in numerous locations around the globe, almost all fieldwork was halted, events were cancelled, and ways of working changed as the ability to conduct and disseminate primary research was tested. Despite these unprecedented challenges, there have been significant achievements in the EDI programme over the past twelve months.
As the year progressed it became well understood that Covid-19 is much more than a crisis in global health. The effectiveness of policy responses to the pandemic depended – and continues to depend – on institutions which themselves have felt the effects of the pandemic in varying ways; social norms have been both strengthened and challenged, patterns of inequality broken down and exacerbated, and balances of political power destabilised as well as reinforced. To help further understand the institutional aspects of Covid-19, EDI commissioned a series of essays in 2020. To date seven essays have been published on the EDI website covering a range of topics, along with a blog summarising them by OPM Senior Economist, Umar Salam.
Over the past year we have continued to engage actively with government and policy stakeholders to understand better the institutional constraints to development. In June 2020 we published the Bangladesh Institutional Diagnostic, led by Selim Raihan (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and the Executive Director of SANEM) together with EDI Research Director François Bourguignon. Although an in-person dissemination event wasn’t possible, since its publication SANEM have hosted three thematic webinars based on chapters of the study (banking, Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector, and tax reform). These webinars have provided the opportunity to disseminate findings, discuss the work, and gain reactions and feedback.
During 2020 significant progress has been made in the area of EDI-funded Randomised Control Trials (RCTs). Eight additional RCT working papers have been published on the EDI website this year and impressive policy impact has been seen in relation to several studies:
- The Council of Islamic Ideology announced they will review their marriage contract in order to simplify the terms and conditions of the contract for both marriage registrars and families alike. This announcement was based on findings by EDI’s RCT on Institutional Reform and de facto Women’s Rights led by Erica Field and Kate Vyborny.
- The same study contributed to the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women and has advocated for more progressive marriage policy in Punjab. This proposed marriage policy has since been picked up by the Federal Government as part of their 100 Day Empowerment Package.
- A gender training programme piloted in Soledad Prillaman’s RCT on “Is Knowledge Power? Civics Training, Women’s Political Representation, and Local Governance in India” is due to be implemented by India’s ﬂagship poverty alleviation programme, the National Rural Livelihood Mission, across all Self-Help groups in India. A blog and essay by Soledad related to this research look at the impact of COVID-19 on the gains made to women’s empowerment.
EDI case studies which focus on institutional change over time have also progressed with nineteen case study working papers published on the EDI website to date and several already being published in academic journals:
- Debraj Ray and Garance Genicot, ‘Aspirations in Economics: a review’ has been published in the Annual Review of Economics, June 2020.
- Martin J. Williams and Liah Yecalo-Tecle, ‘Innovation, voice, and hierarchy in the public sector: Evidence from Ghana’s civil service’ has been published in the journal Governance, October 2020.
- Eliana La Ferrara, Lucia Corno and Alessandra Voena, ‘Female genital cutting and the slave trade’, January 2021, has been published in the Centre for Economic Policy Research.
- ‘Industrial Clusters, Networks, and Resilience of Firms to the Covid-19 Shock in China’ by Ruochen Dai, Dilip Mookherjee, Yingyue Quan, Xiaobo Zhang, VoxChina, has been published in the Journal of Economic Behaviour & Organization, as well as an article in VoxChina.
In October 2020 we also published the Mozambique Institutional Diagnostic. This final diagnostic study was completed under the leadership of the Principal Investigator Finn Tarp, Professor at the University of Copenhagen and an authority on Mozambique. Following the publication of the diagnostic, a policy engagement and dissemination event took place online and as a small Covid-secure in-person event in Maputo, Mozambique.
The Bangladesh and Mozambique institutional diagnostic studies built on our previous Tanzania and Benin country studies which were published in 2018 and 2019. Over the next twelve months, EDI will continue to progress work on the institutional diagnostic through an in-depth synthesis led by EDI Research Directors Professor François Bourguignon and Professor Jean-Philippe Platteau.
As we head into the final year of EDI activities, all remaining RCTs and case studies will be completed, and a detailed programme synthesis will be undertaken. Whilst the ongoing pandemic restricts in-person meetings, we will continue to host online conferences and webinars to share research findings and discuss policy impact, alongside publishing our regular policy briefs.