The Economic Development and Institutions (EDI) research programme is an innovative initiative combining deep intellectual foundations with practical policy impact. 2018 marked the second year of implementation of the programme with strong progress towards research and policy impact.

The programme has a conceptual starting point – ‘institutions’. Building upon the existing literature, EDI’s scientific committee members Jean-Marie Baland, François Bourguignon, Jean-Philippe Platteau and Thierry Verdier propose the following perspective (2017, publication forthcoming):

‘We conceive of institutions as rules, procedures or other human devices that can constrain individual behaviour, either explicitly or implicitly, with a view to making individual expectations about others’ behaviour converge and to allowing individual actions to become co-ordinated.’

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.

The programme is underpinned by 23 pathfinding papers by world-class researchers that set priorities for the EDI initiative. They will be the basis for a ‘Handbook of Economic Development and Institutions’ for publication by Princeton University Press in 2019.

Four country studies are being undertaken with the overall objective to produce an institutional diagnostic toolkit, or approach, to understand institutional bottlenecks to growth in developing countries – an institutional analogy inspired by the Hausmann, Rodrik and Velasco ‘growth diagnostics’ framework.

  • The first institutional diagnostic, on Tanzania, was published in September 2018. It developed a new approach to overcoming institutional barriers with a detailed account of proximate and deep causes. A blog series on thematic findings is published on the EDI website. EDI will host a conference in Dar es Salam in April 2019 to discuss the findings with policymakers and researchers.
  • The Benin institutional diagnostic is in advanced stages. A first assessment of the country’s institutional constraints was published in November 2018 and thematic deep-dives will be presented at a workshop in Cotonou in March 2019. The study will complete in summer 2019.
  • The Bangladesh institutional diagnostic launched in June 2018 and a detailed questionnaire-based survey is underway. A workshop among EDI authors will kick off thematic investigations in spring 2019. Completion of the study is targeted for end-2019 / early 2020.
  • EDI initiated the fourth country study on Mozambique in February 2019. This will continue to build on the approach developed for the other countries to advance development of the overall toolkit as well as providing an in-depth assessment of Mozambique’s institutional barriers to stronger economic development.

The EDI programme selected 30 Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) under competitive requests for proposals with an innovative approach. This included requirements for linkage to other studies, and a strong preference that each RCT has a partnership with a government ministry or public organisations. This has resulted in strong policy relevance. Our Policy Institute and Link UP event, held together with our implementation partner CEGA, brought together policymakers and researchers in August 2018 with the explicit objective of enhancing impact. As Dr. Paul Kimalu, Deputy Director of the Judiciary of Kenya commented: “[the] event was critical to find ways of ensuring an effective link between research/impact evaluation and policy implementation. I am grateful for the invitation and count on my support for future EDI/CEGA engagements.” All papers and video recordings from the event are available on the EDI website.

The fourth Research Area of EDI consists of 31 case studies on the interactions between formal and informal institutions. across three thematic groups: 1) private sector and the institutional environment; 2) bureaucracies and state systems; and 3) informal social agencies (family, gender and conflicts). The first working papers have been published on the EDI website.

Across EDI, we are seeing early policy impact. This is captured in a number of policy briefs and research insights published on the EDI website. Moreover, the Tanzania institutional diagnostic was presented to the UK Department for International Development 2018 Economist Conference to inform the department’s internal country diagnostics. Erica Field and Kate Vyborny’s ongoing RCT has convinced Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology to change the marriage contract to grant women the authority to divorce their husbands without having to seek legal aid. Rwanda’s Minister of Education invited RCT author Andrew Zeitlin to write a policy brief outlining challenges and policy levers in teacher recruitment and management. Dilip Mookherjee has been invited to assess formulae for enhancing social benefit transfers by the West Bengal government based upon his EDI case study. And one of Mexico’s most significant labour reform proposals in more than a century was introduced to the Senate in January 2019, informed by EDI research led by Joyce Sadka et al.

The strength of academic and policy impact results so far achieved lays the basis for the next phase of the programme this year. Events in research countries and a wider EDI conference in summer will promote this further. Research outputs, policy briefs and other outputs will be made available online and our Handbook on Institutions and Economic Development will be published as a printed volume this year. To keep informed about this programme, sign up to our quarterly EDI Newsletter.