Selection of linked Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) completed and contract awarding started in February 2018 under the highly competitive second request for proposals of the Economic Development & Institutions (EDI) research programme. 13 projects were selected for funding out of 105 applications from diverse researcher-practitioner partnerships around the world.

The request for ‘Randomised Controlled Trials to Evaluate Strategies to Enhance the Effectiveness of Public Institutions in Developing Countries’ launched in August 2017 as an open call online on the EDI website and in collaboration with the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California Berkley. During a six-month process, the EDI Scientific Committee solicited, evaluated and ultimately chose a set of randomised evaluations to identify ‘institutional changes that can improve economic outcomes and increase growth.’

Applicants took special efforts to connect their individual initiatives to EDI’s research agenda, addressing the open questions in EDI’s White Paper and Path Finding Papers. Successful proposals highlighted how the research relates to institutional change and economic development and how the projects will assess the wider external validity of the RCTs.

Researchers could apply for funding of either Full-Scale RCTs or Pilots to test approaches. The request elicited 105 proposals – of which 64 were Full-Scale and 41 Pilot projects. Applications were of high-quality, with proposals from some of the most prominent experimental researchers in the field today. 8 Full-Scale and 5 Pilot proposals were selected for funding by the UK Department for International Development as part of EDI.

EDI’s review involved a multi-layered process, including shortlisting, blinded and unblinded reviews, along with technical assessments and budget analysis. Each application was reviewed at least twice in depth as part of the technical review process and then reviewed again during the Selection Committee meeting, whereby each of the seven members read the referee report for each application and then made their own determinations after assessing the proposal individually. This process ensures that all applications selected for funding were vetted as representing the highest quality standards, the most impactful policy potential, and the greatest value-for-money.

The Selection Committee feels that supporting these research initiatives will significantly advance the global understanding of key economic development priorities, including issues such as property rights and inheritance; public-private partnerships; labour markets and employer-employee disputes; taxation, audits and credit, as well as how incentives and information can shape institutions.

EDI is an innovative multi-dimensional research initiative that seeks to ‘produce a body of evidence and insights into what practicable actions produce institutional changes that improve economic outcomes and increase growth.’ It features four distinct Research Areas. During the first request for proposals, EDI selected 6 Full-Scale and 11 Pilot RCTs for funding. These are summarised on the EDI website. EDI is confident that the selected additional proposals under the second request will complement and expand on these ongoing efforts to identify policies that can alter institutional arrangements in ways that enhance economic growth. Detail of the selected proposals will be published when contracting is completed.