What works? A new way to bring more evidence to development

Information and accountability researchers discuss the results of their studies. Photo by: Evidence in Governance and Politics Twitter

Since 2013, teams of researchers have set out to answer this single question across multiple countries: How does providing information to voters affect political behavior and preferences? From India to Mexico to Uganda, the answer remained the same: It doesn’t. The combined data revealed no significant results from information provided in the weeks leading up to an election.

“We were surprised to learn that providing information to voters didn’t have the effects that we anticipated, but given the consistency of the results across six studies, we feel much more confident that the aggregate results aren’t due to chance or bad luck,” said Susan Hyde, executive director of Evidence in Governance and Politics, or EGAP, a network of researchers and practitioners dedicated to bringing evidence to policy. “Overall, the process has reinforced my belief that collaboration between international development practitioners and researchers is more critical than ever to better understand what works and why.”

At a presentation at the University of California, Berkeley, earlier this month, Hyde displayed graphs of disaggregated results for voter turnout and incumbent vote share. They demonstrated that distributing information that differed both positively and negatively from prior held beliefs about politicians had null results across the projects. But null results are still results, Hyde said.

The findings are the results of the first cluster of studies from the Metaketa Initiative. Metaketa is the Basque word for accumulation, a reference to the way these grantmaking rounds supporting coordinated research at different sites that can result in a consolidation of knowledge. EGAP launched the initiative with funding primarily from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and additional support from…

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