This study looks at the impact of developing and disseminating material on political candidates. In a context with low literacy levels and limited media penetration innovative approaches and different forms of media are shared with voters and evaluated to better understand the impact on voter knowledge and candidate selection.
Transparent and accountable government institutions are thought to be more effective at delivering important social services such as education and healthcare. However, there is little consensus over how best to enhance these aspects of governance, particularly in places where conflict has recently caused breakdown in democratic institutions. Evidence from Brazil and India suggests that increased information about politician performance can result in lower vote shares for low-performing or corrupt representatives. There is also evidence that town hall meetings, where representatives meet directly with constituents, can increase voter knowledge, turnout and support for participating candidates. While many interventions have tested the efficacy of these strategies at increasing basic voter knowledge and access to candidates, little work has been done where democratic institutions are nascent and where public information is limited. In such settings reliable information on candidates may be limited or non-existent, and thus requires significant effort to collect, compile and then convey such information to voters in a comprehensible manner. Debates may provide a feasible alternative which could work in many settings.
Context of the Evaluation:
Sierra Leone’s 2012 elections were hailed by international observers as generally peaceful, free, and fair. In previous elections voting patterns in Sierra Leone have been overwhelmingly based on pre-existing party affiliations. However, during the 2008 elections, people in Sierra Leone were more likely to vote against traditional party and ethnic affiliations in places where they had more information about candidates (for example, in local elections). Many election-related social programs focus on logistics and informing people about the importance of voting, but as Sierra Leoneans become more familiar with the democratic process there is also room to help people learn more about the different candidates among whom they will be choosing. The 2012 election presented an opportunity to test new electoral programs that could increase transparency, voter knowledge of candidates, and voter engagement.
Description of the Intervention:
In the run-up to the November 2012 elections in Sierra Leone, implementing partner Search for Common Ground filmed debates between rival candidates for membership in parliament (MP). From a total of 264 polling centers, 112 were randomly assigned to receive community screenings of these debates, 40 received interventions that provided information to individual voters, and another 112 served as a comparison group.
Firstly, debates were shown at almost 200 community screenings in polling centers across Sierra Leone, where they were seen by an estimated 19,000 people. Surveys of voters before and after they watched these debates measured how their perception of candidates, their knowledge of candidate positions, and their voting intentions were altered.
In the 40 polling centers assigned to receive individually delivered information, individuals were allocated one of the following groups
Debate: Individuals were shown the exact same debate screened in polling centers on a personal handheld device.
Getting to Know You: Individuals were shown a “getting to know you” video of the same two candidates speaking informally about their hobbies and interests.
Radio Report: Individuals listened to a recording of an independent moderator or journalist summarizing the main policy positions articulated by the two candidates during the debates.
Thin Slice Evaluations: Individuals participated in a “lab” experiment where they were exposed to pairs of isolated images, voice recordings, and names of candidates from other constituencies across the country and asked to rate them along a variety of metrics, such as who they thought would be a better leader.
Comparison Group: Individuals were surveyed, but not shown any media.
Evaluating and comparing these groups will allow researchers to disentangle the effects of different kinds of information, such as policy positions, personal characteristics, or persuasive speeches, on voter behavior.
On election day and the days following researchers administered a short exit survey to both comparison and treatment voters, assessing their knowledge about candidates, previous voting behavior, choices in the local and national election, and how they made their electoral choices. During 2013, researchers are conducting several follow-up activities, including further research on the use of video clips to disseminate electoral information, and interventions targeted at MPs to remind them of their electoral commitments.
Civil war has disrupted the lives of millions of people living in post-conflict countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Communities are left with physical destruction to village infrastructure and social divisions amongst combatants and victims. How do community members, once in conflict with neighbors, move forward with the traumatic memories of war? Every year, development dollars are allocated to transitional justice programming in these war-torn countries, yet the effects of this programming have not been addressed in development economics literature.
Context of the Evaluation:
Sierra Leone’s eleven-year civil war ended in 2002, affecting the entire country. Despite the passage of almost a decade since the end of the war, many parts of the country have not fully recovered from the conflict. Physical damage to public goods, such as buildings and water pipes, remains. Many former combatants, who were children during the war, have not returned to their villages—possibly fearing they will not be accepted.
Fambul Tok International has developed a community-based reconciliation initiative to help communities rebuild. Fambul Tok’s programming provides an alternative to commonly accepted transitional justice mechanisms, such as retributive war crimes courts or truth and reconciliation commissions, both of which have had a presence in post-conflict Sierra Leone. Few community reintegration and reconciliation models, like that of Fambul Tok, have been rigorously evaluated, and evidence on best practices are lacking.
Description of the Intervention:
Fambul Tok’s approach to reconciliation engages community leaders to organize a forgiveness bonfire and cleansing ceremony in the village. At the ceremony, victims, perpetrators and witnesses all have the opportunity to publicly describe their experiences. Perpetrators are given the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and victims the opportunity to forgive. After the ceremony, the community is brought together through activities such as communal farming and designating a peace tree for dispute resolution. These ongoing activities are designed to promote social interconnectedness and build social capital.
One hundred sixty randomly selected villages will receive this intervention. Twelve individuals in each of these villages, as well as in another 160 comparison villages that do not receive the program, will receive a baseline survey collecting data on socioeconomic status, trust, psychosocial well-being, social networks, and specific war-time experiences. An additional village-level survey will be administered in each village to a group of community leaders to garner information on the village’s war experiences and active community projects like communal farms and schools. A follow-up survey will be administered to the full sample one year later.
To understand how reconciliation affects conflict, researchers will analyze how the program impacts individuals’ attitudes toward violence, the incidence of disputes and crimes in the community, and the mechanisms used to resolve disputes. An assessment of whether reconciliation serves as a base for economic development will be conducted through analysis of how the program affects economic activity. The study will further measure whether individuals within treatment communities are more willing to work together or contribute resources for communal ends.
In addition to seeing if reconciliation improves social and economic outcomes, we hope to identify the mechanism through which it affects behavior. We plan to identify the mechanism through the use of behavioral games, which will be conducted in a subset of the communities. Behavioral games are complementary to respondent interviews, insofar as they measure differences in observed rather than reported behavior. The behavioral experiments are designed to disentangle four different components of intra-group behavior: in-group altruism, out-group altruism, reputation and trust. By overlaying four different types of experiments, we can test for different mechanisms through which a change in perceptions and beliefs leads to changed behavior.
Can improved seed varieties benefit poor farmers in Sierra Leone? Can price subsidies and agricultural extension training lessen the costs of early adoption?
Agricultural productivity has stagnated in much of sub-Saharan Africa, while many other regions of the world have seen dramatic productivity improvements in recent decades. New agricultural technologies, such as high-yielding crop varieties, offer the promise of improving productivity and hence the welfare of farmers. But adoption of these technologies has often been low in countries where dissemination programs have been conducted. First adopters of new technologies play an important role in the spread of technology as they take on the burden of experimentation—testing whether and how a new variety works in local conditions. This is particularly important in much of sub-Saharan Africa where a multiplicity of micro climates within a small area means that experimentation is essential for farmers to learn which crop varieties are best for their particular land. There is also concern that early subsidization to increase adoption of new technologies will lead to expectation of continued subsidies, depressing demand at market prices.
Details of the Intervention:
Researchers sought to test whether improved seeds are beneficial for the poor in Sierra Leone and how best to promote uptake given the high costs of early adoption. Early adopters generate a positive externality to surrounding farmers and communities by delivering information on the effectiveness of new varieties and how to make the most of them in local conditions.
Two types of incentives will be tested: (1) a price subsidy scheme allowing farmers to purchase new seeds at a price lower than the market price; and (2) targeted agricultural extension work involving community demonstration plots and practical advice on how to use these seeds. Two types of new seed varieties will be used in the intervention. The first is one of the NERICA varieties and the other is a local variety developed by the Rokupr station, ROK-16, which has proven popular in early participatory variety selection tests.
The first stage of the intervention will pilot the agricultural extension training and subsidy incentives. One treatment arm will receive free seeds and training, and take up and yields will be compared to a comparison group. In the second year, researchers plan to test a more complex set of alternatives involving six treatment arms, each with approximately 35 communities, under three different schemes:
T4: Farmers receive a targeted training program without a formal opportunity to purchase the new seeds.
T5: Farmers receive a targeted training program and are offered the chance to purchase ROK-16 seeds at one of the three subsidized prices.
T6: Farmers are offered one upland variety of NERICA rice (NERICA-6) for free (as is currently the practice of the government’s NERICA project) as well as the targeted training program.
The pricing scheme aims to test the hypothesis that a one-time subsidy can reduce the adoption cost for early-adopters and have a long-lasting effect both on the beneficiary and their neighbors. The training scheme aims to reduce the cost of learning by providing information on how well the seed works in the community (through a demonstration plot) and on how to cope with some of new features of the rice. Both ROK-16 and NERICA are included because there is little information on the relative productivity of each variety of seed in upland conditions.
Key outcome variables measured at endline include: (1) the amount of improved rice variety seeds (NERICA and ROK-16) purchased and planted; (2) planting of other rice varieties and other crops; (3) amount of family and hired labor used on the farm; (4) consumption and food security.
Inter-seasonal fluctuation of agricultural prices is widespread throughout the developing world. For many crops, prices decrease at harvest season, owing to the availability of large quantities of crop, while prices increase in the lean season. However, small farmers are often unable to benefit from this price increase due to a lack of proper storage facilities and credit constraints. Inventory credit products address both storage and credit constraints by allowing small farmers to store their harvest in a secure warehouse as collateral for a loan. Such products have had successful small-scale test cases in West Africa, including Ghana (Technoserve), Niger (Food and Agriculture Organization) and Mali (World Bank). Yet, to date there have been no rigorous evaluations to assess inventory credit’s cost-effectiveness and sustainability.
Context of the Evaluation:
In Sierra Leone, palm oil is an essential component of rice consumption and exhibits large and predictable seasonal price changes, creating inter-temporal arbitrage opportunities, which remain largely unexploited by small farmers. Pilot data shows 72% of farmers sell a majority of their output within two months of harvest, despite an expected price increase of over 70% within six months.
The Sierra Leone National Program Coordinating Unit (NPCU) at the Ministry of Agriculture plans to implement a palm oil inventory credit scheme in collaboration with three Rural and Agricultural Banks (RABs). IPA will use the rollout of this program to conduct a randomized evaluation of the intervention.
Details of the Intervention:
The three participating RABs identified 120 communities that would be eligible to receive the inventory credit product. These communities will be randomly assigned to three groups with 40 communities each: The first will receive the inventory credit product, the second will receive assistance with management of a community storage space, but no access to inventory credit, and the third will serve as a comparison group.
In inventory credit communities, farmers will receive harvest time loans in exchange for storing their palm oil as collateral. The loan amount will be 70% of the palm oil’s harvest-time value, or around $5.50 per 5 gallon container of palm oil. The bank will store the collateral in a secure room provided by and located within the community, which will have two locks: the key for one will be controlled by the community; the key for the other will be controlled by bank staff. The banks will provide containers for the storage space, in which the palm oil will be stored. In the lean season (nine months later), when prices are typically more than 50% higher, the banks will assist the farmers with selling the collateral. The bank will recoup its loan and interest. The farmer will keep all additional revenue.
In storage communities, farmers will receive storage containers for the community store space and assistance with management of the space: NPCU staff will control the key to one lock, while the community will control the key to a second one. However, no inventory credit will be offered.
The study seeks to rigorously evaluate this intervention to examine the relation between storage, credit and access to markets for small farmers. The questions it seeks to answer are: a) Do farmers’ take-up the credit product? b) To what degree do farmers modify their sales patterns when using the credit product? c) Does inventory credit affect prices received by farmers in different seasons of the year?
While the accountability and inclusiveness of institutions are often considered key determinants of economic performance, there is little agreement about exactly how institutions should be designed, how to move from a system of bad institutions to one with good institutions, and whether and how foreign donors can help in this process. One of the most popular strategies employed by donors to promote democratic and accountable institutions at the local level is “community driven development” (CDD). Typical CDD interventions combine flexible grants that communities can spend on local projects with requirements that decisions must be made in an inclusive and transparent manner and training on how to do this. The participation requirements aim to ensure that the projects funded reflect the needs of the community and facilitate learning by doing—i.e. the experiences gained in deciding how to spend project funds leave minority groups better placed to participate in other community decisions after the project ends. While billions of dollars are spent on CDD programs, few studies provide rigorous evidence on their real-world impacts. Critics of CDD, and of decentralization in general, have raised the concern that decentralized funds will be captured or exploited by local elites.
Context of the Evaluation:
Scholars argue that frustrations with government incompetence and corruption, as well as the exclusion of women and young men from decision-making in the traditional chieftaincy system that coordinates the provision of many local public goods, fueled violence during Sierra Leone’s recent civil war. To both prevent a return to violence and to stimulate economic development, the Government of Sierra Leone implemented a number of reforms that give communities, and vulnerable groups within them, a greater voice in local decision-making. Alongside a national decentralization program that re-established district-level councils, the government piloted a community-driven development project that went one step further by providing small grants to be administered by village development committees. This extension down to the village level aimed to establish more inclusive and accountable local decision-making infrastructure, rebuild trust, promote collective action, and provide minority groups (particularly women and youth) with experience in managing projects and making decisions within their community. Researchers and the Decentralization Secretariat collaborated to evaluate whether this pilot, called the “GoBifo” Project (or “Move Forward” in Krio), acheived these goals.
Details of the Intervention:
Two hundred thirty-six villages from two ethnically and politically distinct districts were randomly allocated into a treatment group or a comparison group. Villages in the treatment group were regularly visited by a GoBifo facilitator, who helped community members create or revamp Village Development Committees (VDCs), set up bank accounts for the VDCs, establish transparent budgeting practices, and create village development plans that included specifics on how GoBifo grants would be used. The participation and inclusion of marginalized groups was central to this process – for example, each social group (women, youth, and adult men) came up with their own development plan, and these plans were then combined into a single unified vision. Women were often established as treasurer of the VDC and served as co-signatories on all project finances. A series of block grants totaling US$4,667 per community were given to implement local public goods and skills training projects that were identified in the village development plans.
Household surveys, which covered participation in local decision-making, attitudes to minorities, and engagement in collective action, as well as demographic and socioeconomic information, were collected in late 2005 and again in mid-2009, along with village-level focus group discussions. In addition, three structured community activities (SCAs) were conducted in late 2009, shortly after GoBifo activities had ended, to capture any persistent impacts on collective action, participation of minorities, and elite capture. The SCAs were designed to measure how communities responded to concrete, real-world situations in three areas where GoBifo had sought to change behavior: (i) raising funds in response to a matching grant opportunity; (ii) making a community decision between two comparable alternatives; and (iii) allocating and managing an asset that was provided for free.
Results and Policy Lessons:
The authors and project team agreed a set of hypotheses they would test at the start of the evaluation (in 2005) and wrote out a plan on exactly how the data would be analysed before looking at the data. This prevented selective “cherry picking” of results from the 318 variables collected.
Project Implementation and Local Infrastructure Investment: The GoBifo project successfully established the village-level organizations and tools to manage development projects in nearly all cases. The distribution of project benefits within communities was equitable, leakage of project resources minimal, and minority participation high.
GoBifo villages had a larger stock of higher quality local public goods, such as a functioning primary school or community grain-drying floor, than comparison areas. There was also more market activity in treatment communities, including the presence of more traders and items for sale, suggesting short-run economic gains.
Institutional Change and Collective Action: There is no evidence that the program led to fundamental changes in local institutions or descision-making. Despite the fact that many women in treatment villages participated in GoBifo decisions, they were no more likely to voice an opinion in community meetings after the project ended or to play a leadership role in other areas. Similarly, the establishment of a democratically elected village development committee that carried out multiple projects did not lead treatment villages to be any more successful at raising funds in response to a later matching grant opportunity. Lastly, there were no program impacts on elite capture, although levels of capture were low in the research communities (at least as measured by the third SCA).
In many developing countries, the health sector suffers from a severe human resources problem due to staff shortages and absenteeism. The availability of health care workers is a crucial element of quality care and the existing high levels of absenteeism represent a major leakage in health sector resources. Policy-makers have focused their attention on performance-based financing to incentivize attendance and performance monetarily; however, the evidence on the impact of financial incentives in improving performance in the health sector is mixed. While some programs report positive results, others show little to no effect on attendance and outcomes.
In contrast, recent results have highlighted the power of non-financial incentives to reduce absenteeism and improve performance. Evidence suggests that peer recognition and status-based incentives can be more motivational, less expensive and less likely to erode intrinsic motivation. In addition, another study implementing a community monitoring initiative in Uganda, in which community members and health workers jointly addressed obstacles to adequate healthcare provision. The study found that under-five mortality was 33 percent lower in treatment compared to comparison communities a year later, while utilization for general outpatient services was 20 percent higher.
Yet, the finding that non-financial incentives such as community monitoring improve clinic performance leaves a crucial question unanswered: does community monitoring improve clinic performance because it is a bottom-up intervention which makes clinic personnel socially accountable to their immediate neighbors? Or does it work simply because clinic performance is being monitored and evaluated? The answer to this question is important as top-down monitoring may be potentially cheaper and more efficient than bottom-up monitoring; however, data on this crucial question is lacking.
Context of the Evaluation:
Sierra Leone’s health indicators are among the lowest in the world, and the country’s health system is plagued by such chronic worker absenteeism, resulting in part from a lack of accountability between service providers and patients, and the weak incentives healthworkers face. Alongside a national decentralization program introduced in 2004, the Government of Sierra Leone launched an ambitious policy in 2010 to institute free healthcare for pregnant women, new mothers and children under-five. The policy abolished user fees, while at the same time raising workers’ salaries. However, these reforms occurred without introducing institutional features to improve oversight of health workers or changing underlying incentive systems, leaving the health sector at risk of further weakening in response to rising demand for free health services.
Details of the Intervention:
This project evaluates two social accountability interventions aimed at improving health service delivery via community monitoring and the introduction of an incentive scheme to reward worker performance on the basis of non-financial awards. The 254 clinics taking part in the study have been assigned to participate in either intervention or act as a comparison, with one third of clinics allocated to each group.
The community monitoring intervention introduces health scorecards that provide information regarding the state of health care in each community, and facilitates interface meetings between community members and health facility staff. During these meetings, information about the state of healthcare is disseminated via a community scorecard and mutual commitments are made to improve services through a joint action plan addressing areas such as staff absenteeism, maternal mortality and vaccination rates. This framework aims to ensure participatory decision-making and hold both healthcare workers and the community mutually accountable, fostering increased access to and utilization of maternal and child health services. Researchers evaluate whether service quality and quantity improve due to the lower costs of collective action introduced through these meetings and the social accountability contract.
The second intervention, non-financial incentives,facilitates a yardstick competition among groups of maternal and child health clinics, and rewards workers at the most improved facilities. The relative rankings of clinics on key measures of such as worker absenteeism, staff attitude and charging of illegal fees will be advertised publicly, and staff at winning clinics will receive letters of commendation from high-ranking politicians, and an award at a public ceremony.
The project is being conducted in partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone and the interventions have been designed with a self-sustainable model for scale-up through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in mind. Researchers will assess the cost-effectiveness of each intervention, as well as their cost-effectiveness relative to one another, and findings will directly inform the government’s decision to scale up these interventions in future years.
Children in post-conflict environments are a population of particular concern, exposed to violence, displacement, and death of family members. The impact of poverty means that child labor is common among children. Though no reliable data exists, indications are strong that sexual abuse and exploitation is a fact of life for many girls and teenage pregnancy has been identified as a child protection concern. In addition to the physical and mental health challenges posed by war experiences, these children remain susceptible to continued exploitation and abuse, often by those familiar to the child, during peace as refugees return home and community members cope with difficult pasts.
Context of the Evaluation:
The situation of children in Sierra Leone continues to be precarious as 27% of the 2.7 million children are identified as vulnerable, lacking the protection of a primary care giver. Formal structures for child protection exist within police stations and local Child Welfare Committees (CWCs), but capacity and community trust in such institutions’ efficacy are limited in many rural areas. To reduce violence against children, existing social structures,most paramount, section, and village chiefs, are frequently leveraged to respond to reports of abuse and to mobilize local protective factors.
To respond to the resource constraints faced by formal child protection systems in Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s’ Affairs (MSWGCA) is experimenting with a policy framework that explicitly links local chiefs and community members to the formal child protection sector. This policy was articulated in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2010 by the MSWGCA, CWCs, and the Council of Paramount Chiefs. The MOU and focal person system are currently being implemented in Moyamba and Pujehun districts, with potential to expand the program nationwide. The MOU creates a framework through which chiefs, MSWGCA, CWCs, and the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police can collaborate to protect children. Village chiefs appoint a focal person for child welfare in a public meeting of village residents. Focal persons report cases of child abuse to chiefs and chiefs, with the assistance of focal persons, follow up with the formal child protection actors to ensure that cases of child abuse are addressed appropriately.
To help focal persons connect informal systems for child protection to the formal roles of the FSU and MSWGCA, UNICEF and other local child protection NGOs have developed a training program that introduces focal persons to general approaches to child protection, as well as to their roles and responsibilities under the MOU. Despite the grounding of these trainings in both international best practices and local norms and understandings, key stakeholders have expressed concerns about whether one-time trainings will provide focal points with sufficient capacity to effectively serve as a link between communities, chiefs, and formal child protection systems. At the same time, repeated trainings or sustained in-depth monitoring by international or national child protection agencies is not sustainable in the context of rural villages in Sierra Leone.
Details of the Intervention:
Mobile phones and SMS messaging provide one potential avenue for bridging the gap between the need for sustained support of focal points and the high costs of transportation in rural Sierra Leone. To leverage the growing use of this technology in Sierra Leone, a consortium of non-profit, academic, government, and private-sector stakeholders have collaborated in developing the Child Protection Knowledge and Information Network (CPKIN). CPKIN (pronounced as “See Pikin” or “See the Child” in Krio, a language spoken throughout the country) is a system that will be used to send focal persons automated text messages asking questions about the welfare of children in their village and prompting them to engage in discussions in their community to help answer these questions. Focal persons will then be encouraged to send their answers back to the central CPKIN system using a free text message. These text message questions and responses will be sent and received through a software program that makes it possible to manage, organize, and analyze high volumes of outgoing and incoming messages with a large list of recipients
There are several hypotheses underpinning the design of the CPKIN program. The first hypothesis is that the process of receiving questions, discussing the questions with community members, and sending answers will encourage focal persons to critically examine the situation of children in their communities and then to act with the resources available in their villages. A second hypothesis is that having a focal person who is active with respect to reporting abuses, taking proactive steps to improve the welfare of children, and engaging community members in discussions regarding children has the potential to cause dramatic shifts in community level knowledge, norms, and practices regarding child protection, which in turn may lead to greater connections between informal and formal child protection systems.
Given the novelty of the CPKIN system as a child protection intervention, it is necessary to assess the extent to which sending regular, open-ended text messages to village focal persons using this system can increase the capacity of focal points and their communities to proactively and reactively respond to local child protection issues. In particular, the effectiveness of CPKIN and the validity of the underlying hypotheses will be evaluated using a randomized evaluation in 140 villages in Moyamba and Pujehun districts. The randomization will occur at the village level, with the 70 villages randomly assigned to the CPKIN treatment, and the remaining 70 villages comprising the comparison group, in which there is no intervention. In treatment villages, the village focal person will receive a one-on-one training on the overall aims of CPKIN, how to receive and send CPKIN messages, and how to use CPKIN as a starting point for engaging their community members on issues concerning child protection. Shortly after this training, focal persons will begin receiving regular CPKIN prompts.
Baseline and endline surveys regarding child protection and child welfare will be conducted before and after the six to eight month intervention in all 140 villages in order to assess the relative effectiveness of the CPKIN support system, with survey questions designed to elicit two kinds of information:
1.) The capacity of key stakeholders (children, parents, focal persons, chiefs, FSU, and CWCs—where they exist) to identify and respond to child protection issues.
2.) The protection and support for children within their communities, and their overall level of welfare (including the prevalence of both abuses and protective factors).