Public insecurity and widespread mistrust of police among citizens is associated with decreased police legitimacy, which has negative consequences for effective policing. While research has identified individual police behaviors that can create more positive interactions with citizens, little is known about how police units can institutionalize justice and fairness into organizational capabilities.

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Ghanaian girls dancing in drama presentation

Women face significant barriers to participation and leadership in politics and government in many countries, including Ghana. Shortly before Ghana’s 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, researchers evaluated whether community meetings focused on encouraging women’s participation in local politics could close the gender gap that exists in grassroot politics. The evaluation found no change in women’s political participation or in views of gender norms in local politics.

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Programs that allow citizens to contact their government representatives may help to improve the delivery of basic services, such as resources in schools and health clinics, in low-income countries. However, citizen participation in these programs is often low.

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Urban armed groups, especially criminal gangs, are a growing threat to peace and economic growth in cities across the world, and often exert state-like powers such as enforcing contracts, policing, and taxing businesses.

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Previous research suggests having community members monitor health service providers can improve the delivery of health services, and greatly improve child health as a result. In Uganda, researchers conducted a large-scale randomized evaluation of a program called Accountability Can Transform (ACT) Health that followed this model.

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Citizen trust and participation in the political system are necessary for stable democratic regimes, as distrust and disengagement can lead to violence and regime change. During the 2013 National Elections in Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sent text messages to approximately two million registered voters to promote public interest and knowledge and to raise voter turnout.

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Many adults over age 65 across the world live in extreme poverty, however only 20 percent of seniors worldwide receive any form of pension. Non-contributory pension programs for seniors living below a certain income threshold may improve food consumption, mental health, and lower reliance on younger family members for economic support.

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Globally, bureaucrats are responsible for the day-to-day matters of policy implementation and government service provision. However, we know very little about how bureaucrats’ own interests and biases influence the ultimate distribution of public goods and services. To measure how citizens’ identities and the characteristics of their petitions affect municipal bureaucrats’ bias and efficiency, researchers conducted a national-scale audit of two of Colombia’s largest social service programs.

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Elected government officials in many developing countries often do a poor job of performing their core responsibilities of providing public goods, developing legislation and regulation, and representing their constituents at the national level. Additionally, primary elections often cater to the elite and lack input from the average voter.

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In Malawi, local tax compliance levels are low and the collection process is sometimes corrupt. At the same time, people are reluctant to pay taxes until they see material benefits from their taxes, contributing to a vicious cycle of non-payment and poor government service delivery.

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Public training sessions on democratic processes and ideals are a popular tool that aims to improve the performance of governments with “bottom-up” accountability via increased political knowledge and public participation. Researchers evaluated an accountability workshop program, which educated citizens on the distribution of extractive industry tax revenues and the formal means of local political participation.

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A surveyor working with a study participant.

Pensions are seen as an important tool for reducing poverty among a growing elderly population worldwide. Researchers are working with Innovations for Poverty Action and Paraguay’s Ministry of Finance to conduct a randomized evaluation of a national non-contributory pension program for low-income seniors. Researchers will measure the impacts of national pensions on senior citizens’ economic wellbeing and quality of life.

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Democratic elections are seen as a way of improving government accountability, but the means through which elections affect officials’ behavior is poorly understood, particularly in local elections where inter-party competition is rare. Researchers in Burkina Faso staged a community decision-making scenario with real financial stakes to understand how elections effect public embezzlement, social norms and trust in officials.

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Citizens in low-income countries are often unable to hold their government representatives accountable for the effective delivery of social services such as education and healthcare. Increases in mobile phone access present new opportunities for direct communication between citizens and government officials that may help governments respond to citizens’ needs more effectively.

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In parts of southern Africa, environmental pressure on the land from over-grazing has contributed to land and water shortages and made communities more vulnerable to drought. In Namibia, researchers are measuring the impact of a community-based natural resource management program on livestock assets, income, social cohesion and land quality.

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