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Humanitarian crises affect over 200 million people globally and exact a large toll on population mental health. We assessed the impact of an economic transfer program on the mental health of internally displaced persons and host populations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

We conducted a randomised trial among vulnerable households residing in 25 villages in North Kivu Province, DRC, where a large United Nations program responds to population displacement by providing economic transfers in the form of vouchers for essential household items (EHI). Households that were in need of assistance but outside the program’s standard eligibility criteria were randomly assigned (1:1) to a “voucher” or to “no intervention”. Households in the voucher group received US$50-92 worth of vouchers to use at a fair where EHI, such as blankets, clothes, buckets, and pans, were sold. The head woman of each household was interviewed just before the fair, six weeks and one year after the fair. The primary outcomes were standardized indices of adult’s mental health, children’s physical health, social cohesion, and resilience. Effects were assessed in least-squares regression models adjusting for baseline levels. 

Between August 2017 and March 2018, we enrolled 976 households in the study. 488 were randomly assigned to the EHI voucher and 488 to no intervention. 88% of respondents were female. At baseline, 33% of respondents had an anxiety/depression score suggesting clinical significance. At six weeks, the voucher group had a 0.32 standard deviation units (SDU) improvement on the mental health index (95% CI 0.18 to 0.46), and, after one year, the voucher group had a 0.19 SDU improvement (95% CI 0.02 to 0.34). There were no effects on the child health, social cohesion, or resilience indices.

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Working Paper
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October 14, 2021
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We implemented a randomised controlled trial study to measure the impact of one-on-one engagement with local religious leadership on the compliance of protocols at their mosque. Our messaging was a combination of religious appeal and public health guidelines that were interactive, involving frequent elicitation of the respondents’ reactions and agreement, as well as asking them to commit to action. Our study is different from previous strategies of COVID-19 containment as it does not rely on mass messaging but rather focuses on one-on-one engagement with focal community leaders. It aims to improve the implementation and communication of the 20-point plan that was agreed between the government and religious clergy to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, it is not novel in its approach as it is similar to previous interventions like the polio vaccination drive that disseminates knowledge and engages at the community level. Thus, the results from our study can provide valuable insights for strategies used by other public health campaigns to engage the public and build trust, such as polio vaccination and eventually the COVID-19 vaccination.

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Brief
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October 07, 2021
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IPA’s Peace & Recovery Program (P&R) supports field experiments and related research in several broad areas:

  • Reducing violence and promoting peace
  • Reducing “fragility” (i.e. fostering state capacity)
  • Preventing, coping with, and recovering from crises, focusing on conflict but including non-conflict humanitarian crises such as COVID-19

This document covers the aims, core themes, research questions, and focus countries for our competitive research fund, supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the Open Society Foundations (OSF). Please send all inquiries to peace@poverty-action.org

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Report
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September 29, 2021
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This document provides application instructions for the Peace & Recovery (P&R) Program’s call for proposals. Applicants are asked to use the following templates when submitting their applications:

For more information about the request for proposals and P&R Program, read the Guiding Principles and Funding Priorities, and visit the P&R Competitive Fund page.

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Report
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September 27, 2021
Español

A lo largo de la última década, cerca de 5.1 millones de venezolanos han abandonado su país. Colombia ha sido el mayor receptor de estos migrantes: a junio del 2020 el Gobierno Colombiano identificó cerca de 1.74 millones de venezolanos al interior de sus fronteras, de los cuales aproximadamente 986 mil son personas indocumentadas. La composición de esta población tiene características socioeconómicas diversas, aunque destaca que el grueso de los migrantes son personas en condición de trabajar, que buscan conseguir ingresos para ellos y sus familias.

La crisis social desatada por la pandemia del COVID-19 ha agravado la condición de vulnerabilidad de los migrantes venezolanos. ¿Qué mecanismos favorecen el bienestar de esta población? Este resumen de política pública destaca que las redes de migrantes y la posibilidad de acceder a un permiso de permanencia (PEP-RAMV) facilitan el proceso migratorio en Colombia, permitiendo una mayor integración social y económica de la población migrante en la sociedad colombiana y generando efectos positivos en su bienestar.

Para explorar el impacto potencial de estos mecanismos, este documento proporciona una descripción general de (i) la importancia de las redes de migrantes y el PEP-RAMV durante los procesos migratorios, (ii) las diferencias entre estos dos mecanismos, y (iii) cómo ambos mecanismos han mitigado los impactos negativos en los hogares generados por el COVID-19.

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Brief
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September 21, 2021
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The reintegration of former members of violent extremist groups is a pressing policy challenge. Governments and policymakers often have to change minds among reticent populations and shift perceived community norms in order to pave the way for peaceful reintegration. How can they do so on a mass scale? Previous research shows that messages from trusted authorities can be effective in creating attitude change and shifting perceptions of social norms. In this study, we test whether messages from religious leaders—trusted authorities in many communities worldwide—can change minds and shift norms around an issue related to conflict resolution: the reintegration of former members of violent extremist groups. Our study takes place in Maiduguri, Nigeria, the birthplace of the violent extremist group Boko Haram. Participants were randomly assigned to listen to either a placebo radio message or to a treatment message from a religious leader emphasizing the importance of forgiveness, announcing the leader’s forgiveness of repentant fighters, and calling on followers to forgive. Participants were then asked about their attitudes, intended behaviors, and perceptions of social norms surrounding the reintegration of an ex–Boko Haram fighter. The religious leader message significantly increased support for reintegration and willingness to interact with the ex-fighter in social, political, and economic life (8 to 10 percentage points). It also shifted people’s beliefs that others in their community were more supportive of reintegration (6 to 10 percentage points). Our findings suggest that trusted authorities such as religious leaders can be effective messengers for promoting peace.

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Published Paper
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September 09, 2021
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El uso de fuerzas militares para tareas de seguridad pública se ha convertido en un enfoque común para combatir el crimen y la inseguridad. Los promotores de estas políticas de "mano dura" las consideran necesarias para controlar el crimen, mientras que los detractores afirman que podrían violentar los derechos humanos. En Cali, Colombia, los investigadores llevaron a cabo una evaluación aleatoria de un programa de policía militar llamado “Plan Fortaleza” para medir rigurosamente los impactos de la policía militar en las tasas de criminalidad y los derechos humanos. Descubrieron que el programa Plan Fortaleza de patrullas militares intensivas y recurrentes en los puntos conflictivos del crimen redujo significativamente la prevalencia objetiva del crimen, pero solo en los días y horas en que los soldados estaban físicamente presentes en las calles. El programa no redujo los reportes de los ciudadanos sobre victimización por delitos ni mejoró las percepciones subjetivas de seguridad, excepto entre los propietarios de negocios.

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August 09, 2021
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Lessons from randomized evaluations on managing and preventing crime, violence, and conflict
 

What are the most promising strategies for reducing crime, violence, and conflict? The past decade has seen a dramatic expansion in the experimental literature designed to help answer this question. Moving beyond evaluations of individual programs, increasingly, these studies are striving to test broader hypotheses about how programs work (i.e. what are the key program components driving change) and to generate insights into human behavior (i.e. why individuals may be motivated to act in certain ways).

This evidence review, prepared by staff at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) ) for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), offers a broad review of the expansion of this literature and seeks to capture some of the emerging insights from across these studies. The review has been prepared as part of J-PAL and IPA’s Governance, Crime and Conflict Initiative, a £15- million investment by FCDO launched in 2017 to produce new research on effective policies to promote peace and good governance, reduce crime, and support individuals and communities recovering from conflict.

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Report
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June 23, 2021
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In settings where an individual's labor choices are constrained, the inability to work may generate psychosocial harm. This paper presents a causal estimate of the psychosocial value of employment in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh. We engage 745 individuals in a field experiment with three arms: (1) a control arm, (2) a weekly cash arm, and (3) a gainful employment arm, in which work is o ered and individuals are paid weekly the approximate equivalent of that in the cash arm. We find that employment confers significant psychosocial benefits beyond the impacts of cash alone, with effects concentrated among males. The cash arm does not improve psychosocial wellbeing, despite the provision of cash at a weekly amount that is more than twice the amount held by recipients in savings at baseline. Consistent with these findings, we find that 66% of those in our work treatment are willing to forego cash payments to instead work for free. Our results have implications for social protection policies for the unemployed in low income countries and refugee populations globally.

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Working Paper
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May 19, 2021
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Since the COVID-19 outbreak, scholars and journalists have spread anecdotes of gangs and criminal organizations coming to the aid of citizens, governing in place of the state. Researchers studied if gangs respond to COVID-19 in Medellín. Despite the headlines, gang involvement in pandemic response is exceptional and mostly idiosyncratic. Surveying every low- and middle-income neighborhood in Medellin, they find that most of the support for civilians comes from state authorities and not from gangs
 

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March 16, 2021

Medellín tiene unas estructuras de crimen organizado altamente jerárquicas y estructuradas. Con el objetivo de comprender cómo está organizada y cómo funciona esta estructura, durante los últimas tres años Innovations for Poverty Action, la Universidad de Chicago y la Universidad EAFIT han recolectado información sobre ella. Esto se ha hecho a través de entrevistas con integrantes de diferentes comunidades de la ciudad. En este documento se presentan los hallazgos de este trabajo. 

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Report
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March 16, 2021
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In partnership with the City of Medellín and community officials, EDI researchers co-designed a program of intensified government outreach and service delivery to test the impact of increased municipal governance on the roles and legitimacy of local gangs and the state. To design the program, researchers conducted interviews with more than 30 members of 19 criminal organizations over two years. Researchers combined findings from those interviews with administrative crime data and with surveys of city residents and businesses to learn about the organization and political economy of organized crime in Medellín. This EDI Policy Brief provides a summary of those findings to date

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March 16, 2021
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A medida que los patrones de migración cambian, se necesitan más pruebas del impacto de los programas de regularización en los países en desarrollo. En Colombia, los investigadores están evaluando el impacto de un programa de permisos temporales de trabajo y residencia para los migrantes venezolanos. Los resultadosque se estudiarán incluyen indicadores laborales, de salud y de integración.

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Brief
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March 01, 2021
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Founded in 2019, IPA Nigeria develops applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work in this brief offer promising insights into critical issues that affect the lives of the Nigerian poor.

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March 01, 2021
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Gangs govern millions worldwide. Why rule? And how do they respond to states? Many argue that criminal rule provides protection when states do not, and that increasing state services could crowd gangs out. We began by interviewing leaders from 30 criminal groups in Medellín. The conventional view overlooks gangs’ indirect incentives to rule: governing keeps police out and fosters civilian loyalty, protecting other business lines. We present a model of duopolistic competition with returns to loyalty and show under what conditions exogenous changes to state protection cause gangs to change governance levels. We run the first gang-level field experiment, intensifying city governance in select neighborhoods for two years. We see no decrease in gang rule. We also examine a quasi-experiment. New borders in Medellín created discontinuities in access to government services for 30 years. Gangs responded to greater state rule by governing more. We propose alternatives for countering criminal governance.

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Published Paper
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February 26, 2021

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