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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Evidence suggests that approaches based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can improve mental health and reduce crime and violence in post-conflict areas. However, delivering CBT programs is a challenge in settings that lack trained staff and therapeutic facilities. Researchers in Sierra Leone are exploring alternate delivery platforms to bring evidence-based mental health interventions to youth facing conflict and adversity in West Africa.

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For new democracies and societies emerging from conflict, effective systems of dispute resolution are essential to maintaining a lasting peace and preventing violence. In Liberia, researchers examined the impact of introducing alternative dispute resolution (ADR) trainings on the rate at which community members resolved property disputes, the level of satisfaction with the resolution, and the incidence of violence related to the disputes.

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In cities where crime tends to be concentrated in a small number of places, police forces often adopt geography-based approaches to crime reduction. However, increasing policing in one area may simply displace crime to another area, leaving the overall level unchanged. Researchers are working in Bogotá, Colombia to assess whether concentrated policing or increased municipal clean-ups in high-crime areas can reduce—rather than simply displace—crime.

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A rural community gathers in Sierra Leone

Truth and reconciliation programs have become a common approach for rebuilding social ties and promoting healing among communities in the aftermath of war, but little is known about these programs’ effectiveness. In Sierra Leone, researchers partnered with the local NGO Fambul Tok to evaluate the impact of a community-based reconciliation program.

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A Ugandan youth working on a bicycle
In developing countries with high unemployment, cash grants can provide poor people with the capital to invest in small enterprises. If people are not too constrained in their ability to earn and save, grants will simply offer a kick start to higher work and income levels, levels they would have some years later even without the grants. If it is difficult to save or accumulate assets, however, one-time investments could propel people out of poverty permanently. Which is it?
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Ugandan women in the IPA WINGS program

What’s holding back impoverished women? Can small grants programs help the most vulnerable women develop sustainable livelihoods? Do employment and poverty relief empower them and improve their lives? This evaluation assessed the impact of a program that gave cash grants and basic business skills training to the poorest and most excluded women in post-war northern Uganda. The program led to dramatic increases in business and reductions in poverty.

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A young boy and girl gather rice in Sierra Leone

The economic impacts of the Ebola virus required monitoring in real time for policymakers to estimate the short- and long-term costs of the epidemic and respond appropriately, yet information on the magnitude of the effects was scarce. The aim of this monthly survey in Sierra Leone was to measure the economic and social impacts of the outbreak on households and provide timely updates on the survey's findings to policymakers.

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Starting the summer of 2014, many risk factors pointed to a potential food crisis in areas of West Africa hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak. Innovations for Poverty Action, in partnership with researchers and the International Growth Center, began monitoring markets across Sierra Leone for changes in food prices and supply. Researchers provided rapid feedback to the government and other development partners on where food shortages were occurring. 

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Without special attention to creating economic opportunities for ex-combatants, they may be more likely to join rebellious groups, commit crime, and otherwise threaten political stability. In Liberia, researchers tested the effect of an intensive agricultural training program on employment activities, income, and socio-political integration. The program increased participants’ employment in agriculture and average wealth and decreased the amount of time they spent in illicit activities.

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Young men in Liberia

In many fragile states, poor young men with limited economic opportunities drive high rates of crime and violence, and are easily mobilized into destructive activities such as rioting and rebellion.

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To foster economic productivity and stability in post-conflict countries, many development organizations have created economic programs and psychosocial programs aimed at vulnerable youth. In Liberia, Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to evaluate the impacts of a cash-for-work program and a psychosocial support program on the behavior and labor outcomes of young people.

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During an Ebola outbreak, the rapid identification, diagnosis, and isolation of those infected is essential to preventing the further spread of infection.

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