How can we effectively deliver public goods to poor people in the developing world?
I have typically focussed on the design of the institutions that deliver public goods, rather than the specific goods themselves. Traditionally, the state has been a dominant provider of public goods, and so answering the above question entails an improved understanding of the public service.
To study the public service, I co-lead (with Zahid Hasnain) the World Bank's 'Bureaucracy Lab', an initiative that aims to further our understanding of bureaucratic institutions and provide operational advice to countries designing them.
The Bureaucracy Lab
The Bureaucracy Lab works to educate practitioners on our current knowledge of the civil service, to generate research that extends that knowledge, and to generate data that allows for improved design of the state.
An important part of the Bureaucracy Lab is the building of administrative and survey data that provides us with a window into the world of the civil service of developing countries. Further information can be found here.
We are undertaking large-scale surveys of civil servants, and are keen to support researchers doing the same at any point in their careers. Here is footage from my first survey of civil servants, whilst I was a PhD student, in Nigeria:
Within our surveys, we are undertaking experiments that teach us how to undertake better surveys in the future. In a similar way to how we, as a community, have learnt to survey households. If you are a researcher who has undertaken rigorous research work on how to improve the surveying of public officials or the measurement of their environment, please let us know and we will aim to communicate your lessons as widely as possible. If you are looking for support to undertake a survey of civil servants, please get in touch with me.
We are working with a range of academic partners, including the Blavatnik School of Governance at Oxford University, Harvard Business School, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, McGill University, Michigan University, and University College London.
Based on lessons from the above efforts, as well as from the work of other researchers, the Global Solutions Group on Human Resources (under the Bureaucracy Lab) provides advice to development professionals and public officials on the design of bureaucratic institutions.
If you are a member of either of these communities, we are eager to hear from and support you. You can contact me here.