$4.6 Million Awarded for Research to Help Alleviate Poverty

Global Development and Poverty Initiative money builds on 22 awards funded by Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies.

June 18, 2014


The $4.6 million in awards will fund research to uncover solutions to poverty alleviation in developing economies and create environments in which entrepreneurship can thrive. | Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

Fourteen Stanford researchers addressing global poverty through a range of academic disciplines are receiving a total of $4.6 million in awards from the university-wide Global Development and Poverty (GDP) initiative.

Their projects, which are the first to be funded by the GDP, deal with challenges of health, violence, economics, governance and education in the developing world.

“GDP seeks to transform scholarly activity and dialogue at Stanford around the topic of global poverty, so that the university may have a greater impact on poverty alleviation in developing economies,” said GDP faculty co-chair Jesper B. Sørensen. “By focusing on placing a small number of big bets, GDP encourages researchers to think big, and to move beyond the conventional way of doing things. We are thrilled by the inaugural set of awardees, as they demonstrate the creative, inter-disciplinary approaches that will make Stanford a leader in this area.”

The GDP initiative is part of the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED) and is administered in partnership with Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI). The GDP is co-chaired by Sørensen, the faculty director for SEED and the Robert A. and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business; and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, senior fellow and director of FSI and the Stanley Morrison Professor at Stanford Law School.

SEED, which seeks to alleviate poverty by stimulating the creation of economic opportunities through innovation, entrepreneurship and the growth of businesses, was established in 2011 through a generous gift from Robert King, MBA ‘60, and his wife, Dorothy.

Through complementary areas of focus, GDP funding and other SEED research initiatives will stimulate research, novel interdisciplinary collaborations and solutions to problems of global poverty and development. GDP research aims to pursue answers to crucial questions that are essential to an understanding of how to reduce global poverty and promote economic development. That includes governance and the rule of law, education, health, and food security – all of which are essential for entrepreneurship to thrive. By contrast, other SEED research focuses on innovation, entrepreneurship, and the growth of businesses in developing economies.

Since 2012, SEED’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Developing Economies Award program also has doled out 22 awards and seven PhD fellowships to help support and scale businesses in developing economies. Among the $1 million in funded projects were studies of how to improve the livelihoods of small-holder cacao farmers throughout the tropics; how to identify startups with high job- and wealth-creating potential in Chile; how political accountability affects the ability to attract investment in Sierra Leone; and how managerial practices affect trade entrepreneurship in China.

First GDP Awards

The first 14 GDP award recipients are professors of economics, political science, law, medicine, pediatrics, education and biology, and senior fellows from FSI, the Woods Institute, and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR).

“Each of these projects cuts across disciplines, reflects innovative thinking, and has the potential to generate crucial knowledge about how to improve the lives of the poor around the world,” Cuéllar said. “These projects, along with a variety of workshops engaging the university and external stakeholders, will help us strengthen Stanford’s long-term capacity to address issues of global poverty through research, education and outreach.”

Among the award recipients is Pascaline Dupas, an associate professor of economics and senior fellow at SIEPR. Dupas, along with faculty from the Center for Health Policy and Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, will launch the Stanford Economic Development Research Initiative using GDP funds. This initiative will focus on collecting high-quality institutional and individual-level data on economic activity in a number of developing countries over the long term, and making these data available to scholars around the world.

Beatriz Magaloni, an associate professor of political science and senior fellow at FSI, is receiving an award to lead a team focused on criminal violence and its effects on the poor in developing economies, and the practical solutions for increasing security in those regions.

Douglas K. Owens, a professor of medicine and FSI senior fellow, was awarded an award to help him lead a team that will develop models to estimate how alternative resource allocations for health interventions among the poor will influence health and economic outcomes.

Stephen Haber, a professor of political science and history and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, received an award to bring together Stanford researchers interested in examining the long-term institutional constraints on economic development. Their goal will be to provide policymakers with a framework for determining the conditions under which particular innovations are likely to have positive payoffs, and the conditions under which resources will likely be wasted.

Other projects will address the educational impacts of solar lighting systems in poor communities; identifying interventions to improve the profits and safety among poor, smallholder pig farmers in Bangladesh and China; the role of law and institutions in economic development and poverty reduction; and how to rethink worldwide refugee problems. Awards are also being provided to researchers focused on microfinance, online education and teacher training.

The project proposals were reviewed by an interdisciplinary faculty advisory council chaired by Cuéllar and Sørensen.

“We were very encouraged by the impressive number of project proposals from a wide range of areas and are looking forward to introducing several new capacity and community-building activities in the fall,” Sørensen said. “This wide range of research initiatives will form a vibrant nucleus for Stanford’s growing community of scholars of global development and poverty.”

By Adam Gorlick

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