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BRAC - CEGA Learning Collaborative

Overview

The BRAC-CEGA Learning Collaborative is a research partnership committed to increasing rigorous program evaluation and professional development of the next research leaders within BRAC. BRAC-CEGA provides anchor funding for research initiatives co-led by a BRAC staff researcher and a CEGA-affiliated faculty member. It also sponsors professional development fellowships for BRAC researchers. These activities seek to promote the cross-fertilization of ideas and collaboration between BRAC and CEGA researchers 

BRAC, headquartered in Bangladesh, is the largest non-governmental development organization in the world. The organization supports social programs serving over 130 million people in 10 countries throughout Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.  Alongside its programmatic operations, the organization maintains strong research and evaluation units in multiple countries and has led randomized assessments of its own programs.

Program Components

The following activities leverage BRAC’s wide operational footprint and local research capacity; in parallel, they tap CEGA’s competence in rigorous evaluation and economic analysis, as well as its infrastructure for university-based learning:

Anchor Funding for Research Initiatives: Periodic competitive requests for proposals identify and provide catalytic funding to 4-5 studies that evaluate BRAC programs. Each study is co-led by a BRAC staff researcher and a CEGA faculty affiliate. 

Professional Development Fellowships: To develop additional expertise in designing and implementing rigorous evaluations, select BRAC research staff spend a semester at UC Berkeley or another CEGA-affiliated university. BRAC visiting scholars audit courses, present seminars, and work closely with CEGA researchers on new or ongoing projects. Each BRAC visiting researcher is paired with a faculty mentor as well as a PhD student or postdoctoral fellow, to provide peer mentoring and community support. Learn more about our Fellows.

Matchmaking: The BRAC-CEGA partnership was launched at UC Berkeley by bringing together researchers from BRAC country offices and CEGA faculty affiliates. Participants presented on past work, engaged in thematic brainstorming sessions, and identified new collaborative research opportunities. Ongoing matching activities connect BRAC program and research staff with CEGA faculty and graduate students based on shared programmatic interests and scientific expertise.

BRAC-CEGA Research Projects 

SOUTH SUDAN | Ethan Ligon (UC Berkeley), Elliott Collins (UC Berkeley), and Reajul Alam Chowdhury (BRAC)

Impact Evaluation of Targeting Ultra Poor Program (2013) and Remote Monitoring and Estimation of Household Welfare (2015)

BRAC’s standard microfinance programs are poorly suited to the needs of the “ultra-poor” households, those whose income is either too low or too sporadic for them to qualify for BRAC’s programs. BRAC has had some success with a “Targeting the Ultra-Poor” (TUP) program in Bangladesh, which gives livestock and training to the poorest households in targeted areas. The central goal of this research was to find what the smallest cost is at which a similar program of transfers and training would succeed in the context of South Sudan. The treatment group received cash transfers in different amounts, while the control group received cash, food, or some other liquid asset of equal value to the capital transfers given to the treatment group. The team conducted two surveys, one shortly before the beginning of the TUP program and one 7 months later, before the cash transfers. The third follow up survey for the randomized evaluation of the TUP pilot aimed to provide estimates of the marginal effect of the TUP program and unconditional cash transfers, assessing the pilot’s potential for scale-up and improvement and evaluating it against a reasonable benchmark.

The team received a second tranche of funding in 2015 to explore innovative ways of improving on the current plan for data collection. The team’s interest in using mobile devices for remote survey collection is two-fold: a) to improve the quality of the statistical power of the TUP program’s randomized evaluation, and b) to extract lessons on the potential for remote data collection as a low-cost, high frequency research and monitoring tool. 

Year funded: 2013, 2015

Current status: Ongoing

Read more: Impact Evaluation of BRAC's Targeting the Ultra-Poor Program in South Sudan


BANGLADESH | Alain de Janvry (UC Berkeley), Elisabeth Sadoulet (UC Berkeley), and Narayan Das (BRAC)

Unlocking the Door to Migration: BRAC’s Migrant Loan Program (2013) and Reducing the Risks of Migration: an Evaluation of BRAC’s Safe Migration Program (2014)

There are approximately 8 to 10 million Bangladeshi migrants in 24 countries of the Gulf and South East Asia. This group of migrants, mostly rural, low‐skilled, male workers ages 18 to 40, tend to work in construction and services. Remittances form a substantial part of the country’s economy, contributing 9.6% of GDP in 2010. The government of Bangladesh is interested in increasing the size and quality of migration as a source of income for migrants and of remittances for the country. Providing access to credit to potential migrants and assisting them with securing reliable job offers in destination countries could enable a new group of individuals to migrate, with positive effects for their households and the country. In September 2011, BRAC started rolling out a migrant loan program, managed as part of its large microfinance-lending portfolio. This project aimed to conduct an impact evaluation of BRACs’ migrant loan program, focusing on the contrast between migrants that left the country before the program was established, and those that left after the program was available. The evaluation sought to answer the following questions: a) Does the migrant loan program increase the number of migrants?, b) Does the program increase the quality of migration outcomes, such as less migration failures and more remittances sent back to Bangladesh?, and c) Does the program unlock the door to new categories of individuals - especially those with less access to migrant networks? Does this make migration more accessible to lower income people?

As a follow up to their 2013 evaluation, the team received a second tranche of funding in 2014. The first objective of this second round of funding was to conduct an impact evaluation of BRAC’s Safe Migration Program, assessing if providing information, support, and training to potential migrants can reduce the risk of migration and result in a more successful migration. The second objective was to identify the channels through which this intervention achieves the highest impact, identifying changes in migration behavior as a product of the intervention.

Year funded: 2013, 2014

Current status: Ongoing

Read more: Unlocking the door to migration: BRAC's migrant loan program


TANZANIA | Jonathan Robinson (UC Berkeley), Brian Giera (UC Santa Cruz), and Patrick Olobo (BRAC)

Understanding Demand and Supply Constraints in the Market for Fertilizer

Agricultural yields tend to be substantially less in Sub-Saharan Africa than in South Asia, mainly due to a lower usage of modern inputs such as fertilizer and hybrid seeds. For instance, only 12% of farmers in Tanzania, where this project is based, use fertilizer. This is attributed to several factors: behavioral biases, credit constraints, lack of information and risk aversion. Thus, significant resources have been devoted to stimulating demand through farmer training and financial services provision, among other activities. However, the fragmentation in input and output markets could be another reason for low input uptake, since it adds substantial costs for agricultural productivity and household welfare. Some recent evidence suggests it’s most efficient to spend resources on market integration - through infrastructural development, liberalizing supply networks and reducing import duties, among others. In order to correctly estimate the input responses to these interventions, the team’s primary goal was to estimate price elasticity of input usage. The second goal of this study was to understand the lasting effects of the input subsidy. Third, the team benchmarked the effect of the price subsidy against one of the most common forms of demand stimulation: farmer training through agricultural extension.

Year funded: 2014

Current status: Ongoing