CSDS supports field based projects that generate knowledge on development processes. Key research areas include peacebuilding, democratic accountability, corruption, and collective action. Many of these projects are what we call “field experiments”–a research strategy in which researchers work closely with development agencies, politicians and practitioners in order to study fundamental causal processes. The key idea is that development interventions can often be set up in a way so that there are truly comparable “treatment” and “control” groups, much as is done in health or agricultural research. While this approach has not be used much to study the political economy of development in the past it holds a lot of potential. Researchers can get better data than is normally available from “off the shelf” approaches, or from observational studies. Organizations that partner with them can get pro bono support in designing first rate evaluations. Under this approach the allocation of resources can be more transparent and equitable and organizations can gather the information needed to make evidence-based claims about the developmental impacts of their programs.
The general approach used is described in this document in which we emphasize the benefits as well as the potential difficulties – including procedural and ethical questions – associated with these strategies.