It’s been a busy year at MIT GOV/LAB. We sent graduate students and researchers to more than ten countries to collaborate with new and long-standing partners on a diversity of governance-related projects. Below, we’ve selected a few of our favorite stories that capture how we work and how we learn from our partners and time spent in the field.
Dispatches from the Field by Swetha A. R. On a contentious referendum, birth rates, and Indian bureaucracy: Notes from fieldwork in the Philippines. We included this literary piece because it speaks to the richness of learning that can happen from informal exchanges, conversations, and experiences in the field. Indeed, storytelling has a place in political science, as other political scientists have emphasized this past year.
Politics of the Belly by Lisa Fan. MIT GOV/LAB intern Lisa Fan (Wellesley College ’17) explores ‘eating’ and ‘overeating’ in Kenyan politics through an analysis of over 180 interviews. This piece brings nuance to how politics is perceived in different contexts by exploring corruption as an endemic, and sometimes accepted, part of politics. For another standout intern read, check out Siena Harlin’s piece on biased middlemen in Mexico.
Broad Policies, Narrow Networks: Data Science to Measure Healthcare Access by Soubhik Barari. Bayes Impact’s Mehdi Jamei presented new tools looking at access to healthcare in California at GOV/LAB’s Data Science to Solve Social Problems seminar series. This piece strikes a good balance between summarizing, providing insights, and question-asking. As data science increasingly finds useful applications in areas of public policy, we hope to highlight cutting edge work in this area, while also asking the hard questions around ethics and application.
Punishing Politicians and Petty Corruption by Dante Delaney. MIT GOV/LAB welcomes Professor Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro from Brown University as a visiting scholar. This piece is unique because it highlights research on ‘petty corruption’ which is a daily experience for many, but doesn’t often make headlines. The story highlights GOV/LAB’s interest in better understanding how citizens interact with their government on a day-to-day basis.
Taking the Mystery out of Access to Information in Kenya by Alisa Zomer. MIT GOV/LAB and Twaweza sent “mystery shoppers” to 45 of 47 counties across Kenya to request public information from local government offices. This piece was shared by partners on Twitter, read by civil society in south Asia, and ultimately led to a new partnership. We also include it in our list because it describes, in an accessible way, how we conduct experimental research with our partners. Another solid write up on how we work is Ying Gao’s report back from the field on constructive engagement between citizens and government in the Philippines.
To browse through the rest of GOV/LAB’s stories, check out the updates section of our website. Here’s to another year of quality research partnerships and learning.
Mashup of header images from the top five stories.