Before making any New Year’s resolutions, we like to take a look back and see what we learned – from projects that went right and also from things that didn’t quite go our way. Twenty-nineteen was a full year for us, from planning what’s next for MIT GOV/LAB to growing collaborations with partners and students. Here’s a roundup of stories from 2019 (and in case you’re keeping track, you can look back at our favorites from 2018 and 2017).  

From Poverty to Power: How to Have Difficult Conversations by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam, who plugged our guide for academic-practitioner research collaborations. Okay, to be fair, we didn’t write the post, but we did write the guide that’s featured in the post. Very excited to share and spread our work on the challenges that often arise when academic researchers and practitioners decide to collaborate.

The Puzzle of Morally Transgressive Violence in Ethnic Conflicts by Jasmine English, MIT PhD candidate and GOV/LAB Seed Grant recipient, reports back from data collection in Northern Ireland. Every year, GOV/LAB supports graduate students to conduct original field research on a range of governance topics. Jasmine, one of our new Graduate Research Fellows in 2019, researches what explains the extensive use of morally transgressive violence in some conflicts, but not in others?

Getting to the Grassroot, Leadership Development through Storytelling on Whatsapp by Alisa Zomer. A technology platform in South Africa enables community organizers to mobilize more people; next is supporting them to mobilize better. An update on our research collaboration with Grassroot looking at leadership development for collective action outcomes. Results and more forthcoming in 2020.

Fragmented but not Powerless: Teachers’ Unions and the Education Sector in Senegal, by Stuart Russell, MIT PhD student and GOV/LAB Seed Grant recipient, reports back from summer fieldwork in Senegal. In 2019 we also circled back for an update on Stuart’s research on bureaucracies and social services in sub-Saharan Africa. Most recently, his look at the role of unions in the Senegalese education sector explores how unions may influence accountability relationships and ultimately, the quality of education.

Five Musings on What Makes for a Functional Learning Collaborative by Varja Lipovsek. In the learning spirit, we highlight five key questions that are emerging from our effort of knitting together a functional, meaningful learning network. Early reflections on testing out a new model for better learning in the transparency, accountability and participation field.

Now onto a new year and a new decade of innovative governance approaches. We’ll leave the “20/20 vision” and “hindsight is 20/20” references to others (but send us the best puns you come across!). Look forward to connecting soon and please don’t hesitate to reach out to with any feedback or if you would like more information on these projects.