(Mystery shopper training in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: Alisa Zomer).

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Dear MIT GOV/LAB Community,

It’s been an exciting few months at GOV/LAB, with a full events calendar, new published research, and new senior researchers Varja Lipovsek and Kelly Zhang coming on board.

We’ve also opened a new chapter at GOV/LAB. After three years in startup mode, we recently launched a strategic planning process to figure out our next phase. In a world increasingly marked by unresponsive, illiberal populist leaders, working on citizen voice requires savvy partnerships with non-traditional allies, and more nuanced theories of change. Now more than ever, we think that GOV/LAB can help provide the evidence base and innovation to make this possible, and we look forward to sharing the results of our strategic planning in the months ahead.

In the meantime, we continue our work to establish best practices for effective academic/practitioner partnerships. We co-hosted events in both Washington, DC and on campus to explore ways to strengthen research collaborations, learn from failures, and identify solutions. We also published two new learning cases from the Philippines and East Africa. This is a new type of case study for us, meant to candidly reflect on our research collaborations and design process and integrate these lessons into our future work.

To continue bringing a more evidence-based approach into governance work, we wrapped up an evidence review with the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) where we queried major foundations on how evidence informs their grant-making. We developed an interactive online tool where users can search the evidence base on government accountability and quickly find studies and research relevant to their own context. (The tool is currently in beta and we welcome your feedback). Our website also features new research briefs that summarize our open government “mystery shopper” experiment in East Africa and our evaluation of a civic leadership training program in the Philippines.

As part of our own commitment, we participated in the first-ever APSA Hackathon on Diversity and Inclusion. We also continue to bring diverse voices to campus, for example through the MIT-Africa Forum, where Risha Chande presented on how Twaweza is navigating the closing civic space in Tanzania.

As always, we enjoy hearing from you and getting your input (send us a note at mitgovlab@mit.edu). Below are some more highlights from the last few months.

To follow our work throughout the year, check out our website for new research results and partner collaborations.

  • Top 5 Highlights from 2018. Our favorite stories from last year on trust, evidence use, and the responsibility of political scientists to create a more inclusive and accountable discipline.
  • Mapping Local Government Transparency in the U.S. Using big data and a machine learning algorithm built from scratch, we are working to grade governments on their openness.
  • Re-Imagining the Future of Human Rights with Dejusticia. Our partner brought together eighteen young human rights defenders from the Global South to learn new skills, build community, and take a break.
  • Exploring New Partnerships in Nigeria and Nepal. Including preliminary research with the Justice and Empowerment Initiatives in Nigeria and Accountability Lab’s Citizen Helpdesks program in Nepal.