Sustainability Science Program

Alicia Harley

Ms. Alicia Harley
Weatherhead Center for International Affairs
1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel:  (1) 720-215-6008
Group affiliation: Doctoral Research Fellow 
Personal website:

Alicia Harley is a doctoral candidate in Public Policy and a Doctoral Research Fellow in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, she is also a graduate student associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She studies innovation in agriculture systems, specifically her work aims to improve our understanding of how to govern innovation to improve the well-being of small and marginal farmers. She uses a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, relying heavily on organizational behavior and institutional approaches in political science.  Her research expands the literature in innovation studies to include a greater focus on the particular challenges of innovation to meet the needs of the poor. Alicia’s research is a multi-level analysis of agriculture innovation policy in Bihar. Through a village level analysis, she is evaluating the impacts a wide range of policies to support agriculture knowledge and technology adoption had on small and marginal farmers in selected villages in Bihar.  By tracing macro-level policies onto the experience of specific villages, her research is developing insights into the mechanisms through which innovation policy differentially impacts farmers across socioeconomic and caste spectrums. Alicia also works on several other projects including: a randomized control field trial testing different institutional approaches for supporting small and marginal farmers in adoption of solar powered irrigation pumps in Nepal; a cross-state comparison of subsidy policies to promote drip irrigation adoption in India; and a cross national study of policies to promote solar powered irrigation across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. She is also working with the Initiative on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development as the agriculture sector lead.  Alicia received her BA in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College in 2008. Alicia is a recipient of a Switzer Fellowship (2015), a Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellowship in Sustainability Science (2014), and a Fulbright scholarship to Egypt (2009). Her host at Harvard is William Clark.


Agriculture innovation for the poor: Lessons from India
This research is primarily focused on agriculture development in the state of Bihar, India. At the state level, she is analyzing statewide agriculture data and conducting expert interviews across public, private, and civil society sectors to better understand the structure of the innovation system in Bihar. In selected villages, through ethnographic and survey-based fieldwork, she is developing a nuanced understanding of the impacts of agriculture policy at the village level. By tracing macro-level trends onto the experience of a specific villages, her research is developing insights into the mechanisms through which agriculture knowledge, technology and development programs differentially impact farmers across socioeconomic and caste spectrums.

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