Sustainability Science Program

Alicia Harley

Ms. Alicia Harley
Kennedy School of Government
Mailbox 81
Harvard University
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs
Group affiliation: Doctoral student

Alicia Harley is a Doctoral candidate in Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a Graduate Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. 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 innovation in the context of power asymmetries and inequality. Her primary project is a multi-level analysis of agriculture innovation policy 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 policies onto the experience of a specific villages, her research is developing insights into the mechanisms through which innovation policy differentially impacts farmers across socioeconomic and caste spectrums. In addition to her work in Bihar, 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.  Alicia is contributing to collaborative work with the Initiative on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development led by Professor William Clark by leading the agriculture sector work. She received her BA, magna cum laude, in Environmental Science and Public Policy and a citation in Arabic from Harvard College in 2008 and subsequently worked as a greenhouse gas reduction program coordinator for Harvard’s Office for Sustainability. Following that, she spent a year in Cairo as a Fulbright Scholar researching the political economy of agriculture and food security in Egypt before returning to graduate school to begin her PhD in 2010. She is a recipient of the Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellowship in Sustainability Science (2014). Her host at Harvard is William Clark.

Agriculture innovation for small and marginal farmers: A regional study of Bihar, India
How do agriculture innovation systems address the needs of the most vulnerable farmers and what are the major barriers in agriculture innovation systems to address the needs of vulnerable farmers?

This research expands the literature in innovation studies to include a greater focus on innovation in the context of power asymmetries and inequality. It uses a systems model of the innovation process to study the agriculture innovation system in India. The project focuses on the agriculture innovation system in Bihar—one of the poorest States in India with a population of 103 million, which has also seen remarkable rates of growth in agriculture productivity over the past 10 years. Drawing on qualitative methods in organizational behavior and institutions, she studies the relationship between policies aimed at driving innovation in Bihar’s agriculture system (e.g., technology promotion programs, subsidy regimes etc.) and on the ground outcomes at the village level, specifically focusing on differential impacts on farmers across the socio-economic and caste spectrum. Her second project compares the provision of micro-irrigation subsidies across four States in India. She is interested both in how the design of subsidy delivery impacts adoption, and especially how the design of subsidies differentially impacts large vs. small farmers.

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