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Cambridge, Mass., – August 5, 2013 – Today the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced it has been awarded an $8.1 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom to support a rigorous, five-year, multi-country research study on the impact of community transparency and accountability initiatives on health and other social sector outcomes. A collaboration between the Ash Center and the nonprofit Results for Development Institute, the project will explore the conditions through which enhanced accountability efforts can improve governance broadly and result in more reliable health care service delivery in particular. The project will evaluate interventions in 200 communities in both Indonesia and Tanzania with plans to expand to other countries as the study progresses.
“Transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of effective governing and of generating real solutions,” said Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood. “This research will serve to advance the understanding of specific transparency efforts, making them even better in the future. We are grateful to our generous donors for funding this important project.”
“We see great promise in investigating critical questions about whether transparency and accountability interventions improve health outcomes and under what conditions,” said Courtney Tolmie, senior program director at Results for Development Institute. “Our hope is that the resulting actionable evidence will serve as a valuable tool for practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders working to improve health, accountability, and citizen participation.”
“This project is designed to shed light on the creative ways in which transparency can empower local communities to improve health information to improve the public services they receive and, ultimately, public health outcomes,” said Archon Fung, the project’s principal investigator and the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship at Harvard Kennedy School. “We hope that our approach of combining rigorous qualitative field research with randomized controlled trials will create a greater insight into the impact of transparency policies and the mechanisms that produce that impact.”
First Multi-Country, CSO Co-Designed Study
During the study, researchers will work with local civil society partners to design a health care transparency and accountability intervention—programming that involves both community and government leaders engaging around data on health care service quality and the delivery of goods and services. The project expands on the work of earlier research that has included evaluations of social audits that convene community members and government officials to compare reported outcomes with actual results and community scorecards that have measured the perceptions of citizens and officials on the quality of specific government programs.
This research marks the first time local civil society organizations (CSOs) in multiple countries will work together to design a new accountability intervention that builds upon their deep knowledge of the local communities to be studied. This is also the first time a rigorous, randomized control trial study on a transparency and accountability intervention will be performed in more than one country simultaneously. In addition to measuring the direct impact of the transparency intervention on governance and health care, the project will explore the resulting actions triggered within the community. Such information promises to allow researchers to better define the various microdynamics affecting the success or failure of the intervention and inform the second phase of research.
“Everyone at the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (T/AI) is thrilled that this vital research project is about to begin implementation,” said Vanessa Herringshaw, program director of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative. “T/AI has coordinated the project from conception to launch, bringing together multiple funders and researchers, and supporting an extensive design phase. We think that the resulting approach will add critical new knowledge about the impacts of transparency and accountability interventions for health, and methodological insights that will be of value across a range of sectors.”
About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance; the Innovations in Government Program; and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu.
About Results for Development Institute
Results for Development Institute (R4D) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to unlock solutions to tough development challenges that prevent people in low- and middle-income countries from realizing their full potential. Using multiple approaches in multiple sectors including, Global Education, Global Health, Governance and Market Dynamics, R4D supports the discovery and implementation of new ideas for reducing poverty and improving lives around the world. For more information, visit www.resultsfordevelopment.org.