MPA/ID candidate Lucila Arboleya

The SYPA and the MPA/ID Curriculum

Jeff McManus won the Outstanding SYPA Award in 2014 for his paper titled Educational Qualifications of Village Leaders in North India: Implications for Public Service Delivery with guidance from advisor Rohini Pande and section leader Rema Hanna. His policy analysis was prepared for the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, India.

Below, Jeff describes the way in which his SYPA built upon the MPA/ID curriculum and his previous experience.

"During my time at HKS, I focused on developing the main tools in the policy analyst’s toolkit: economic theory, data management, statistical inference, and data visualization and reporting. The MPA/ID core curriculum formed the basis for this toolkit, while elective courses at HKS and other departments at Harvard provided opportunities to refine and enhance specific skills. The SYPA offered an ideal forum to apply the tools acquired in two years of coursework to a policy issue of personal interest.

In my SYPA, I examine the delivery of public services in rural India, which has been a consistent theme in my work before, during, and after HKS. Before I started the MPA/ID, I worked for three years at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in India, where I studied the impact of voter education campaigns in four northern states. I returned to the region for my MPA/ID summer internship with IDinsight, where I spent the summer evaluating two government anti-poverty programs; this experience led to a full-time position with IDinsight after graduation. During my visits in India, I compiled data from a variety of sources on local political dynamics in rural villages, including survey data of local leaders, election returns, audits of public services, and household data of public service beneficiaries. This data provided a rich, multi-faceted perspective on local political dynamics in rural India, and it formed the basis of the empirical work in my SYPA.

I used tools developed in 2nd year elective courses to broaden my analytical approach throughout the SYPA writing process. To supplement the data that I had compiled in India, I applied techniques from CS-109: Data Science to scrape data on public service outcomes from thousands of government webpages. I used quasi-experimental methods for causal inference from API-208: Program Evaluation to measure the impact of local elected leaders on public service delivery. I explored geographic variation in public services across the study region using techniques from GOV-1016: Spatial Models in Environmental and Social Policy. I applied principles from CS-171: Data Visualization to strengthen the presentation of my findings and to create an interactive web-based visualization to complement my written report.

I continue to apply this toolkit in my current job. At IDinsight, we use research methods to tackle policy problems faced by our developing country clients. We use the most rigorous methods to generate the best evidence possible given the constraints of the problem and our client’s budget and timeline. Having a diverse toolkit is a huge asset in this role, since it provides new ways of approaching old problems and loosens previously rigid constraints. I am grateful for the opportunities provided by the SYPA writing process to apply and refine this toolkit."

- Jeff McManus, MPA/ID 2014

Jeff McManus is a Senior Technical Manager with IDinsight based in San Francisco, CA.

SYPA Award Winner

Jeff McManus and MPA/ID Program Chair Professor Lant Pritchett with Jeff's Outstanding SYPA award in 2014.

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