The Social Observatory: Developing a Science of Adaptive Delivery
December 8, 2015The Science of Delivery

“Scaling-Up” is one of the biggest challenges in development. Interventions that work well with small populations routinely face challenges in expanding to a larger number of communities. As demonstrated by the Policy Research Report on Localizing Development, this is particularly true of participatory and community-based interventions. Such projects hinge upon their adaptive capacity —the ability to be nimble, to learn by doing, and to make mid-course corrections in management and design—in order to be effective.

The Social Observatory has been working for more than four years with the $2 billion portfolio of livelihoods projects in India to improve their capacity to adapt. An inter-disciplinary team of economists, sociologists, behavioral scientists, and management information system specialists have been embedded within project offices engaging in a constructive collaboration with operations, in order to help improve implementation on the frontlines.

In this talk, Rao—who leads the Social Observatory—will describe this approach and highlight findings from impact evaluations and in-depth long-term qualitative research to show the “how and why” of when livelihoods interventions succeed and fail. He will also demonstrate a new method of Peer-Tracking that allows communities to generate census data with which they can monitor their own progress, make better allocation decisions, and provide a source of information to engage with the government to improve public services.

Last Updated: Nov 30, 2015

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    Vijayendra Rao, Lead Economist, Research Department

    Vijayendra Rao is a Lead Economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank. He integrates his training in economics with theories and methods from anthropology, sociology and political science to study the social, cultural, and political context of extreme poverty in developing countries. Dr. Rao has published on a variety of subjects that include dowries and domestic violence in India, the economics of celebrations, sex work in Calcutta, participatory development, village democracy and deliberation, and inter-disciplinary approaches to public policy. He co-edited Culture and Public Action, and History, Historians and Development Policy, and co-authored the 2006 World Development Report on Equity and Development. Most recently, with Ghazala Mansuri, he co-authored the World Bank's Policy Research Report on Localizing Development: Does Participation Work? Dr. Rao obtained a BA (Economics, Statistics, Sociology) from St. Xavier's College - Bombay (now Mumbai), a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, was a post-doctoral fellow at the Economics Research Center and an Associate of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, and taught at the University of Michigan and Williams College before joining the World Bank's Research Department in 1999. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals, and is a member of the Successful Societies Program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), and affiliated with research institutes and NGOs in India, the US, and the UK.
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    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Director of Research

    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt is the Director of Research in the World Bank. After joining the Bank in 1989 as a Young Economist, she has held different positions, including Director of Development Policy, Chief Economist of Financial and Private Sector Development Network, and Senior Research Manager, doing research and advising on financial sector and private sector development issues.
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    Shobha Shetty

    Practice Manager, South Asia Region, Food & Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank
    Shobha Shetty is currently Practice Manager, South Asia Region, in the Food & Agriculture Global Practice of the World Bank. She oversees a $2.0 billion portfolio of rural development and livelihood projects in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Her current work and interests span nutrition-sensitive agriculture, rural youth employment, female labour force participation, and rural-urban linkages. She represents the Food & Agriculture Global Practice on the management of the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative, SAFANSI. Over the summer of 2015, she was a Visiting Fellow at the Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative (TCi) at Cornell University. She has previously worked in the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tunisia, Syria, Saudi Arabia on a wide range of issues pertaining to agriculture and rural development including irrigation and water resources management, the role of ICT in rural development, agricultural marketing, wastewater reuse, rural infrastructure and food security. From 2002-2003 she was a Visiting Fellow at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Hyderabad. Shobha has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Anna University, Madras. She obtained her Masters and PhD degrees in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University.

The Policy Research Talks showcase the latest findings of the research department and their implications for World Bank operations. The goal of the monthly event is to facilitate a dialogue between researchers and operational staff, so that we can challenge and contribute to the World Bank's intellectual climate and re-examine conventional wisdom in current development theories and practices.  Read More »

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