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UC Berkeley Web Feature

Panel to explore U.S. universities' role in global development

– The role that U.S. universities play in global development will be addressed in a panel discussion on Thursday, April 17, as part of the official launch of UC Berkeley's new Center for Evaluation for Global Action (CEGA).

The 4-7 p.m. program in the theater in the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive at 2626 Bancroft Way is free and open to the public. A map and directions to the museum are online at BAM/PFA Web site.

The program will begin with a keynote address by Ariel Fiszbein, chief economist for human development at the World Bank, who will discuss the importance of learning from economic development projects.

He and UC Berkeley's Paul Gertler, an economist at the Haas School of Business who served from 2004 to 2007 as chief economist of the World Bank Human Development Network, have worked to increase the World Bank's investments in research in order to learn "what works" in international development.

Other speakers will include Mark D. Lange, a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush and author of a recent series on global poverty for the Christian Science Monitor. Lange has written about the need for aid agencies to change the way they operate, so that they "experiment, adapt, and work smarter" to reduce poverty in the world's least developed countries.

A non-governmental organization's view of global development will be given by Pratham USA's Leona Christy, who will discuss how rigorous experimentation by university researchers has helped her organization improve its literacy programs in India.

Daniel Mouen Makoua, an investment manager and UC Berkeley alumnus born in Cameroon, will provide a perspective on the role of U.S. universities in training young African researchers and professionals and how this contributes to global development.

Finally, Jean-Jacques Dethier will discuss his work with developing countries' universities as research manager with the World Bank, which helps to fund U.S. universities' work with research institutions abroad to exchange knowledge, skills and research resources.

CEGA was founded by UC Berkeley researchers from a range of fields such as business, agricultural economics, public health and education, who test poverty alleviation strategies to learn what works to improve the lives of the poor. The researchers use methods like those used in clinical research - comparing treatment groups with control groups - to measure impacts on community health, education, income and equity of social programs such as microfinance efforts, vocational training and girls' empowerment classes.

"Often, the development programs we consider to be effective and cost-efficient - like nutritional education for new mothers, or village wells to provide cleaner water - fail to actually improve human welfare when tested," said Edward Miguel, a UC Berkeley associate professor of economics and faculty director of CEGA.

"Yet, without this research, it is impossible to know which programs can make positive change in people's lives," Miguel said.

Center researchers said they hope to generate new insights into individual behavior, promote effective social policy, and train the next generation of researchers from developing countries.

More information is available on the homepage for the Center of Evaluation for Global Action.