Bringing together a community working on applied development



Is an applied learning environment that focuses on connecting social scientists at Penn who work in international development with the community of development practitioners to create rigorous programming, collect monitoring and evaluation data, and conduct impact evaluations of development projects. The lab connects faculty and graduate students from several departments and schools at Penn who have extensive experience in both international development and program evaluation, including a broad range of donor activities in the areas of education, health, governance, cross-sectoral programming, environment, labor markets and economic growth.

We have four broad goals:

1. To give timely input to development practitioners—both donors and implementers—at all stages of project conceptualization, design, implementation and evaluation.

2. To promote rigorous M&E standards and a strong research foundation for development policy and thereby serve Penn’s mission of developing knowledge in service to society
3. To bring together and build the Penn community of faculty who are working on applied development, as well as community members outside of international development with expertise pertinent to the tools of rigorous impact evaluation (e.g. engineers, doctors, computer scientists, psychologists).
4. To provide hands-on training opportunities for graduate students and post-docs embarking on careers in international development.

In addressing these goals, we bring together scholars and students attuned to the research frontier and with advanced capabilities in experimental and quasi-experimental impact evaluation designs, survey design and other data collection tools, and data analytics, including impact evaluation econometrics, web scraping and geospatial analysis. As established social scientists, we are able to identify opportunities for knowledge generation that will benefit the Penn community of scholars and the scientific community more broadly. As academics trained in applied statistics, we are able to offer advice on best practices for cutting-edge program evaluation to practitioners. Our setting also gives us access to a range of experts on the frontier of technology relevant to program evaluation.

“Our lab arose out of the desire to enhance the knowledge gained from the international development work that is being carried out across the globe by identifying broader scientific questions that can be answered through prospective evaluation design with the input of a team of academic researchers.