The Research and Innovation Grants offered through USAID’s Democracy Fellows and Grants Program support data-driven solutions to USAID’s work in the democracy, human rights, and governance (DRG) sector. Current and former Research and Innovation Grant programs are presented below. To be notified of new Research and Innovation Grants, interested academics are encouraged to join the DFG Mailing List.
The DRG Center’s Learning Agenda is a set of questions that address assumptions and questions integral to how USAID designs programs in the DRG sector. Under each question, existing data will be organized and disseminated, new evidence will be generated, and new programming recommendations produced. As a first step, four research teams led by Northwestern University, the University of Denver, the University of Virginia, and Wayne State University will produce a multi-disciplinary overview, assessment, and synthesis of the empirical research relevant to one of the research questions.
The purpose of this research initiative is to improve the capacity of the DRG Center to conduct strategic planning by strengthening the link between sector analysis and program design. This project responds to an expressed need from USAID’s DRG field officers to have a tool that allows them quickly and confidently to ground DRG programming and programmatic assumptions in extant academic theory that provides justification for the implied causal linkages behind how a program intervention will affect both intermediate outcomes and high-level development results. A team led by Yale University and the University of Virginia conducted the research for Phase I: Theories of Democratic Backsliding. Phase II, finalized in 2017, covered theories that explain paths away from authoritarianism; Phase III is led by George Mason University and will cover theories related to transitions from conflict.
The 2013 Research and Innovation Grants Annual Program Statement (APS) funded innovative research to enhance both a deep theoretical and an applied understanding of dynamics within the DRG sector. Eight research teams led by Arizona State University; the College of William and Mary; Georgia State University; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Denver; the University of Michigan; the University of Notre Dame; and Williams College conducted cutting-edge research in diverse fields in the DRG sector, including human rights, electoral integrity, community governance, and transitional justice, among others.
Since 2001, USAID has implemented C-TIP programs in more than 68 countries. Despite the complexity of the crime and efforts by many national and international organizations to eliminate it, there is limited research on the nature and extent of human trafficking, its underlying dynamics, and the effectiveness of C-TIP programs. Through three Research and Innovation Grants, research teams led by Texas Christian University, the University of Southern California, and Vanderbilt University implemented public opinion surveys in USAID priority countries for C-TIP programming, generating data to inform the design of programs to raise awareness about trafficking among vulnerable populations and to influence knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to trafficking.
The social movements of the Arab Spring brought protesters onto the streets in several countries in and beyond the Middle East, leading to unprecedented political transitions and changes. Traditionally, the international development community, including USAID, has focused on supporting formal civil society actors, yet the success of a social movement also depends on informal actors. Under this grant, a research team led by the University of California, San Diego conducted a mixed-methods case study to explore the informal networks, systems, and leadership that characterized the social movements of the Arab Spring.