(April 2016 – July 2017)

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, interdisciplinary teams of faculty and PhD students produce an overview, assessment, and synthesis of the relevant empirical research.

Brown University - Diffusion of Grassroots Reforms
Northwestern University - Reducing Corruption through Better Civil Service
University of Colorado - Addressing the Shrinking of Civic Space
University of Denver - Human Rights and Pressure “From Below”
University of Minnesota - Consequences of Human Rights Awareness Campaigns
University of Virginia - Increasing the Civic and Political Participation of Women
Wayne State University - Increasing the Civic and Political Participation of Women


Brown University

Research Title: Diffusion of Grassroots Reform
Grant Period: January 2017 – July 2017
Research Team:

Research Question: When citizen participation has led to local reforms in a particular sector (e.g., health), what processes lead to these reforms’ influencing the regional or national levels of that sector (e.g., citizen groups monitoring medicine supplies in local clinics leads eventually to pharmaceutical procurement reform in the Ministry of Health)?

Research Report: Grassroots Reform in the Global South

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Northwestern University

Research Title: Reducing Corruption through Better Civil Service
Grant Period: June 2016 – December 2016
Research Team:

In 2016, USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance launched its Learning Agenda—a set of research questions designed to address the issues that confront staff in USAID field offices working on the intersection of development and democracy, human rights, and governance. This literature review—produced by a team of economists, political scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists—synthesizes scholarship from diverse research traditions on the following Learning Agenda question:

  • In the context of hiring civil servants and providing positive and negative incentives for their behavior, what kinds of interventions are most effective at reducing the propensity (potential and actual) of civil servants to engage in corruption?

Overall, as summarized in the chart below, there was not a great deal of rigorous academic evidence either for or against the majority of commonly prescribed anti-corruption strategies, with the partial exception of anti-corruption audits and e-governance. These findings are discussed at length in the publication, and contextualized within a broader analysis why the first wave of corruption reforms has generated so few success stories.

Northwestern University Publication Table

Research Report: Combatting Corruption Among Civil Servants: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on What Works

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University of Colorado

Research Title: Addressing the Shrinking of Civic Space
Grant Period:January 2017 – July 2017
Research Team:

Research Question: What enables civic and political participation in countries where civil liberties have been lost?

How do forms of civic and political engagement in such contexts differ from forms of engagement in contexts in which civil liberties are protected?

Are some forms of civic and political engagement generally more tolerated in newly repressive contexts than others? How do civic actors adapt their engagement tactics to achieve their objectives?

Research Report: Maintaining Civic Space in Backsliding Regimes

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University of Denver

Research Title: Human Rights and Pressure “From Below”
Grant Period: June 2016 – December 2016
Research Team:

Research Question: What do we know about the role of citizens, social movements, and other domestic civic actors (as opposed to transnational actors or government officials) in advocating for particular human rights outcomes in their country? What can we learn from the successes and failures of their activities?

Much of the research on this topic has focused on North America and Europe, but do any of these findings have the potential to translate to other country contexts? Are there particular contextual or tactical variables that make it less likely that domestic civic actors can have an impact?

Are some kinds of rights easier to fight for than others?

Research Report: Struggles from Below: Literature Review on Human Rights Struggles by Domestic Actors

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University of Minnesota

Research Topic: Consequences of Human Rights Awareness Campaigns
Grant Period: January 2017 – July 2017
Research Team:

Research Question:What makes a human rights awareness campaign successful? Why do many campaigns fail?

What are the unintended negative consequences of both successful and failed campaigns?

How do local norms and other cultural factors constrain or enable the translation of campaigns from one context to another?

Research Report: Making Human Rights Campaigns Effective While Limiting Unintended Consequences

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University of Virginia

Research Topic: Increasing the Civic and Political Participation of Women
Grant Period: June 2016 – December 2016
Research Team:

Research Question: What are the most effective ways to encourage women’s civic (e.g., volunteer, advocacy, etc.) and political (e.g., voting, running for office) participation?

What are the risks to women of these strategies in contexts where resistance to changing gender norms is strong?

Research Report: Increasing the Civic and Political Participation of Women: Understanding the Risk of Strong Resistance

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Wayne State University

Research Topic: Increasing the Civic and Political Participation of Women
Grant Period: June 2016 – December 2016
Research Team:

Research Question: What are the most effective ways to encourage women’s civic (e.g., volunteer, advocacy, etc.) and political (e.g., voting, running for office) participation?

What are the risks to women of these strategies in contexts where resistance to changing gender norms is strong?

Research Report: Strengthening Women’s Civic and Political Participation: A Synthesis of the Scholarly Literature

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