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Department of Sociology


Tue 11 Feb, 3-4pm (Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, POLIS)

Prof Michael Woolcock (World Bank and Harvard University)


Amidst increasing calls for development policy to be 'evidence based', three key challenges (among many) need to be addressed. First, that the collection and curation of evidence – and especially national statistics – is a serious logistical and implementation challenge; second, that the credible interpretation of evidence is a serious intellectual and political challenge; and (c) imperatives to generate evidence and make it openly available means that – especially in fragile states – those actors seeking to inflict harm can now also be "more effective", creating serious ethical challenges. Instances of each of these are presented, along with some suggestions for how they might be addressed.


Michael is Lead Social Scientist in the World Bank's Development Research Group, where he was worked since 1998. For twelve years he has also been a (part-time) Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. His current research focuses on strategies for enhancing state capability for implementation, on crafting more effective interaction between informal and formal justice systems, and on using mixed methods to assess the effectiveness of "complex" development interventions. In addition to more than 75 journal articles and book chapters, he is the co-author or co-editor of ten books, including Contesting Development: Participatory Projects and Local Conflict Dynamics in Indonesia (with Patrick Barron and Rachael Diprose; Yale University Press 2011), which was a co-recipient of the 2012 best book prize by the American Sociological Association's section on international development, and, most recently, Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action (with Matt Andrews and Lant Pritchett; Oxford University Press 2017). He has recently returned from 18 months in Malaysia, where he helped establish the World Bank’s first Global Knowledge and Research Hub. An Australian national, he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Queensland, and has an MA and PhD in sociology from Brown University.

For further information please contact: Dr Adam P. Coutts


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