Research

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A school on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya

Tracking Hope in Nairobi & Karachi
In partnership with Dana Burde, Daphna Harel, and Jennifer Hill, I am conducting a 2.5-year mixed methods regression discontinuity design (RDD) study of the effects of access (and non-access) to tertiary education on youth’s hopes and peace and conflict attitudes and behaviors. The research is conducted in parallel in Nairobi Kenya (where I serve as PI) and Karachi, Pakistan (where Burde serves as PI) via in-person as well as online surveys. The research follows a select group of youth from Nairobi as they take their standardized secondary school certificate examinations, through their first year of university or alternate activity, following those that just pass the threshold for university admissions and those that just miss gaining access.  In doing so, the project will offer rigorous empirical research on the relationships between achieving one’s educational aspirations (or not), hope, agency, and positive or negative attitudes and behaviors. The study is primarily a quantitative study.
Generously funded by a Lyle Spencer Foundation Research Award for Advancing Understanding of Education Practice and Its Improvement.

The current research builds on previous qualitative work with youth in Nairobi (where I served as PI) and Karachi (again with Dana Burde as PI). Large number of “hopeless youth” are often blamed for social and political violence the world over. International organizations, governments, and NGOs alike propose education to keep youth away from conflict. But what do youth want?  How does education factor into their aspirations? How do differences in youth aspirations and education affect their attitudes and behaviors toward conflict and peace?
Generously funded by the United States Institute of Peace.

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The Gisozi Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda

Transcending Conflict through Ethnic Recognition
In the aftermath of inter-ethnic conflict, leaders must decide how to deal with ethnicity. Some choose to recognize and institutionalize it. Ethnic recognition may fulfill symbolic needs as well as address ethnic exclusion and prevent “tyranny by the majority”. However, recognition-based policies may carry risks, including the entrenchment of ethnic identities as lines of political cleavage. Thus, we also see explicit avoidance of recognition-based policies. What can we say about the wisdom of these diametrically opposed choices? In collaboration with Cyrus Samii, I am working on book manuscript to explore when, why and to what effect leaders choose to recognize groups.  We are ultimately interested in learning whether recognition changes attitudes and redresses inequalities in ways that reduce the potential for future violence and whether these benefits tend to outweigh potential negative consequences.
We are grateful to the Folke Bernadotte Academy (Swedish Government) for funding.

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On the way to a project community on the island of Luzon, Philippines

Community-driven Development and Reconstruction
CDD/R, an approach to development that gives control and investment resources directly to communities, is a major instrument of international organizations as well as national governments in the Global South. CDD/R is thought to lead not only to increased economic welfare, but improved governance and strengthened social cohesion as well. Evidence of these effects, though, lags behind faith and financial commitments and there is much to learn through research. I am part of a team studying the Philippines’ flagship CDD project through a large-scale randomized control trial over the course of five years. I have also worked on several systematic reviews of studies of CDD/R.
In partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Government of the Philippines.

 

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Visiting a school in rural Kenya

Conflict, Peace and Education
Education is often regarded in both scholarship and practice as a crucial tool for building peace in conflict-affected contexts. Yet, the impact of schooling and other educational programs on peace remain largely untested. In fact, my book (2014), focused on Rwanda, makes the case that there are a number of ways in which schools can and do contribute to laying the foundation for intergroup conflict. Building on this understanding of the complex relationship between education, conflict, and peace, I am working on a number of projects to assess educational efforts targeted at peace ranging from pastoralist education in Ethiopia, to textbook reform in Rwanda, to youth programming in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp.
I work with a number of partners on these studies, including UNICEF East Africa.