How can governments, businesses, and scientists reduce brick kiln pollution in South Asia – estimated to kill 5,000 children a year in Dhaka alone? How can the United States design a safe, scientifically sound, and cost-effective nuclear waste management system? How can global powers bolster European security in the face of Russian challenges to regional stability?
Stanford faculty ask questions of tremendous geopolitical and social import, and their research findings bear implications worldwide. Yet examining international policy while trying to improve it is a complex commitment, especially as faculty develop long-standing relationships with diverse policymakers and navigate opaque policy-making mechanisms.
While unique and substantial challenges characterize these remarkable projects, until recently, Stanford had little infrastructure to support them. To meet this need, Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) founded the Stanford International Policy Implementation Lab in 2014. Through funding, the creation of a community of scholars, and dedicated space and staff, the Implementation Lab expands Stanford’s capacity to address vexing international issues by bridging research, student engagement and policy formulation and implementation.
Lab supported projects include:
The “mapping” project identifies patterns in the evolution of militant organizations in specified conflict theatres and provides interactive visual representations of these relationships. Conflict landscapes that are mapped include Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria/Maghreb, Colombia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Italy and Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as Northern Ireland. It also maps the global Al Qaeda network. The maps are accessible on the project website mappingmilitants.stanford.edu.
The project, funded at the outset by the National Science Foundation through the Department of Defense Minerva Initiative (2009-2012), builds on the premise that relationships among militant organizations are critical to understanding the effectiveness of government policies and to the outcomes of conflicts. With support from the Lab, ‘Mapping Militants’ is bringing on additional student researchers, performing increased policy outreach, and updating its website to include more conflict areas and policy-relevant variables.
The U.S. nuclear waste management program is at a stalemate, with no clear way forward for the selection and development of a geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) or high-level nuclear waste (HLW). SNF and HLW are now stranded at generator sites across the nation. Any new legislation should be informed by a thorough understanding of the history of the U.S. nuclear waste program, as well as the scientific, technical, social science and policy challenges required to “reset” the U.S. program. In order to inform the development of future nuclear waste management policies, the FSI Policy Implementation Lab supports a series of meetings on the core issues that should be addressed by scientists, engineers, social scientists, policy makers and the public. The first meeting took place in February 2015.
The Leadership Academy for Development (LAD) trains government officials and business leaders from developing countries to help the private sector be a constructive force for economic growth and development. Led by Professor Francis Fukuyama, the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI, the Academy teaches carefully selected participants how to be effective reform leaders, promoting sound public policies in complex and contentious settings
LAD operates through partnerships with academic institutions in developing countries, which recruit students and share in the research and teaching of the program. So far, LAD programs have been run in Costa Rica, South Africa, Kenya, Burma, and Singapore. With support from the Policy Implementation Lab, the project hopes to expand its range of partner institutions around the world, as well as to make use of FSI to expand its curriculum, faculty, and teaching opportunities.
Innovation is essential for the growth of a matured economy. An important reason for the economic stagnation for Japan in the last two decades can be found in the failure to transform the economic system from one suited for catch-up growth to one that supports innovation based economic growth. The project aims to examine the institutional foundation to innovation based economic growth, to suggest policies to encourage innovation based growth in Japan, and to help implementing those. The project is carried out in close collaboration with the National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA), a major think tank in Japan that has close ties to the central government.
Rwanda presents a unique case study in the world today. After a period of massive upheaval in the 1990s, the country is undergoing rapid economic and social development. Under its current president, it has halved infant mortality, doubled life expectancy, and has scored a rare “hat trick” in development: sound rates of economic growth, poverty reduction, and reduction of income inequality.
Nonetheless, substantial challenges remain, particularly in implementing deeper institutional and systemic reforms that are critical to sustainable development. Legal development has not kept apace with Rwanda’s economic and political ambitions. Many colonial-era laws remain in force, creating legal uncertainties around critical issues like land rights and political process. Judges are inadequately trained, or were trained outside of Rwanda under different legal systems or in different languages. Complicating these challenges is Rwanda’s mandate to update and harmonize its legal system to facilitate integration into the East African Community, a process that will involve transitioning from a civil law tradition to common law.
The Rwanda Legal Development Project (RLDP), spearheaded by Erik Jensen, Senior Research Scholar at FSI, is a collaborative effort among FSI, Stanford Law School, and key Rwandan legal institutions. RLDP is committed to realizing three mutually reinforcing goals: first, to strengthen the connections between policy formulation and law-drafting and law-making; second, to ensure that laws are better researched, reasoned and written; and third, to build Rwandan capacity and habits that strengthen linkages between governmental and academic institutions in policymaking, law-drafting, and implementation.
Stephen Luby, a professor of medicine and senior fellow at FSI and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, aims to develop interventions to reduce the air pollution generated by brick kilns in Bangladesh and ultimately across South Asia.. Efforts to introduce modern brick kilns in Bangladesh that generate less pollution have failed to displace the dominant small producers, because the modern kilns require high capital investment, skilled labor, and produce bricks that cost 40 percent more than traditionally fired bricks.
With colleagues, Professor Luby is advancing three lines of technical research to develop interventions that have the potential to reset the equilibrium that would allow brick manufacturers to remain profitable, but would produce bricks with much reduced environmental and health consequences
Support from the Stanford International Policy Implementation Lab allows the project to engage students in this effort and advance the conversation regarding the development and testing of these innovations in Bangladesh with key stakeholders including the Bangladesh Brickmakers Association, and the Department of Environment of the Government of Bangladesh. These conversations are crucial to shape technical efforts so they are appropriate to the local environment and also to build the support for associated policy change required for successful deployment.
The Stanford International Policy Implementation Lab supports Beatriz Magaloni, political science professor and senior fellow at FSI, and Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, senior fellow at FSI, in their effort to generate scientific knowledge that facilitates action to improve security. Their research has produced compelling empirical evidence that criminal violence has devastating economic consequences, that it reduces human capital formation, and that it disproportionately harms the poor. Magaloni and Diaz-Cayeros have partnered with local police, NGOs, schools, and government agencies in Mexico and Brazil to design and evaluate innovative solutions to improve policing and restrain their use of lethal force, generate opportunities for the youth at risk, and strengthen communities vs. organized mafia extortion and violence. See here for more.
The Stanford India Health Policy Initiative aims to identify institutional and behavioral obstacles that prevent health policies and programs from reaching their full potential. The initiative joins Stanford with Indian health policymakers and professionals, and creates a protected space to discuss common successes and failures in health delivery from which an India-led agenda investigating the social, behavioral, and institutional obstacles to health policy success is generated. Currently, Miller’s team is applying this approach to the question of why women in rural India are not giving birth in hospitals, despite the existence of government incentives for institutional deliveries.
Importantly, these projects create collaborative opportunities for students in India and the US to develop new skills and acquire new perspectives on the challenges of developing and deploying new health care delivery mechanisms. The initiative’s insights and relationships will also pave the way for larger, longer-term, extramurally funded research projects on the most pressing contemporary policy challenges for health care in India. The initiative ultimately aims to serve as a catalyst for advancing the health care sector in India, in times when reaching vulnerable and marginalized populations is increasingly prioritized.
The Implementation Lab funding will enhance ongoing policy engagement in India and the training of Stanford students, and will enable the initiative to engage a wider and more diverse community of India policymakers and health care practitioners than would otherwise be possible.
In October 2013, the Chinese State Council approved, in principle, a plan to improve vision care for impoverished, rural, elementary school and junior high school students as a way to enhance educational performance. The new policy initiative was based on three years of research conducted by Stanford’s Rural Education Action Program (REAP), headed by economist Scott Rozelle, the Helen S. Farnsworth Senior Fellow at FSI, and guided by a policy brief REAP had produced.
But, in China’s decentralized system of government, policy change requires more than directives from above. REAP’s work in one province in China’s poor northwest region is moving vision care one step closer to becoming a reality in China’s schools. In March 2014, the Shaanxi Province Department of Education issued a new, more concrete policy directive on vision care in China's schools. Using a policy statement written by REAP, and based on REAP research in the province, the head of the Shaanxi Department of Education committed to making high-quality vision care a more integral part of every public school’s mandated activities. Step one in this effort is the provincial government’s decision to establish a state-of-the-art vision care model county in the province. The aim is to learn from the model county’s experiences and, if successful, roll out vision care to all 1,800,000 million rural students in the province as well as to all 30,000,000 students in rural China. Shaanxi Province has asked REAP to set up and run (jointly with the local county school district and eye care hospital) the vision care model county pilot, which will be officially launched in the 2014-2015 academic year. REAP will also evaluate the vision care model county pilot project.
The Stanford International Policy Implementation Lab funds enable REAP to continue to engage with policy makers in China and to build a set of activities— with aid from both REAP’s academic and implementation partners inside China and faculty and students from Stanford—that will convert REAP's evidence based, policy research into policy action. Hence, the funds not only support change in the field that will potentially affect the lives of millions of children in China’s poor western province, but also facilitate learning and research opportunities for students and faculty from Stanford and Stanford’s partners in China.
FSI Senior Fellow Scott Sagan, in collaboration with Benjamin Valentino (a former visiting scholar at FSI’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and now an associate professor of political science at Dartmouth), is leading an international project entitled "Atomic Aversion-- Public Opinion, Nuclear Weapons, and Just War Doctrine." The project first identifies specific scenarios in which, according to Washington and New Delhi nuclear doctrine statements, the U.S. and Indian military have contingency plans to use nuclear weapons. The authors then use public opinion survey experiments to assess the degree to which just war doctrine principles of non-combatant immunity and proportionality influence public attitudes toward potential uses of nuclear weapons.
Sagan, the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, uses the FSI funds both to involve Stanford students in the project, as they will help run trial opinion surveys, and to brief the findings of the study at think tanks, universities, and government agencies in Washington, D.C. and in New Delhi, India. Sagan and Valentino hope that the briefings will encourage officials in both governments to address just war doctrine principles more thoroughly and consistently in policy statements and nuclear doctrine in the future.
Two premises motivate the “Immigration and Integration” project, which received seed money from the FSI Policy Implementation Lab. First, there is compelling evidence of systematic discrimination, integration failure, and growing hostility towards immigrants throughout Western Europe. Second, while there is a range of innovative policies developed across Europe in the past decade to address this compelling public concern, existing research falls short in providing rigorous evidence on the success or failure of these policies. The goal of the laboratory is to mobilize research teams in Europe and the US that involve students as well as faculty, to provide the best evaluations possible on policies seeking to address a compelling public concern.
This project is a study of a key, preventable public health emergency in Russia: smoking. Russia has hovered at negative population growth over the last decade, only recently crossing into positive territory. The working age population of Russia is decreasing rapidly, and this will have long term effects on labor productivity and ultimately rates of sustainable economic growth. Russian health problems are not just related to heavy “hard” alcohol consumption, but also extraordinarily heavy tobacco usage. The Russian state is highly motivated to cut tobacco consumption through this complex program of regulations and laws governing both supply and demand of tobacco. We have a unique opportunity now to study the initiation and continued progress of the policy. In doing so, I hope to get a glimpse into Russian state capacity. Russia has the second highest per capita consumption of cigarettes in the world (second by a hair to Greece). Russia’s anti-tobacco laws and regulations were introduced in two phases over the last year. Although the policy is late in coming relative to other European countries in both the east and west, Russia's tobacco policies are distinct comparatively for their breadth and ambition. Although many other countries have introduced anti-tobacco interventions, few have attempted to do so much and so quickly. As a result, the anti-tobacco “campaign” represents a unique opportunity to evaluate the extent to which the Russian state can address a policy problem about which its leadership cares a great deal. We know the Russian state under Vladimir Putin has a strong repressive capacity over society, but we know relatively little about its administrative capacity. This study hopes to fill that gap.
A number of developing countries are seeking to improve the functioning of their markets and institutions to deliver more energy, more reliably, at lower cost, and with fewer environmental impacts. Ghana, for example, hopes to implement a wholesale power market that would help incentivize construction of new generation capacity. Mexico is in the middle of massive energy reform on multiple fronts, with both petroleum and electricity sectors being opened to private participation and even some movement in the direction of a carbon market. However, there are significant pitfalls for countries that seek to upgrade their energy and environmental markets and institutions. Reforms based on hollow emulation of “best practices” of perceived industry leaders can produce disastrous results.
The Program on Energy and Sustainable Development (PESD) and Policy Implementation Lab at FSI are collaborating to help developing country policymakers learn how to improve their energy and environmental markets, taking into account the political economy and institutional obstacles they face. The project has two main components. First, we are refining a game-based market simulation tool originally developed at PESD so that it can be used to help policymakers and regulators understand the implications of different market rules. A key part of these improvements will be to expand access to the game by making it remotely playable without intervention by Stanford researchers. Second, we are finding and engaging policymakers around the world who are seeking to learn from the best academic research on market design in electricity, oil and gas, and environmental markets. Our first activity in this area was an intensive three-day workshop on electricity market design for energy officials from Ghana that took place at Stanford in spring of 2014. The workshop proved the educational value of interspersing lectures on electricity market design with simulation games demonstrating key concepts from the lectures. We plan to set up a number of other such workshops at Stanford as well as possibly in countries of interest.
Professor Cuéllar became a California Supreme Court justice in January 2015, but aspects of his project continue under the leadership of Stanford Professor Ran Abramitzky. Professor Wise’s initiative remains active.
People in crisis – living in a war zone, a barely functioning nation, or a refugee camp – face daunting obstacles to having their basic human needs met. The world community tries to address many humanitarian crises, but chronic political instability, pervasive poverty, and enduring violence present formidable barriers to providing better services to those most in need. A second set of challenges arises from bureaucratic hurdles, insufficient funding, and inadequate infrastructure.
Professor Paul Wise (Medicine and FSI), approaches these problems through research, long-term engagement with external partners, and student involvement.
Wise leads the “Global Health and Governance” initiative. A large percentage of preventable deaths in the world occur in areas of conflict and political instability, including almost half of all preventable child deaths. Integrating expertise on governance, delivery of medical care, and global economic development, Wise’s initiative develops new strategies to provide critical health services in areas plagued by violent conflict or poor governance. Wise and his colleagues – both fellow faculty members and undergraduate and graduate students – draw on his years of experience leading a child health and nutrition program in Guatemala. The project provides direct, clinical care to poor, indigenous communities while creating new, evidence-based innovations in health service delivery that can be adopted in other low-income settings. The prevalence of life-threatening malnutrition in the participating Guatemalan communities has been cut in half since the program was fully implemented in 2009. On-the-ground activities in Guatemala inform the broader effort to provide public goods in areas of weak governance or armed conflict worldwide.
From 2012-2014, Cuéllar headed Stanford’s “Rethinking Refugee Communities” project, focused on how humanitarian innovation is spurred in large, complex organizations like UNHCR, and how humanitarian innovation can be encouraged or stifled. Currently, most refugees in camps have little or no means of earning a livelihood. Villages near refugee camps often are impoverished, with too few opportunities for their own residents. Working with Ennead Architects of New York and other partners, Stanford supported the development of camp design features (such as a shared marketplace) to foster mutually beneficial economic interactions between refugees and surrounding communities. The project generated a new Stanford class on refugees, teaching on refugee issues in the School of Earth Sciences, and the creation of three Stanford student fellowships at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The American Institute of Architects (New York) honored the Ennead project with an award in 2015. Under the leadership of Professor Ran Abramitzky, Stanford continues its robust relationship with UNHCR and research on refugees.