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International Policy Implementation Lab


Specially trained police patrol a favela in Rio. Political scientist Beatriz Magaloni is working with Brazilian officials on curbing violence in Rio's slums. Her work is being supported by FSI's International Policy Implementation Lab.
Photo credit: 
Elena Cryst

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 refugee camps be designed and administered to provide greater personal safety for millions of refugees worldwide? How can the United States design a safe, scientifically sound, and cost-effective nuclear waste management system?

Stanford faculty ask questions of tremendous social import, and their research findings bear implications for communities 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 implementation.

Click here to access the Implementation Lab's concept note, and here for an article about the Lab.


Populations in Crisis (Tino Cuéllar, Paul Wise)

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. Two related projects, led by Professor Tino Cuéllar (Law and FSI) and Professor Paul Wise (Medicine and FSI), tackle these problems through ongoing research, long-term engagement with external partners, and student involvement.

Cuéllar heads Stanford’s “Rethinking Refugee Communities” project, which aims to improve the welfare of the world’s millions of refugees by enhancing specific aspects of life in refugee camps. 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 is supporting the development of camp design features (like a shared marketplace) to foster mutually beneficial economic interactions between refugees and surrounding communities. The project has generated a new Stanford class on refugees, ongoing teaching on refugee issues in the School of Earth Sciences, and the creation of two Stanford student fellowships at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Future research will focus on how humanitarian innovation is spurred in large, complex organizations like UNHCR, and how humanitarian innovation can be encouraged or stifled.

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.

Cuéllar’s work is currently focused on Congolese refugees in Rwandan refugee camps, among other areas. Through involvement in the Policy Implementation Lab, he aims to extend Stanford’s efforts to include refugee camps in other parts of the world. Wise’s involvement in the Lab will include the development of partnerships with colleagues outside Stanford, including those from other universities, to build a multi-faceted group of experts who bring a wide range of knowledge. Additionally, with the help of the Lab, Cuéllar and Wise are exploring greater collaboration between their two projects.


Leadership Academy for Development (Francis Fukuyama)

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. A driving principle of the LAD curriculum is that policy reform is not like engineering or other technical fields that have discrete skills and clear, optimal solutions. Instead, successful reformers must be nimble and weigh a broad range of factors that influence policy outcomes. They must have a solid grasp of country-specific economic, financial, political and cultural realities. Most importantly, they must have a sense of how to set priorities, sequence actions and build coalitions. LAD provides participants with an analytical framework to build these abilities and operate effectively under adverse conditions.

The Academy has developed a unique, multidisciplinary curriculum. It uses case studies that are tailor-made to illuminate the challenges associated with enhancing private sector performance in emerging economies. The cases are ultimately rooted in real-world stories: specific policy reforms that have taken place in developing countries. Rather than serve as examples of “best practices” or “how-to” guides, the cases are designed to encourage participants to think critically about the key decisions that have led to policy reforms.

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.


Reducing Brick Kiln Pollution in Bangladesh (Stephen Luby)

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. Traditional small coal-fired brick kilns, which produce the vast majority of bricks in South Asia, generate substantial air pollution. Small particulate products of combustion are particularly dangerous to human health because they are absorbed deep in the lung and lead to cardiovascular and respiratory disease and mortality. 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. These interventions include low-cost strategies to improve combustion efficiency of current kilns; converting a low-cost device developed by Dennis Grahn, a Stanford biological researcher, to reduce particulate matter generated by wood stoves to brick kilns in Bangladesh; and developing low-cost practical approaches to monitoring brick kiln emissions.

Support from the Stanford International Policy Implementation Lab will allow 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.


Curbing Violence in Latin America (Beatriz Magaloni and Alberto Diaz-Cayeros)

Political scientists Beatriz Magaloni and Alberto Diaz-Cayeros are working with local and national government entities and nongovernmental organizations in Mexico and Brazil to study and develop programs that will curb violence and spur economic development.

The FSI senior fellows collaborate closely with Stanford students to create experiments, collect information and analyze data that delves into policies affecting the provision of public services. In particular, they are studying policing techniques in the favelas of Rio and educational interventions in Mexico that are aimed at keeping children out of gangs.

The Implementation Lab will support their research and collaborations with community groups, police organizations, government officials and other scholars.


Stanford India Health Policy Initiative (Grant Miller)

The Stanford India Health Policy Initiative aims to identify institutional and behavioral obstacles that prevent health policies and programs from reaching their full potential. Headed by Grant Miller, an associate professor of medicine and a senior fellow at FSI, the new 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. From this foundation, the initiative designs collaborative projects in India focused on generating new intelligence about the realities that distinguish health delivery success and failure in practice. 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.


Improving Vision for China’s Poorest Children (Scott Rozelle)

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 will 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 evidencebased, policy research into policy action. Hence, the funds will not only support change in the field that will potentially affect the lives of millions of children in China’s poor western province, it will also facilitate learning and research opportunities for students and faculty from Stanford and Stanford’s partners in China.


Measuring Public Opinion on Nuclear Weapons and War (Scott Sagan)

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, plans to use 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.


Staff Contacts:


Elizabeth Gardner
Associate Director for Partnerships and Special Projects
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Encina Hall, C-135
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-6055
Aparna Surendra
Program Manager 
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University 

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