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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

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 

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.


Mapping Militant Organizations (Martha Crenshaw) 

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 The maps are interactive, linking diagrams of relationships as they evolve over time to detailed and structured group profiles. They permit readers to compare the structures of different conflicts as well as to understand complex patterns of relationships among extremist groups in varied contexts. The maps are intended to be useful not only for scholars but also for government, NGO, and international organization analysts. Judging by the queries we receive, they are reaching this audience. We do not know of a comparable resource.

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. It is rare that a single non-state adversary dominates the terrain of a struggle for power. Most likely there are multiple challengers, whether they are defined as terrorist, insurgent, paramilitary, violent extremist, militant, or otherwise. They compete and cooperate with each other as their internal dynamics and interactions shift. Some are anti-state; others are pro-state although not agents of the state. The “maps” are developed to capture and display this evolution, in which the role of the state can be critical. Policies based on both coercion and conciliation can alter the dynamics of the militant landscape. With support from the Lab, ‘Mapping Militants’ will bring on additional student researchers, perform increased policy outreach, and update its website to include more conflict areas and policy-relevant variables.


“Reset” of America’s Nuclear Waste Management Policy (Rod Ewing)

The U.S. nuclear waste management program now faces a series of significant issues. As an example, there is 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. Also, there has been no action on the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (January, 2012). The U.S. program cannot move forward without a new strategy that will probably require important changes to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. 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 will support a series of meetings on the core issues that should be addressed by scientists, engineers, social scientists, policy makers and the public. A series of meetings will address, as examples: i.) the characteristics and structure of a new nuclear waste management organization; ii.) options for a consent-based process for locating nuclear facilities; iii.) alternatives to deep-mined geologic disposal; iv.) the regulatory framework for a geologic repository.


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.


International Policy Implementation Project: Institutional Foundation for Innovation Based Economic Growth (Takeo Hoshi)

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 NIRA (National Institute for Research Advancement), a major think tank in Japan that has close ties to the central government. 

In 2014-2015, we start by clarifying what we know about the eco system of Silicon Valley, which is the clearest success story of innovation-based economic growth.   Through case studies and statistical analysis, we will try to identify important factors that support the innovation based economic growth.  We are especially interested in finding government policies that encourage formation of such eco system and that can be implemented in Japan probably in 2015-2016.


The Rwanda Legal Development Project (Erik Jensen)

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 between 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. Its initial project grows out of a concern, shared by the Rwanda Law Reform Commission and the Chief Justice of the Rwandan Supreme Court, about the need for guidance on appropriate methods of statutory interpretation. RLDP members in their second year of Stanford Law authored an extensive research paper that will form the basis for a stakeholder consultation in Rwanda later this year. Based on the outcome of the consultations, RLDP will provide support in the form of policy recommendations, legal training materials, and further research focused on the need for policy implementation.


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)

Developing countries are experiencing a deadly and persistent form of violence linked to criminality, gang wars, and drug trafficking. The violence epidemic is acute in Latin America, where close to 50% of the world’s deaths by firearms occur, producing a death toll far above that of civil war. Latin America is home to 41 of the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world. These cities foreshadow a challenging conundrum for global development. Without improved governance, the rising tide of criminal violence will hurt the poor disproportionately, preventing them from escaping the criminal violence - poverty trap.

The Stanford International Policy Implementation Lab will support 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.


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.


Immigration and Integration: A Public Policy Perspective (Kenneth Scheve, Jens Hainmueller, and David Laitin)

Two premises motivate the “Immigration and Integration” project that is able to get off the ground with 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.

The “Immigration and Integration” lab, led by Stanford political scientists Jens Hainmueller and David Laitin, will focus research on three policy pillars: (1) Integration Contracts; (2) Citizenship Acquisition; and (3) Asylum Status. Integration contracts, now widely employed throughout Europe, require new immigrants to enroll in courses on language and national values as a condition for continued validation of work permits. Research teams will evaluate the success of these contracts by comparing immigrants who arrived just before contract implementation and just after, in what is called a “regression discontinuity design”, to learn if these courses instill greater understanding of the host country by immigrants and better access to its labor market. The route to citizenship varies across Europe, and there is a demonstrated correlation between citizenship acquisition and success on the labor market. However, we do not know if it is citizenship that is leading to better integration or whether it is those who have better skills in integrating who are also getting citizenship. The “Immigration and Integration” lab will implement an “encouragement design” to help qualified immigrants acquire citizenship, and compare those who got this treatment with similar immigrants who received a placebo. From this set-up, researchers will be able to identify more precisely than heretofore the returns to citizenship. Regularizing asylum status throughout Europe is a complex legal process, and in many countries, those aspiring refugees are not permitted to work in the host country. The consequences of this queue for asylum status are not known. Therefore, the “Immigration and Integration” lab will measure the length of time before regularization to learn the potential negative returns of being in legal limbo for future integration. For all three of these policy arenas, the FSI supported research will enable Hainmueller and Laitin along with their research teams to evaluate the returns for successful integration of these policies, better to advise policy makers as to what treatments work, and why.


Russia's Anti-Tobacco Campaign (Kathryn Stoner)

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. Its population is aging, life expectancy for men is 62 years old (similar to Botswana’s for example) and about 73 years old for women. Both are low relative to what is expected given that Russia’s GDP per capita in 2013 was about $14,000.00 US, making it an “upper income” country according to the OECD. 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). Russian men light up at a ratio of 2:1.19 compared to European men, for example. Women too have taken up smoking quickly in Russia. According to the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (which monitors household behavior and individual habits in Russia every two years), smoking among women doubled from 7.3 percent in 1992 to 15 percent by 2004.This extraordinarily high smoking rate has in turn contributed to its high rates of cardiovascular disease, the country’s leading cause of death. Although much of the focus on Russian health and demographic declines in the last thirty years has been on high levels of alcohol consumption, the World Health Organization reports that over 60 percent of men over age 15 are smokers and is “the single most preventable cause of disease and death in Russia” (Dying Too Young; 2007, p. xvi). 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. This study, with research support and students funded by the FSI Implementation Lab, hopes to fill that gap.


Developing Country Market Design (Frank Wolak and Mark Thurber) 

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. This has been the story of Nigeria’s attempt to replicate Norway’s checks and balances in oil without the required institutional and political prerequisites. And California’s own troubled early experience with electricity restructuring shows that failure of policymakers to appreciate weaknesses in market design can lead to outcomes that may be legal but are socially undesirable and produce a political backlash.

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 will refine 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 will actively find and engage 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.

Populations in Crisis (Paul Wise, Tino Cuéllar)

Professor Cuéllar became a California Supreme Court justice in January 2015, but aspects of his project continue under the leadership of 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, ongoing 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). Under the leadership of Professor Ran Abramitzky, Stanford continues its robust relationship with UNHCR and research on refugees .

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