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Learning from the experiments that never happened : lessons from trying to conduct randomized evaluations of matching grant programs in Africa

  • Campos, Francisco
  • Coville, Aidan
  • Fernandes, Ana M.
  • Goldstein, Markus
  • McKenzie, David

Matching grants are one of the most common policy instruments used by developing country governments to try to foster technological upgrading, innovation, exports, use of business development services and other activities leading to firm growth. However, since they involve subsidizing firms, the risk is that they could crowd out private investment, subsidizing activities that firms were planning to undertake anyway, or lead to pure private gains, rather than generating the public gains that justify government intervention. As a result, rigorous evaluation of the effects of such programs is important. The authors attempted to implement randomized experiments to evaluate the impact of seven matching grant programs offered in six African countries, but in each case were unable to complete an experimental evaluation. One critique of randomized experiments is publication bias, whereby only those experiments with"interesting"results get published. The hope is to mitigate this bias by learning from the experiments that never happened. This paper describes the three main proximate reasons for lack of implementation: continued project delays, politicians not willing to allow random assignment, and low program take-up; and then delves into the underlying causes of these occurring. Political economy, overly stringent eligibility criteria that do not take account of where value-added may be highest, a lack of attention to detail in"last mile"issues, incentives facing project implementation staff, and the way impact evaluations are funded, and all help explain the failure of randomization. Lessons are drawn from these experiences for both the implementation and the possible evaluation of future projects.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6296.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6296
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  1. Marcel Fafchamps & Simon Quinn & David McKenzie and Christopher Woodruff, 2011. "When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/2011-11, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Nicholas Bloom & Benn Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2011. "Does Management Matter? Evidence from India," NBER Working Papers 16658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ole Dahl Rasmussen & Nikolaj Malchow-M�ller & Thomas Barnebeck Andersen, 2011. "Walking the talk: the need for a trial registry for development interventions," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(4), pages 502-519, December.
  4. Bruhn, Miriam & Karlan, Dean & Schoar, Antoinette, 2012. "The Impact of Consulting Services on Small and Medium Enterprises: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Mexico," Working Papers 100, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  5. Dean Karlan & Ryan Knight & Christopher Udry, 2012. "Hoping to Win, Expected to Lose: Theory and Lessons on Micro Enterprise Development," Working Papers 1014, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  6. McKenzie, David, 2009. "Impact assessments in finance and private sector development : what have we learned and what should we learn ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4944, The World Bank.
  7. Karlan, Dean S. & Knight, Ryan & Udry, Christopher, 2012. "Hoping to Win, Expected to Lose: Theory and Lessons on Micro Enterprise Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 9100, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Gladys Lopez-Acevedo & Hong W. Tan, 2011. "Impact Evaluation of Small and Medium Enterprise Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2298, March.
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