Funded! This project was successfully funded on April 28, 2012.

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Have you ever wondered whether aid programs actually work? This book will review the quantitative evidence in plain English.

Featured on Freakonomics! http://www.freakonomics.com/2012/04/06/how-to-crowd-fund-an-economics-book/

Have you ever wondered whether aid programs actually work? Wouldn’t it be useful to know how effective programs are in achieving their objectives (e.g. reducing poverty, improving health, improving education)? This book will review the quantitative evidence on the effectiveness of aid programs in a very thorough and rigorous way, using meta-analysis. After explaining this method and its merits, each of ten chapters will apply it to a different type of aid program. Throughout, the lessons that we can draw from these analyses will be discussed using plain English.

What is a meta-analysis? What are the benefits of meta-analysis?

A meta-analysis is the best way to synthesize information for evidence-based action. If you want to donate money to charity or be an activist for a cause, you'd like to know which types of interventions are most effective so you can really have an impact! 

Meta-analyses take the results of multiple studies and combine them to get a better understanding of the effectiveness of a type of program. An individual study’s results could be affected by random chance or by the specific setting in which it was conducted. By combining multiple studies, a meta-analysis provides more accurate and precise estimates of the effectiveness of a type of program. A meta-analysis can also tell us how the results of a program vary with its setting. This is useful to know if you want to predict the impact a program will have in a new setting.

What's in it for me?

Have a favorite cause? Anyone who donates will be able to vote on which interventions we cover. So this is your chance to get your questions answered about the issues you care about. Not only will you learn more about which aid projects are effective and when, but by supporting this effort you will also help organizations working on these issues learn more about what tends to be effective and what to watch out for.

The way Kickstarter works, nobody will be charged unless we reach our target, so please spread the news to other development/aid/charity-minded people.

Why do meta-analyses via this Kickstarter? Aren't there already some meta-analyses?

Some meta-analyses have already been done on the more established interventions. But there are some other interventions which have had impact evaluations done without corresponding meta-analysis. Also, some of the meta-analyses on the more established interventions are fairly old and have not been updated with newer results. Finally, conducting a set of meta-analyses in the same way would make it easier to compare results across meta-analyses.

Academics don't usually have the incentives to do meta-analyses because they are generally more interested in publishing the first paper on a topic. Nor are meta-analyses the purview of any government agency. There is a large effort to do meta-analyses by the Cochrane Collaborative, but aid isn't their focus, so whether an aid intervention is analyzed or not is a bit haphazard. We'd be systematic about it.

Who is doing the meta-analyses?

I'm organizing the effort. You can read a bit about my background elsewhere on this page. But because it's such a large venture, it is very much a team effort, joint with students from Georgetown and GWU.

Why a Kickstarter? What is the Kickstarter paying for? Where will the money go?

People do research all the time for free, so why do we need a Kickstarter? The same question could be asked about any book or piece of music, but we're organizing this research around a Kickstarter as a way of getting more people involved. We want to be helpful to the public at large, so one part of our Kickstarter campaign is to ask people: which interventions would you like to see featured?

Aside from getting more public involvement, the Kickstarter will cover the costs of printing up the book. By Kickstarter rules, we're not allowed to donate to charity, so any money we receive above our costs will go to helping the student team do more research.

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