“Politicians prefer not to be told that they need to wait three years before they can launch their flagship programme; journalists prefer stories about grand successes to qualified endorsements; donors want to eliminate poverty today, and being told that we don’t know how to, puts a pall on the proceedings. But in the end these are our resources that are being wasted, our hopes that are being betrayed. And all these people are meant to be our agents. We have to convince them that we want evidence rather than emotions, measured success rather than failed miracles, trial rather than error.”
Here, Banerjee refers to the example of the promotion of micro-finance projects in development circles and the recent research concluding that their benefits were not as great as anticipated. His point is that a method needs to be evaluated before it is whole heartedly endorsed. Similarly, in the field of HIV/AIDS, billions of dollars are being spent on prevention education with no evaluation of its benefits. Unlike the micro-finance example, measurement tools need to be created in order to evaluate how participant’s knowledge and attitudes change as a result of the education. Read about our continued work in creating these measurement tools using Item Response Theory.