Nairobi

I’m off to Nairobi for the summer!

I’m hopeful that it will be filled with new adventures, learning, and friends. It’s an entirely new country, not to mention new continent, for me, and I’ve been waiting to go for a long time. So, here I am. Bags checked, passport in hand…and guess what, I even got chosen to go through the TSA line where I didn’t have to take off my shoes or take out my laptop!

I’ll be working with the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics. Busara was started under the auspices of IPA by Johannes Haushofer, as a place dedicated to gathering an evidence base of behavioral traits of under-studied populations (i.e. developing country residents). It is unique in the technology it provides in the environment within which it is provided – and an extremely valuable tool to researchers interested in the intersection of behavioral and development economics, and lab and field experiments. These connections are integral – because they also help make the leap from theory to policy application. Busara is equipped with everything from a regular lab to a mobile lab, with a recruitment system and respondent base in the Kibera slum – quite a new thing in a world where most behavioral experiments are run in labs on college students in developed countries (see “The WEIRDest people in the world?“) – the results of which are not exactly applicable to many, even a majority, of people, and not tested in the field. So, for the first couple of years, Busara has provided a valuable lab for researchers – who can test theories in the lab on their population of interest by SMS-ing respondents to come, having them play games using their zTree software, and paying them via m-Pesa – Kenya’s amazingly saturated mobile banking system. Alternatively, for less easy-to-reach populations, an entire mobile lab, complete with lab partitions, touch screen tablets, and a mobile server can be used to administer complex games in any setting.

Now, however, Busara has built up enough of a knowledge base and quite a lot of interest. Based on a confluence of serendipitous ideas, Busara along with 3 graduating MPPs from HKS are launching a consultancy this summer, and I am part of the start-up team. Hoping to get some experiments of my own started as well! 

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