Through the Democracy Fellows and Grants (DFG) Program, the Institute of International Education (IIE) seeks applications from qualified individuals for a part-time Democracy Fellow position to review, evaluate, and summarize findings from existing literature on the relationships between citizens and government as mediated by taxation.
The part-time Fellow will be hired as an IIE consultant with a detailed scope of work and deliverables. The Fellow will work between 90 and 100 days over an eight-month period. The proposed start date for the fellowship is June 2018.
The DRG Center’s Learning Division was established in response to the National Research Council’s report, Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluation. The report recommended that USAID become a learning organization that prioritizes evidence-based decision-making. When the DRG Center was launched in 2012, its Learning Division was charged with elevating rigorous research and knowledge management in the DRG Sector and incorporating new discoveries into DRG programs and policies.
The Learning Division aligns DRG Center research and evaluation activities with four priority development objectives: (1) strengthening participation and inclusion; (2) improving transparency and accountability; (3) protecting human rights; and (4) promoting cross-sectoral reliance upon DRG interventions to enhance outcomes in other sectors (e.g., health and education). The Learning Division generates new evidence and curates lessons from recent social science research that speaks to important questions under each of these four objectives. Learning Division products inform USAID DRG projects and strategic planning with valid evidence, based on evaluations of DRG interventions, survey data analysis, and original academic research.
The cutting-edge research that the Learning Division sponsors or conducts is useful at every point of programming. In the problem identification phase, social science evidence helps USAID officers challenge assumptions underlying DRG programs. In the planning phase, impact evaluations of past programs can help USAID officers redress poor outcomes in future interventions. In the evaluation phase, cutting-edge research can push the boundaries of what we trust to work in the field and promote international communities of practice.
With over $2 billion dedicated annually to programs to improve democracy, human rights, and governance in over 80 countries, research to improve – and evaluation to assess – the effectiveness of these USAID projects is imperative. The DRG Center and its Learning Division promote evidence-based policy and programming in the DRG sector. The Learning Division’s portfolio of active or completed impact evaluations demonstrate that impact evaluations in the DRG sector are viable and fill a critical knowledge gap in the development sector.
Responsibilities and Deliverables
The Part-time Fellow for Taxation and Governance will produce the following deliverables: (1) a literature review of 30-50 pages; (2) a two-page executive summary of the findings; (3) a one- to two-page page infographic or blog post that illustrates the main findings as they apply to development; and (4) a presentation of the draft report at USAID headquarters in Washington, DC. In addition, if time allows, the Fellow may be asked to conduct research or provide a similar literature review on one or more additional questions during the course of the fellowship.
The Fellow will be expected to interact regularly with the Learning Division at the DRG Center to ensure that objectives are met according to the specified timelines and that the deliverables match the Learning Division requirements.
The literature review will comprise two components. The first component is a synthesized overview and evaluation of the existing empirical research on taxation, political participation, and accountability with respect to the three research questions listed below. While the organizational scheme is left to the discretion of the researcher, the literature review should critically analyze the existing research in a unified framework. It should describe the methods, findings, and context of relevant studies and, where applicable, discuss how they relate to each other. More importantly, the review should evaluate the strengths, limitations, and divergent findings of the existing research while illuminating both general and specific challenges to answering the research questions. This will help set the stage for the second component, as discussed below.
The second component (and final section of the literature review) is a list of concrete recommendations for future research that would add value to the existing scholarship by addressing empirical gaps and refining existing theory. This section should mirror a concluding section in an academic journal article that speaks to improving the body of knowledge on the questions of interest. However, it should be written for an audience involved in development policy and programming.
The division of time dedicated to these two components should be roughly 70% (first component) and 30% (second component).
• Evaluate the literature on experimental interventions that have aimed to increase tax collection. What has worked and what has not? What are the reasons posited for success or failure?
• What does the research tell us is the relationship between tax collection and political participation or engagement with the state? Note that these concepts have been operationalized in a variety of ways. The review should evaluate the different approaches. For example, participation and engagement with the state have been assessed using various proxy measures including attendance at local (town hall) meetings, contributions to suggestion boxes, rate of contact with MPs, monitoring, anti-incumbent political action, and willingness to punish corrupt leaders.
• What does the research tell us is the relationship between tax collection and government accountability? Accountability has been operationalized and measured using proxies such as levels of actual corruption and public goods provision. The review should evaluate the different approaches. Linking to Question 2 above, one potential causal pathway to examine is whether increased tax collection leads to increased participation, which in turn leads to greater accountability.
• Evaluate the secondary literature on this topic to address the question of how taxation has contributed to state-building, historically, and how taxation contributes to state-building in contemporary poor/developing countries. As part of the review, evaluate the different approaches to conceptualizing and operationalizing state-building/capacity and how authors have tracked developments over time vis-à-vis taxation.
The review should be rigorous, yet accessible to policymakers and development practitioners who may or may not have technical expertise in research methods and econometrics. Regardless of background, readers should be able to easily understand the content so that they can potentially apply the findings to future USAID programming.
Scope Conditions and Priorities
The research questions are formulated in non-causal language to allow for the inclusion of studies that make both associational and causal claims. However, the literature review should prioritize studies that make serious attempts at causal inference. These include strong peer-reviewed publications and working or job market papers employing experimental methods (e.g., randomized controlled trials, lab-in-the-field experiments). These are of first-order importance in the review. Of second-order importance are research designs that take advantage of “natural” experiments or plausibly exogenous variation, which approximate as-if random assignment. Note that there are fewer peer-reviewed publications because most of the experimental work on this topic has occurred in the last five years.
Other studies for consideration include books published by academic presses or institutions, institutional reports, and other journal articles and working papers with less rigorous research designs. Although the literature review should include some of these studies, the Fellow should exclude those that are of extremely low quality and take extra care to spell out the limitations of those included. This is vital to ensuring that USAID understands the quality of the evidence produced by such studies in order to make better decisions about future programming.
The guiding questions for a critical evaluation of any study are as follows: First, the reviewer should assess the probability that the findings are valid. Second, bearing in mind that probability, the reviewer should judge the degree to which those findings support the conclusions or policy recommendations made by the study.
In the final section on gaps in the research and the way ahead, the review should also describe the experimental studies that are underway or planned. Some of these can be found online from EGAP’s Metaketa II: Taxation initiative and from 3ie. It is preferred that the fellow has intimate knowledge of this body of work, either through direct involvement or through contacts at EGAP.
Qualifications and Skills
• A PhD or advanced ABD in political science or economics is required.
• Excellent English writing skills are required.
• Knowledge of taxation and governance in developing countries is required.
• Competence in experimental, quasi-experimental, and non-experimental research designs and survey research, including statistical skills to interpret the results of field experiments and public opinion surveys is required.
• A record of publication in peer-reviewed, academic journals is preferred.
• Knowledge of USAID programming is preferred.
• Preference will be given to applicants who have participated in experimental interventions such as those that are planned or underway for EGAP’s Metaketa II: Taxation initiative.
Supervision and Guidance
The Fellow will serve as a part-time member of the Learning Division of the DRG Center and will be managed on a day-to-day basis by the Division Chief. The Fellow is expected to exercise the highest degree of individual initiative, resourcefulness, responsibility, judgment, and scholarly authority consonant with the overall policy and procedural framework of USAID.
The Fellow will be an IIE consultant and will report for administrative purposes to the Director of the Democracy Fellows and Grants (DFG) Program.
The Fellow can be based in the United States or abroad. The fellow will need to travel to Washington, DC, to present his/her findings in one feedback session/workshop with IIE/USAID.
Duration of the position
The appointment is for a total of approximately 90 to 100 days (including travel days) over the course of eight (8) months.
The daily rate for the part-time Fellow will be commensurate with the candidate’s salary/rate history.
The deadline for applications is 11:59 pm EDT on Sunday, May 6, 2018. Only complete applications will be considered.
To apply, please send the following application materials to Dem.Fellows@iie.org
before the application deadline:
• DFG Personal Statement
• Universal DF Application Form
• Writing sample required. An article published in a peer-reviewed, academic journal is preferred.
Application materials can be found at https://www.iie.org/...lityNav/Opportunities/DF-TG