The Stakes of the Helicopter Money Debate: A Primer

Musings on the Science of "Scaling": Blum Center U.C. Berkeley

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This is not at all the so-called "replication crisis".

The devices built work as assessed by all engineering yardsticks: cheap, easy to maintain, rugged, and simple to operate. The interventions conducted work as assessed by all social science standards: they pass gold-standard RCT tests with effects that are statistically and substantively significant.

And yet...

"Scaling" is very hard...

My largely uninformed and probably wrong view is that it has everything to do with organizational and systematic robustness. In the engineering lab and in the social science RCT 98% of things go right. But out in the real world societal capabilities vary: while Toyota can hit six nines--99.9999%--at times I think U.C. Berkeley is lucky to hit nine sixes, and Berkeley is, in global context, a relatively functional organization. So: engineering and societal organization institutions designed for robustness, to degrade gracefully when you cannot attain the degree of organizational tautness of a Toyota. How do we do that? That, I think, is the BIG QUESTION here.

(And, of course, if we can attain the degree of organizational tautness of a Toyota, we no longer have a problem of economic development in any sense, do we?)

Blum Center: The Science of Scaling: Building Evidence to Advance Anti-Poverty Innovations:

September 26 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
100 Blum Hall, Haviland Road
U.C. Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720 United States

The Development Impact Lab (DIL), headquartered at UC Berkeley and funded by USAID...

...has developed a “Development Engineering (Dev Eng)”... interdisciplinary framework for designing and testing new povertyalleviation and economic growth technologies in the field... encourag[ing] researchers to build scal[ing] into the R&D process, from the beginning. Yet... there are few generalizable mechanisms for scaling evidence-based interventions in emerging markets.... [Thus] DIL[s]... annual State of the Science conference [is] on The Science of Scaling:

The conference will bring together academic researchers, development practitioners, technology developers, and investors to review the evidence on scaling successful anti-poverty innovations.... Are there proven methods for technology transfer from university to government agencies and non-governmental organizations? Why do some products and interventions scale quicker than others? What facilitates the adoption of new technologies by end-users? This event will explore these questions and help articulate a research agenda for the “Science of Scaling”...

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