Working Papers

“Making Recognition Matter: A Field Experiment on Recognition Rewards for Public School Teachers"

Governments often roll out employer recognition schemes to motivate employees, but there is limited evidence on the mechanisms through which such non-financial tools operate in governments. This paper unpacks these mechanisms and provides experimental evidence on an employer recognition scheme implemented in collaboration with the Public Education Department in Punjab, Pakistan. The programme randomized head teachers attending a mandatory in-service training into different designs of tournament-based recognition incentives tied to training performance, and a control group. Results highlight that employer recognition that makes potential informal career benefits salient can improve performance. At the same time, these positive effects can backfire depending on the framing of incentives. When a motivational framing is added to the recognition incentives, it bolsters motivation but also makes teachers overconfident reducing their performance in the training. These findings have new academic implications for understanding the extrinsic and intrinsic channels of bureaucrats’ motivation in response to recognition rewards. At the same time, they offer policy implications for how to design “soft but sharp” recognition rewards in the public sector.

“Rules versus Discretion: Experimental Evidence on Incentives for Public Extension Staff “ (with Garance Genicot and Ghazala Mansuri) New version coming soon

Partnering with the Agriculture Extension Department in Punjab Pakistan, we evaluate the impact of three alternative pay-for-performance schemes on extension outreach and quality. The performance schemes leverage the departmental digital monitoring system called AgriSmart and link incentives to objective metrics available on AgriSmart (Objective arm), supervisors’ own subjective evaluation of staff (Subjective arm) to capture additional harder to measure dimensions, or supervisors’ own subjective evaluation with an additional element of top-down monitoring to align supervisors’ incentives with the objectives of the principal (Subjective Plus arm). Early results show that while all treatments improve performance on AgriSmart metrics (with the strongest treatment effects in the Objective arm), Subjective Plus also shows positive and significant effects on supervisors’ (AD) task completion and farmer experience of extension services. In addition, we also find indicative evidence that the AD’s in Subjective Plus may have used their discretion more effectively as compared to ADs in the Subjective arm. Our final results will have have academic implications for understanding the merits versus demerits of Objective versus Subjective evaluation and incentive systems in governments. They will also have direct policy implications for the Agriculture Department by highlighting the trade-offs between these different incentive schemes. 

“Beyond the Paycheck: Intrinsic motivation and public service delivery” (draft available upon request)

This paper provides evidence that the source of motivation of frontline bureaucrats has implications for the impact of non-financial incentives such as employer recognition. We demonstrate this within the context of an experiment with the Punjab Teacher Training Academy in Pakistan where we embed different employer recognition schemes that are tied to training performance of primary school public school teachers who attend a routine professional development training. We find that teachers who report intrinsic reasons for entering the service such as ‘interested in the profession of teaching’ exhibit a positive treatment response, teachers who report pro-social reasons such as `serving the community’ show no treatment response, whereas those who report extrinsic reasons such as ‘salary’ show a negative treatment effect. The impact of employer recognition for intrinsic and extrinsic teachers is significantly different which implies that such non-financial incentives have the potential to lower equilibrium effort depending on the heterogeneity in the source of bureaucrats’ motivation in the workforce mix.



“Systems Approaches to Public Service Delivery: Lessons from Health, Education, and Infrastructure” (with Martin Williams) 


Researchers and practitioners are increasingly embracing systems approaches to deal with the complexity of public service delivery. However, the diversity of these methods and their lack of common theoretical grounding has limited constructive engagement between those working within the systems tradition and those working outside it. We address this by reviewing and critically synthesizing systems literature from the fields of health, education, and infrastructure. We argue that the common theoretical core of systems approaches is the idea that multidimensional complementarities between a policy and other aspects of the policy context are the first-order problem of policy design and evaluation. What differentiates systems approaches from other research traditions is thus not so much a specific method as a general difference in question prioritization, and consequently greater methodological pluralism. We distinguish between macro-systems approaches, which focus on the collective coherence of a set of policies or institutions, and micro-systems approaches, which focus on how a single policy interacts with the context in which it operates. We develop a typology of micro-systems approaches and their relationship to standard impact evaluation methods, and discuss their relationship to adjacent concepts such as external validity, implementation science, and complexity theory.


"A Global Mapping of Delivery Approaches” (with Martin Williams, Dana Qarout, Celeste Carano, Kate Anderson, Liah Yecalo-Tecle, and Veronika Dvorakova)


The past 25 years has seen numerous governments worldwide adopting new institutional forms, such as delivery units and reform labs, to try to improve service delivery. We conduct a systematic global search and mapping of these delivery approaches. We identify 152 instances of delivery approach (DA) adoption from 80 different countries, ranging from the center of government down to provincial and local levels, with an accelerating trend of adoption since 2010. The majority of these include education as a focus sector.The main finding that emerges from our analysis is that there is no single model that characterises the design of such approaches or the purposes for which they are adopted. However, we do identify a number of patterns, including that DAs in lower-income countries are more likely to focus mainly on output-type goals (as opposed to outcomes), use external consultants, and utilise accountability- and incentive-driven mechanisms relatively more heavily than their counterparts in middle- and high-income countries. While our findings are purely descriptive and cannot be used to infer whether DAs are effective, they give an indication to policymakers about the menu of potential options available to them in designing DAs. This global mapping can also provide useful context for existing and future country-level case studies that investigate the effectiveness of DAs and seek to explore which designs might be more effective in different contexts and for different purposes.


Work in Progress

  • “Delivery Approaches in the Ghanaian Public Education System and their Relationship with Policy Implementation and Service Delivery” (with Clare Leaver and others), funded by FCDO (fieldwork in progress)

  • “Political Economy of Reform Implementation: Evidence from a Digital Management Reform in Public Agriculture Extension in Pakistan” (with Ghazala Mansuri, Garance Genicot, and Ayesha Shahid) 

  • “Cognitive Biases in Policy Decision Making and the role of Team-based Deliberation: Lab-in-the-field Experiments with the Civil Service Academy of Pakistan” (with Adnan Qadir and Shehryar Banuri), funded by IGC (fieldwork completed)


  • “Medium-term and Long-term Impacts of Mental Health Support to Youth on Human Capital Accumulation: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan” (with Jennifer Opare-Kumi), funded by John Fell Fund Oxford (fieldwork in progress)

  • “Transforming Beliefs and Social Norms: Experimental Evidence on Female Labour Force Participation in Pakistan” (with Dana Qarout), funded by IGC (fieldwork about to start)

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