The Evaluation of Network Brokerage Initiatives

This is a collaborative project involving Abigail Barr of the Centre for the Study of African Economies, Boru Douthwaite and Sophie Alvarez of the CGIAR’s Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF), and Katherine Tehelen of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

Since the 1990s, social scientists and development practitioners have recognized the important role played by social capital in the economic lives of people in developing countries. In particular, networks, trust, and pro-social norms all support collective action, increasing the likelihood of its emergence and success and the resulting benefits to those involved. In acknowledgement of this, development practitioners have increasingly included network brokerage, i.e., the fostering and strengthening of productive linkages, among stated project goals. The issue now facing the development industry is how to evaluate the impact of such projects on network structure and the impact of brokered network linkages on the outcomes of principle interest. This research project will take some early steps towards filling this lacuna.

In 2003 the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) set up the Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), a global initiative aimed at increasing the productivity of water used for agriculture. From the outset, network brokerage was a stated goal of the project. According to the CPWF web site, “CPWF is an international, multi-institutional research initiative with a strong emphasis on north-south and south-south partnerships. The initiative brings together research scientists, development specialists, and river basin communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America to create and disseminate international public goods (IPGs) that improve the productivity of water in river basins in ways that are pro-poor, gender equitable and environmentally sustainable.” More specifically, the CPWF aims to foster and strengthen linkages between organizations in the food and water sectors, research organizations and those working on the ground to encourage the dissemination and application of new technologies, and members of the CGIAR network and their counterpart organizations in national governments.

We will make use of existing data from four distinct sources to develop and apply a methodology for evaluating the success of CPWF in fostering and strengthening the types of network linkages just described. We will also endeavour to establish whether these linkages are, in turn, associated with the success of the CPWF projects being undertaken by the network-member organizations.

Paper 1: Can we evaluate network brokerage initiatives using data that are byproducts of the network broking process? by Abigail Barr, Sophie Alvarez, Katherine Tehelen, and Boru Douthwaite. CSAE WPS/2009-18

Abstract: Increasingly, development projects list social capital development and network brokerage among their objectives. How do we quantitatively evaluate such initiatives? Best practice, diff-in-diff methods may be impossible or too costly. Here, we try using data that are byproducts of the network broking process to evaluate the Challenge Program for Water and Food along this dimension. We find that, in accordance with its objectives, the program is associated with bridging linkages between organizations in the water and food sectors and between CGIAR members and their counterparts in government and that, in the case of the former, the association may be causal.

Photo: A villager making a risky decision in the group formation experiment

The CPWF network of organizations – bridging both sectoral and functional divides

legendNotes: CGIAR members ■; large ■ in middle is CPWF hub; national govt. agricultural organizations ▲; other node types ●; research organizations R; development organizations D; CPWF funded organizations F; the nodes’ relative focus on water (as opposed to food) in parentheses; nodes with no linkages are not shown; location (river basin) of workshop where nework linkage first identified indicated by colour (see legend) of linkage.