This post was written by CEGA Executive Director Carson Christiano and Program Associate Anya Marchenko.
CEGA is thrilled to welcome Bilal Siddiqi as our inaugural Director of Research. In this role, Bilal will help to articulate and advance an intellectual agenda for CEGA by tracking sector trends and pursuing high-value research, policy engagement, and capacity building opportunities. This year, he will support the design and implementation of newly funded capacity building activities in East and West Africa, and help CEGA design and launch new research initiatives in conflict & development, technology & governance, and other priority areas.
Bilal is a development economist with 10 years of research experience. After earning his PhD in Economics from Oxford in 2012, and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford, Bilal spent five years with the World Bank’s Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) unit where he led the ‘Data and Evidence for Justice Reform’ (DE JURE) research program, evaluated World Bank investments in digital identification and judicial reform, and worked with governments and donors to embed research and impact evaluation into their operations. Bilal is passionate about translating research into policy impact, having worked closely with governments in East and West Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America.
“One of the reasons I was excited to join CEGA,” Bilal says, “is that I’ve always appreciated CEGA’s values from afar.” He finds the EASST Collaborative — which trains and provides research funds to African scholars to conduct rigorous impact evaluations in their home countries — particularly inspiring. EASST has achieved high-profile success: the group of scholars CEGA has supported through EASST over the years has recently established their own entity, the Network of Impact Evaluation Researchers in Africa (NIERA). Bilal credits EASST and NIERA, the first impact evaluation network made up solely of African scholars, with addressing a pressing need for “local ownership” of policy change.
Bilal’s current research involves the application of experimental methods and machine learning approaches to the intersection of legal institutions, state capacity, and conflict. One ongoing study, supported by the Economic Development and Institutions (EDI) program, involves a series of linked randomized evaluations in India, Kenya, and Tanzania to test whether information can incentivize judicial officers to perform better through competition for rewards, or ‘nudge’ them into efficiency by helping them overcome behavioral biases.
Overall, Bilal is excited about the opportunity to learn from and support CEGA’s network of affiliated researchers: “CEGA affiliates are phenomenal people who are doing amazing research in their fields. I see my role as Director of Research to offer these true experts the kind of resources and connections that they need to succeed.”
Welcome to the CEGA family, Bilal!