Every year, CEGA’s East Africa Social Science Translation (EASST) Collaborative invites applications from rising East African social scientists to spend a semester at UC Berkeley developing their skills in rigorous impact evaluation. This post, authored by Senior Program Associate Chelsea Downs, introduces the EASST Visiting Fellowship program and application process.
The EASST Visiting Fellowship, which is currently accepting applications through February 10, 2020, continues to be the foundation of CEGA’s East Africa Social Science Translation (EASST) Collaborative. The Fellowship, which first launched in 2011, represents CEGA’s deep commitment to long-term investments in individual scholars. Watch this video to learn more about the EASST program from CEGA Faculty Director Ted Miguel and several of our fellows.
The EASST Fellowship brings East African researchers to UC Berkeley for one semester to engage in doctoral level coursework in economic development and impact evaluation. During the semester, fellows attend and present at economics seminars at UC Berkeley and other campuses, and develop their own research proposals with one-on-one mentorship. The fellowship also trains researchers in the latest norms and methods in social science, such as research transparency and reproducibility through the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) and cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) as part of CEGA’s new Cost Transparency Initiative (read more here).
The following three things set the EASST fellowship apart from other capacity building opportunities available to East African researchers:
1) Close mentorship on research designs
Developing the skills to think through the design of a new impact evaluation is a pillar of the EASST fellowship — the mentorship that fellows receive from their faculty mentor, PhD partner, and CEGA staff is crucial for this.
As CEGA staff, we see firsthand the value of multiple rounds of feedback on fellows’ impact evaluation designs, which are often translated into working papers and publications following the fellowship. For example, a little over a year after his fellowship, fall 2017 fellow Damazo Kadengye and faculty mentor Sandra McCoy published their paper on how changes in gendered social norms effect the prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Uganda. Also building off collaborations forged during the fellowship in spring 2015, John Bosco Asiimwe and co-authors were funded by EASST to study the uptake of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) in Uganda, which is underused as cheap and effective treatment for deadly diarrhea. See the results of their published paper detailed in this post.
“The mentorship component of EASST is critical. I met with my faculty mentor [Stefano Bertozzi] very often. He always made himself available to me, whenever I needed anything. We are currently collaborating on a research project on malaria and have discussed many ideas for future work. I am also planning to collaborate further and co-author with my PhD partner [Brigid Cakouros]— our skills were very complementary to each other.”
— Ronald Mulebeke, Fall 2019
2) The development of a diverse, technical toolkit
While at UC Berkeley, EASST fellows have access to a wide range of skills-building opportunities including: graduate-level economics and public health coursework, weekly development economics seminars, workshops at Berkeley’s D-Lab, BITSS training workshops, and CEGA workshops on cost-effectiveness analysis. This training is provides fellows with a diverse, technical tool kit that they can continue to develop and pass on to others upon returning to their home institutions. This training is supplemented with mentorship from CEGA on “softer” skills — such as how to make an “elevator pitch” about a research topic; how to deliver an effective presentation; how to solicit, deliver, and respond to feedback on research; and negotiation skills, among others.
“The fellowship has been life-changing. For me, apart from just being a fellow, it’s done a lot in terms of terms of developing skills — economic skills, research skills, and thinking through research. It taught me to be brave enough to talk to even the smartest people — to ask questions, and to respond to their questions. The soft skills have also been important — people here are so free to share information, and so easy and approachable. Their style of teaching and their personality doesn’t make you look at them as these “big, unapproachable” people — this is going to affect how I teach my students.”
— Muthoni Ng’ang’a, Spring 2019
3) Build new, lasting networks
Meaningful North-South research collaborations are essential for improved research in development economics. EASST empowers fellows to be thought partners on economics research by equipping them with both the aforementioned toolkit and the accompanying networks. Fellows consistently note new networks at UC Berkeley and other CEGA campuses as a key value-add of the fellowship.
The ties built during the fellowship are the foundation for ongoing engagement throughout researchers’ careers. The network convenes every year for a summit in East Africa to share rigorous research with policy makers, link researchers and practitioners across sectors, and deepen partnerships between East African and U.S. academics. This gathering is always a highlight for the network and holds a special significance, as it is where the Network of Impact Evaluation Researchers in Africa (NIERA) was established by EASST fellows in 2018.
“Through EASST, not only have I acquired the key skills to actually make a real difference in development policy analysis, but I also have access to a world-class research network of leaders in the field.”
— Dagim Belay, 2016
NIERA, comprised of EASST fellows, is an impact evaluation network working to advance inclusive and sustainable development in Africa. Once completing the fellowship, fellows are automatically eligible to join NIERA and engage in their work. NIERA is a vehicle for fellows to meet the program’s post-fellowship expectations to conduct impact evaluation trainings for researchers throughout the region, generate policy-relevant evidence, and be leaders in the global south. Their work is complemented by EASST’s facilitation of catalyst training grants (see past training here), our monthly research and opportunities newsletter, and opportunities for fellows to attend and present at CEGA events.
If you are interested in applying for the EASST fellowship, or have questions regarding the program or application process, please join us for a webinar on January 9, 2020 at 7:00 PM Eastern Africa Time (EAT) at this link.