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August 22, 2014

Meet the Bangladesh Project Team

By Jean Lee

I write this from Dhaka, where I am visiting for the second time to help get our mobile banking impact evaluation in motion.  I am not here alone, however, and I wanted to devote this post to introducing the truly outstanding Bangladeshi economists, research staff and organizations who are our partners in this research study.

First, we are uniquely privileged to be working with Dr. Hassan Zaman as a co-principal investigator on this study.  Dr. Zaman is the chief economist of Bangladesh’s central bank, although he will soon be returning to Washington, DC to take a director-level advisory position on South Asia at the World Bank.  He spent much of his career prior to Bangladesh Bank at the World Bank and earlier worked for BRAC.  He has generated a body of policy and academic work that reflects a diverse mix of interests in development, including on development and finance, and will lead the World Bank’s work on poverty reduction and human development in his new role.

The energy driving our project comes in large part from Dr. Abu Shonchoy, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Developing Economies – Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO) and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo.  Dr. Shonchoy has a portfolio of innovative impact evaluations taking place in northwest Bangladesh which include investigations of the impact of training for garment work, providing solar lighting to displaced riverbed communities, and flexible micro-credit repayment schemes.

We are very pleased to be working with two talented and motivated research assistants, Niamot Ali and Rokonuzzaman Khan.  Both are recent honors master’s graduates of the Development Studies department at the University of Dhaka, and passionately committed to using their careers to address the social and economic issues facing a rapidly developing Bangladesh today.  Niamot works with a non-profit called the World Literacy Center, and plans to devote his career to education and social development.  Rokonuzzaman co-founded a safety net non-profit that provides stipends and education to children in Dhaka slums; his eventual goal is to work on poverty alleviation broadly.

Finally, we are indebted to several Bangladesh-based organizations for their support during our work thus far.  During our pilot, we leaned heavily on the resources of Gana Unnayan Kendra, a non-governmental development organization specializing in northwest Bangladesh, and the Bangladesh office of Innovations for Poverty Action.  During this trip, we have been graciously hosted by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling, a Dhaka-based think-tank pursuing work on economic issues both large and small relevant to the region, from reducing trade barriers and the potential benefits of a currency union, to the benefits of job training for the ultra-poor.  For our baseline survey, we will be working with a small but experienced survey consultancy called MoMoDa Solutions with prior experience in impact evaluation.  Last but not least, we are grateful to the bKash authority and to the central bank of Bangladesh for their support and commitment to helping us to obtain outcome data for the study.

We’re excited to be working with so many engaged and talented partners, and look forward to even greater engagement with them as our project begins in earnest in September.

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