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CEGA is fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, with all staff working remotely (some with limited hours due to caregiving responsibilities). On this page, you will find information about CEGA’s response to COVID-19, along with related resources and relevant research and funding opportunities. We are grateful to our donors for their flexibility and for providing new opportunities for us to create impact in this extraordinary time. Please reach out to relevant program staff (or through our cega@berkeley.edu email address, which we check regularly) with any comments or questions.

CEGA’s Response to COVID-19

CEGA has launched a series of activities to facilitate COVID-19 response in the Global South and support our research community during shelter-in-place by:

  1. Generating much-needed data on who is affected, and in what ways
  2. Supporting and sharing research on effective policy responses
  3. Working with governments and implementing partners to operationalize this knowledge
  4. Supporting our research community, particularly those whose work has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are in close touch with our fellow research institutions to ensure a coordinated, transparent, and evidence-based response. Specific examples of our work are described below.

Understanding Who is Affected, and How?

COVID tracking surveys: CEGA co-director Ted Miguel and research teams have been conducting surveys via mobile phone on a sample of 24,000 households in Kenya to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on income, consumption, food security, mental health, and other key indicators of living standards. Data is regularly updated at kenyacovidtracker.org and findings have helped quantify the depth of the economic fallout in rural sub-Saharan Africa. They are coordinating with several other teams that have been collecting data during COVID-19 on different sub-populations across Kenya to help inform policymakers.

Helping build a repository of knowledge: CEGA contributes to IPA’s Research for Effective COVID-19 Response (RECOVR) hub, which documents active studies taking place on COVID-19’s socio-economic impacts, maintains a repository of survey instruments, tracks funding opportunities, and shares highlights from results and analysis on data, including how this evidence is used to improve the pandemic response and recovery.

Operationalizing Effective Policy Responses

Using AI to target COVID-19 relief: CEGA has launched a special COVID-19 response effort called Targeting Aid Better, which provides direct support to governments and development partners seeking to dynamically target emergency aid to vulnerable households and businesses by leveraging call detail records, satellite data, and other non-traditional data sources. The initiative further serves as a central hub for sharing practical knowledge and evidence regarding these and other innovative targeting approaches across a diverse network of researchers, partners, and decision-makers.

Funding new research for COVID-related projects: With generous support and flexibility from our funding partners, CEGA has funded 12 new studies that explore critical questions regarding the impacts of and responses to COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Examples include the extent of corruption in Tunisia during the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of COVID-19 on Kenyan pastoralists, how call detail records can be used to effectively target COVID assistance in Togo, and the determinants of mask-use in Uganda, among other topics. Please keep an eye on our announcement page for new funding opportunities.

CEGA-funded COVID-related research projects to date:

Synthesizing and Disseminating Results

Throughout the pandemic, CEGA is working to ensure that relevant evidence from ongoing and completed studies is readily available to policymakers, partners and the public.

Hosting a series of webinars on COVID-19 and global poverty:

Sharing research results: CEGA has developed a COVID-related blog series showcasing relevant research and policy responses.

Using our network to get research to policymakers: CEGA is a member of the Association for the Coordination of Evidence, a group of organizations and researchers (including JPAL, IPA, CGD, IDInsight, and others) seeking to ensure evidence-based policy responses to the most pressing health, social, and economic challenges presented by COVID-19.

Supporting Our Research Community

Developing and sharing research guidelines: Protecting human subjects and minimizing risk posed to surveyors and subjects during the course of in-person fieldwork is our most basic priority. CEGA is working with sister institutions on guidelines for safely conducting human subjects research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Investigators funded by CEGA should follow (a) guidance from their home institution and relevant institutional review boards, (b) policies of implementing partners like IPA and J-PAL, and (c) local regulations in the country where fieldwork is taking place.

For reference, UC Berkeley issued the following guidelines on August 31, 2020:

We understand that delaying or modifying fieldwork may have implications for IRB protocols, study designs, budgets, and/or project timelines. If you are funded by CEGA and anticipate changes to a project (including graduate student research projects), please reach out to your CEGA program manager as soon as possible so that we can help brainstorm possible solutions and communicate changes clearly to our donors.

Providing flexibility in funding opportunities: To accommodate research teams who are affected by COVID-19, CEGA acknowledges that funded research projects may require performance period extensions (i.e. “no-cost extensions”) and will support requests whenever possible. Additionally, CEGA is in constant touch with our sponsors and hopes to continue offering meaningful research funding opportunities to our network throughout and beyond this crisis.

Hosting events online: With in-person events cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future, CEGA is committed to providing online opportunities for our affiliated faculty, students, and collaborators to connect with and learn from one another. In fact, we have found that online events (seminars, conferences, workshops, etc.) can be more inclusive and engaging than in-person events if designed properly. As of September 2020, we have hosted two virtual conferences with over 300 attendees each, a weeklong impact evaluation training workshop with the government of Ghana, and a new Summer Seminar series convening researchers from across the CEGA network, as well as our partner networks in East and West Africa. Please check our events web page for up-to-date information, and see this blog post on lessons learned from hosting virtual conferences. You may also subscribe to our Development Events Calendar to stay up-to-date on all global development events, now that most are held virtually.

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