In my time at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) I enrolled in Bureaucracy and Development, a course taught by Dr. Adnan Khan in the Department of International Department. Dr. Khan is also the Research and Policy Director at the International Growth Center (IGC). More than any other academic course I have taken till date, this one opened my eyes to not taking things at face value and to noticing how the best of intentions can sometimes lead to the worst of outcomes.
For this course's final evaluation I wrote a paper titled From 87% to 18%: How an Experiment in Uganda Reduced Fund Leakage, and Lessons for Other Countries. Here I analyzed an informational intervention spearheaded by Ritva Reinikka and Jakob Svensson, the first public expenditure tracking survey (PETS) in education, its initial benefits, and its long-term side effects.
Later that year, I continued my research in this arena for the 45th St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland, the largest student-run conference in the world. The Symposium hosts the Wings of Excellence Award, which is the largest essay competition for post-graduate students worldwide. There were nearly 1000 entries in its latest iteration.
My entry—an attempt to answer the competition prompt, What is the Next Small Big Thing?—was an essay titled The Next Big Thing is a Series of Small Things (click on the name to read it). The argument behind the essay was that development policy and global aid can sometimes chase after a silver bullet, while there are several steps that can be taken but don't sound "novel."
The jury awarded my essay the first prize and the Wings of Excellence Award, and the International Students Committee (ISC) named me a Leader of Tomorrow. You can watch a short interview where I talk about the ideas behind the essay: