Research Programs

We conduct micro-level quantitative research in a range of countries, with a focus on developing policy-relevant academic research and academic-relevant policy research.

Our main tools include econometric techniques employed on large-n datasets, often collected by us or under our instruction, and behavioral experiments conducted in the field. We regularly engage with anthropologists, psychologists, political scientists and researchers from other disciplines, which significantly benefits our data collection, our research output and our policy advice. 

There are three Research Programs at ISDC: Behavior, Welfare, and Peacebuilding.


ISDC’s Behavior Research Program analyses how people, households and groups cope with major shocks to lives and livelihoods. We study how experiencing these shocks shapes choices, preferences and coping strategies, and contributes to wellbeing at the individual and household levels, as well as how they aggregate through society as a whole.

Human development faces its toughest challenges in settings characterised by multiple shocks. At the same time, understanding of how people behave under such conditions has been hard to achieve, with learning often inhibited by the sheer complexity of a situation that can give rise to multiple simultaneous shocks. Providing understanding in such contexts is the foundation stone of research in this program.

Such evidence is needed both in academic debates and for the design and implementation of effective interventions that support households facing these shocks. How positive behaviors can be fostered in extreme adversity, and how these behaviors can result in better wellbeing outcomes are key questions that motivate our research.

Our work on underpinning behavioral responses in such settings support agencies in designing interventions. Our work on impact evaluations, in turn, helps to create evidence on the performance of interventions operated in some of the most challenging environments.


The Welfare Research Program at ISDC focuses on the intersection between humanitarian emergencies, fragility, and conflict on one hand and economic and nutritional well being on the other. Food and nutritional security remains one of the main challenges hindering the achievement of zero hunger. It is becoming increasingly clear that countries that are affected by multiple shocks (including climatic, economic, and conflict-related) have the highest share of households who suffer from chronic malnutrition and food insecurity.

We build on the state of the art approaches in designing studies both experimentally and quasi-experimentally to understand how households cope with shocks. This informs our understanding of how humanitarian and development programs can help alleviate vulnerable households from poverty and strengthen their resilience and food and nutritional security. We embed our research design within existing programs and take into account contextual elements to understand and disentangle the mechanisms and pathways of this relationship.

Our research relies on our collection of primary households survey data and use of other publicly available secondary data sources, which sometimes include large data. Applying both qualitative and quantitative methods, including machine learning, we strive to produce findings and lessons that feed back into local and national programs, as well as recommendations that are relevant for global policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders that can be applied in similar settings.


ISDC’s Peacebuilding Research Program tackles real world questions on how to build peace, mitigate violence and avoid violent forms of conflict resolution. Our work considers all stages of the conflict cycle, focusing on what can be done to prevent war from breaking out, ensure violence is reduced during active conflicts while promoting peaceful resolutions, and ensure a long-term positive peace in the aftermath of violence. Ultimately, we consider the consequences of sustained conflict on human development.

We work across a range of scenarios and conflict types. In particular, we are interested in peace negotiations and processes; impact evaluations of pro-peace interventions; and on the role that development economics and behavioral sciences can play in delivering these outcomes and on refining the processes and interventions that are designed to deliver these outcomes. The Peacebuilding Program works across the world, with work on-going in Europe, Latin America, the MENA Region, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central Asia.

Our team bring together robust quantitative and qualitative methods with insights drawn from behavioral sciences and development economics, as well as those from the more traditional peace and international studies literatures. We take the “practical scholar” perspective on these matters, seeking to contribute knowledge to developing positive peace in the real world, as well as contributing to broader policy and academic debates.

Our Initiatives