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: Behaviour, Peacebuilding and Welfare.


ISDC’s Research Program on Behavior analyzes how people, households and groups cope with major shocks to lives and livelihoods. We study how experiencing these shocks and the challenges they create shape choices, preferences and coping strategies, and how the behaviors associated with these phenomena contribute 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 characterized 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 behaviours can be fostered in extreme adversity, and how these behaviours 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.


ISDC’s Research Program on Peacebuilding brings together robust quantitative and qualitative methods with insights drawn from behavioural sciences and development economics, as well as those from the more traditional peace and international studies literatures. The Program aims to tackle real world questions on how to build peace, mitigate violence and avoid violent forms of conflict resolution. 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 work considers all stages of the conflict cycle, focusing on what can be done to prevent war from breaking out; on what can be done to ensure violence is reduced during active conflicts and that they are resolved peacefully; and on what can be done to ensure a long-term positive peace in the aftermath of violence; and what are 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 behavioural sciences can play in delivering these outcomes and on refining the processes and interventions that are designed to deliver these outcomes. The Program works across the world, with work on-going in Europe, Latin America, the MENA Region, Sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia.


The Research Program on Welfare 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, and 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. Hence, the programme builds on the state of the art approaches in designing studies both experimentally and quasi-experimentally to understand how households cope with shocks and how humanitarian and development programmes can help alleviate vulnerable households from poverty and strengthen their resilience and food and nutritional security. We aim to do so by embedding our research design within existing programmes and taking into account contextual elements to understand and disentangle the mechanisms and pathways of this relationship. We collect primary households survey data, and make use of other publicly available secondary data sources (including 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 programmes, as well as recommendations that are relevant for global policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders that can be applied in similar settings.