Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity




October 21, 2021

Effective Humanitarian Governance

This paper argues that humanitarian system reform should extend to governance. Governing institutions—such as member state boards of multilateral organizations, and NGO boards of directors—have tremendous influence over the strategic direction of individual institutions and the sector writ large. But governing bodies of humanitarian organizations and systemwide governance are exclusive, organizing power around a few governments, organizations, and individuals. Transforming the system will require more than individual policy commitments. The formal and informal mechanisms to wield power will need to be effectively rebalanced towards affected people and enable collective action.

An image of the working paper.
October 19, 2021

Girls’ Education at Scale

Many educational interventions boost outcomes for girls in settings where girls face educational disadvantages, but which of those interventions are proven to function effectively at large scale? In contrast to earlier reviews, this review focuses on large-scale programs and policies—those that reach at least 10,000 students—and on final school outcomes such as completion and student learning rather than intermediate school outcomes such as enrollment and attendance.

An image of a female engineer.
October 14, 2021

Gender Budgeting in the US Context: Models to Emulate and Pathways for Integration

Under the Biden-Harris administration, the newly established White House Gender Policy Council has been tasked with developing a whole-of-government strategy to advance gender equity and equality in US domestic and foreign policy. A critical aspect of the strategy’s success will be adequate resourcing—including through mobilizing the budgets of federal agencies and other government institutions in ways that are proven to narrow gender gaps rather than exacerbate them.

An image of the working paper.
October 14, 2021

Labour Mobility with Vocational Skill: Australian Demand and Pacific Supply

How many immigrants with less than university education, for a given immigration quota, maximise economic output? The answer is simple—zero—in the canonical model of the labour market, where the marginal product of a university-educated immigrant is always higher. We build an alternative model, following Jones (2005), in which national production occurs through a set of Leontief production functions that shift over time with technological change.

An image of the policy paper.
October 14, 2021

A Pacific Skills Visa: Improving Opportunities for Skilled Migration Throughout the Pacific Region

The demand for skills exceeds supply, both within the Pacific Islands and the high-income countries of the Pacific Rim. Enhancing skilled migration therefore has the potential to generate large economic gains. The Global Skill Partnership is a migration model that can support such mutually beneficial mobility by moving training into the country of origin. In this paper, we outline its regional application to the Pacific.

An image of the policy paper.
October 13, 2021

Convergence, Development, and Energy-Intensive Infrastructure: Getting Africa to High-Income Status

The structural changes in an economy that accompany its growth to high-income status have been predictable in Europe, the United States, and Asia, characterized by declining employment in agriculture and rising levels of urbanization driven by jobs in the modern industrial sector. As agricultural productivity rises, the share of people employed in agriculture declines, and both urbanization and employment in manufacturing increase.

An image of the policy paper.
October 13, 2021

Strengthening the Global Care Economy: A Roadmap for the Biden-Harris Administration

In calling for large-scale investment in the United States’ care economy, the Biden-Harris administration has taken an unprecedented step in recognizing and addressing the constraints that American families, and particularly women, face in juggling paid and unpaid work within their own country. The administration now has an opportunity to translate its positioning of care as essential infrastructure within the US context into a complementary foreign and international development policy agenda.

An image of a graph from the World Bank
October 12, 2021

How Four Small Successful Economies Improved Upon the Standard Growth Recipe

From the final decade of the twentieth century, four small economies were quick to capitalize on the developmental advantages conffered by globalization. Although they did not escape buffeting from periodic regional and international crises, Dubai, Ireland, Panama, and Singapore managed to sustain moderately high average rates of gross domestic product (GDP) growth for well over 25 years.

An image of international currency
October 12, 2021

Reallocating SDRs to Multilateral Development Banks or other Prescribed Holders of SDRs

In this note we consider the technical challenges of channeling SDRs to institutions other than the IMF that have already been approved as ‘prescribed holders’ of SDRs. This innovation, operating in addition to the options described above, would have the potential to significantly increase the volume of SDRs channeled to support low- and middle-income countries. A further strong rationale would be to allow multilateral development banks to establish lending windows that could operate alongside the proposed Global Resilience Trust as part of a concerted multilateral effort.

An image of the London skyline
October 12, 2021

Accounting Anomalies and Arbitrary Targets are Conspiring to Hurt the Poor: SDRs, the UK Aid Ceiling, and Fiscal Trickery

The phrase “giving with one hand while taking with the other” has rarely been more appropriate than in examining the UK’s recent approach to the aid budget. Under current plans, by increasing its contributions to the IMF’s concessional lending pot, the UK will actually reduce the amount of aid available to developing countries and receive credit for doing so. The result is that every £1 billion that the UK lends to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust Fund (PRGT)—the IMF’s concessional lending facility—would lead to a net loss for developing countries of up to £310 million.

An image of country flags from all over the world.
October 12, 2021

The Roots of Policy Incoherence: Domestic Policy, Global Public Goods, and International Development

Governments make policy to affect three domains: domestic outcomes, outcomes in foreign countries, and shared global challenges. This note sets out how the conceptual and analytical incoherence of policy set in developed countries across these three domains undermines their own effectiveness—most notably on international development and shared global challenges.

An image of a man in the service industry wearing a mask.
October 7, 2021

Are We Entering a New Age of Pandemics?

The first age of pandemics followed in the wake of farming, cities and trade, because infections leverage proximity and numbers to survive and evolve. After millennia of mass mortality, followed by two centuries of progress against plagues driven by sanitary and medical revolutions, will we allow a second age of pandemic death to flourish in the dense and connected world that progress has created? A poxed century can be avoided if we cooperate to respond.

Entranceway of the IMF
September 30, 2021

Taking the Lead: Rechanneling SDRs to Create and Leverage a New Global Resilience Trust at the IMF

The IMF should set up a Global Resilience Trust (GRT) without delay, allowing at least $50 billion from the recent special drawing rights (SDR) allocation to be channeled to low- and middle-income countries.  In an earlier note, we explained the elements needed for the GRT to meet these various constraints. The present note considers in detail the elements of a GRT that the IMF staff will have to consider in its design.

An image of the working paper.
September 29, 2021

Whatever Happened to Privatization? The World Bank and Divestiture: 1980–2020

This paper describes the rise and fall of privatization in the World Bank as a means to improve the performance of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in its client countries. While acknowledging that privatization was far more difficult than anticipated to implement correctly, particularly in low-income and institutionally weak countries, the continuing difficulty of applying technical fixes to still large, still underperforming, and still capital-short SOE sectors justifies a renewed attempt at privatization

John Nellis
An image of a refugee camp in Bangladesh.
September 29, 2021

Rethinking Humanitarian Reform: What Will it Take to Truly Change the System?

This brief summarizes three years of research under the project, “Rethinking Humanitarian Reform,” led by Jeremy Konyndyk, Patrick Saez, and Rose Worden, and funded by the aid departments of the United Kingdom and Australia. The project aimed to understand the incentives behind the humanitarian system and shift them to better prioritize the needs of affected populations. Read more at

An image of the IMF building.
September 23, 2021

Reallocating SDRs into an IMF Global Resilience Trust

The August 23 allocation of SDRs has given low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) breathing space on their balance sheets to confront the monetary and fiscal challenges of the economic crisis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the next few weeks, at the UN General Assembly meetings and the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the international community will discuss the possibility of reallocating (or recycling or channeling) developed countries´ SDR allocation, largely unneeded by them, to LMICs. 

An image of a young male construction worker.
September 20, 2021

Global Mobility: Confronting A World Workforce Imbalance

Based on UN projections from the period 2015 to 2050, Rebekah Smith and Farah Hani have calculated that prime working-age populations of OECD countries will shrink by more than 92 million people while there will be nearly 1.4 billion new working-age people in developing countries. This note updates and extends that analysis, including by examining the coming labor shortage In upper middle income countries, where the forecast decline in the number of workers is even larger than in high-income countries. Unaddressed, the global workforce imbalance is a threat to economic performance in both poorer and richer countries. But it also presents a considerable opportunity to both sets of countries—if they embrace global worker mobility