Woolcock, Michael

Development Research Group
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Social development, Research methods, Institutions, Poverty, Community Driven Development, Governance, Conflict
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Last updated June 24, 2023
Michael Woolcock is the lead social scientist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank, where he has worked since 1998. For 14 of these years he has also taught (part-time) at Harvard Kennedy School, with periods of leave spent at the University of Cambridge (2002) and the University of Manchester (2007–09). In 2015-17 he also helped establish the World Bank’s first Knowledge and Research Hub, in Kuala Lumpur. His current research focuses on strategies for enhancing the effectiveness of policy implementation, extending work addressed in his recent book, Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action (with Matt Andrews and Lant Pritchett; Oxford University Press, 2017). Michael is a co-recipient of the American Sociological Association’s awards for best book (2012) and best article (2014) on economic development.
Citations 433 Scopus

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Now showing 1 - 3 of 3
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    Operationalizing the Science of Delivery Agenda to Enhance Development Results
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2015-10) Gonzalez Asis, Maria ; Woolcock, Michael
    The clear development gains achieved in recent decades should not deflect attention from the scale and type of challenges that remain. The strategies largely responsible for these initial gains have been technical reforms promoting economic growth and logistical systems supplying basic inputs. Today, strategies are needed that focus on enhancing the quality of implementation— for example, ensuring learning and not just building schools and enrolling students. This concern now spans numerous domains of professional practice (especially health) and has entered World Bank discussions framed as the “science of delivery.” At the World Bank, the Global Delivery Initiative (GDI) is an operational manifestation and extension of these ideas. To date, the GDI has prepared a number of different case studies across numerous sectors on ways in which innovative teams solve particular problems during project implementation. On the basis of the initial case studies, the authors outline five key principles of how high-quality implementation occurs and invite others to add to this growing storehouse of knowledge. Specifically, task teams are encouraged to develop “live” case studies by and for their staff, documenting how, in real time, implementation challenges are being met. Projects must “learn” more rapidly and systematically how to solve the myriad range of complex implementation challenges they inevitably encounter, since most of these (by definition) cannot be anticipated ex ante. Delivery challenges of this kind will only intensify in the coming years as citizens demand effective responses to ever-more complex—and contentious—policy domains, such as justice, regulation, and taxation.
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    Social Capital, Trust, and Well-being in the Evaluation of Wealth
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-06) Hamilton, Kirk ; Helliwell, John ; Woolcock, Michael
    This paper combines theory with data from different domains to provide an empirical analysis of the scale and variability of social capital as wealth. The analysis is used to argue, given what has been learned from the literature on social capital, that the welfare returns to investing in trust could be substantial. Using data from 132 nations covered by the Gallup World Poll, the paper presents a range of estimates of the wealth-equivalent values of social trust. Such values are usually not included in national or global accounts of income and wealth. In the light of the estimated importance of social trust as a component of wealth and well-being, the paper concludes with some policy options for how social trust might be better built and sustained.
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    Toward Successful Development Policies: Insights from Research in Development Economics
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-01) Artuc, Erhan ; Cull, Robert ; Dasgupta, Susmita ; Fattal, Roberto ; Filmer, Deon ; Gine, Xavier ; Jacoby, Hanan ; Jolliffe, Dean ; Kee, Hiau Looi ; Klapper, Leora ; Kraay, Aart ; Loayza, Norman ; Mckenzie, David ; Ozler, Berk ; Rao, Vijayendra ; Rijkers, Bob ; Schmukler, Sergio L. ; Toman, Michael ; Wagstaff, Adam ; Woolcock, Michael
    What major insights have emerged from development economics in the past decade, and how do they matter for the World Bank? This challenging question was recently posed by World Bank Group President David Malpass to the staff of the Development Research Group. This paper assembles a set of 13 short, nontechnical briefing notes prepared in response to this request, summarizing a selection of major insights in development economics in the past decade. The notes synthesize evidence from recent research on how policies should be designed, implemented, and evaluated, and provide illustrations of what works and what does not in selected policy areas.