Funded Research Projects

Funded research projects from the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics. Research in the department is concerned with the causes of poverty, social exclusion, economic stagnation, humanitarian crises and human security.

Most of our faculty and research associates have experience in the world of development practice or policy-making

Services Subcontracting to NGOs in China


This project investigates how, why and with what consequences the Chinese government formally procures welfare services from NGOs. Governmental sub-contracting of welfare services from NGOs has become commonplace in many Western countries. However in China this is a new endeavour. After the introduction of market-oriented reforms in 1978 the old system of welfare under the socialist planned economy began to break down. Since the mid-1990s the Chinese government has begun systematically to reform the welfare system. The need to expand welfare provider capacity to address a burgeoning range of increasingly complex welfare needs has led the Chinese government to look for non-state alternatives to welfare provision such as the private sector and NGOs.

However a key obstacle to expanding NGO provision has been the restrictive regulatory framework, which required NGOs to identify two government sponsors. The resultant limited pool of registered NGOs that the government could formally engage with had put a constraint on governmental ambitions to expand welfare provision capacity. By making it easier for NGOs to register, the government sought to promote the development of a non-governmental sector of welfare provision that could address the shortage of provider capacity to deal with increasingly complex, differentiated and urgent welfare needs. After five years of experimentation, in July 2012 the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ (MOCA) amended the regulatory framework governing NGOs to enable certain types of NGOs to register directly with it, waiving the need for a second government sponsor. It gave the green light to local governments across the country to roll out service procurement from NGOs.

These developments are significant because relations between the Chinese government and NGOs have often been tense, particularly for rights-based and advocacy groups that the government perceives as a threat to stability. Yet NGO-state relations are pivotal to the effective implementation of this regulatory shift which could not just expand provider capacity but also promote a more relaxed climate for NGOs in general.  Getting NGO-state policies right in these sub-contracting arrangements is thus central to building effective NGO-state relations and balancing expanded welfare provision with stability concerns.

Aims and Research Questions

There is surprisingly little evidence about the effects of these new contracting arrangements in China on welfare provision or on NGO state-relations. This projects aims to fill this gap in knowledge by investigating how the Chinese government formally procures welfare services from NGOs through contracts, why local government officials and NGOs agree or not to enter into contracts for service delivery, and the effects of this on welfare services provision and on the development of an NGO sector.  It comes at a timely moment when the Chinese government is rolling out service procurement from NGOs across the country to expand welfare services provider capacity. As services sub-contracting from NGOs lies at the intersection of concerns around stability and welfare, it provides an ideal lens through which to observe how these processes of readjusting NGO-state relations unfold and their implications for NGO development and welfare services provision. The research will not only generate new empirical evidence about this process but also contribute to themes at the heart of social policy and political science, such as welfare-state building; sub-contracting arrangements and their impact on welfare provision; civil society development in authoritarian regimes; and the relationship between welfare and authoritarianism.


a) To collect and analyse the specific legislation, policies and contractual rules governing the procurement of welfare services from NGOs in China at national and sub-national levels,  and information about the areas of debate and contestation in their design and implementation;

b) To generate original empirical data on the incentives for government officials and NGOs at sub-national level to engage in service delivery contracts, and assess the impact of sub-contracting on NGO operations and on the dynamics of NGO-state relations;

c) At the policy and practical level, to highlight examples of best practice in terms of regulatory and policy arrangements, and NGO-state relations that can inform policy development in China and other similar contexts.

d) To develop conceptualisation of emerging models of sub-contracting and of NGO-state relations and to advance theoretical understanding of welfare-state building and civil society development in China. 

To address this gap in understanding about welfare services sub-contracting to NGOs in China, this project poses four research questions (RQ) related to the four objectives above.

  • RQ:1 What legislative, regulatory and policy changes have been introduced at national, sub-national and sector levels to facilitate the contracting of welfare services by NGOs? What have been the points of contention and debate?
  • RQ2: Why do NGOs and local governments enter into service delivery sub-contracting arrangements?  How does sub-contracting affect NGO operations and NGO-state relations?
  • RQ3: what kind of best practices can be observed and could be shared?
  • RQ4: What kinds of models of welfare services sub-contracting to NGOs and NGO-state relations are emerging? What is the consequence of this changing relationship for China’s authoritarianism


Professor Jude Howell

Dr Regina Enjuto-Martinez

Dr Yuanyuan Qu 

Team members:

Professor Xiaoyuan Shang

Professor Karen Fisher

Re-conceptualizing Health in Wars and Conflicts: a new focus on deprivation and suffering in the West Bank


Conflicts pose threats to public health, human security, and wellbeing. Attention tends to focus on the more visible and direct impacts of conflict, such as death, disability, and injury.  However, conflicts, especially prolonged conflicts, impact populations and subgroups in important but less visible ways. Conflict affects the very foundations of society, posing threats to human security (Das and Kleinman 1997; Kienzler 2008) and wellbeing, and causes damage or strain to the social, physical, and environmental infrastructure (Pedersen et al 2008; Pedersen 2002; Miller and Rasmussen 2009). Stressful social and material conditions, including poverty, malnutrition, and the weakening of social ties and networks, worsened by conflicts, can lead to less visible forms of social suffering, ill-being, and deprivation, both collectively and individually ( Pedersen et al 2008; Pedersen 2002; Miller and Rasmussen 2009).

Aims and Research Questions

In this proposed mixed-methods project, we aim to understand how people give meaning to, make sense of, and cope with various forms of deprivation and the traumas and impacts of conflict and military occupation.  We will develop new metrics to assess deprivation and its links to health outcomes. By linking local understandings of deprivation and health we will re-examine and re-evaluate dominant theoretical paradigms in the social and health sciences.  We will examine multiple dimensions of deprivation under conditions of prolonged conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). We will identify the presence of multiple dimensions of deprivation (economic, material, nutritional, and political) and its determinants, paying particular attention to geographic variation within the oPt.  We will examine the links between different forms of deprivation and health and wellbeing, focusing on less tangible and under-researched impacts of conflict, including the links between subjective and objective measures of health, and the roles of political and social determinants. 

Find out more about the project.  


Dr Tiziana Leone (PI)- Department of International Development

Dr Ernestina Coast- Department of International Development, Prof David Lewis, Department of Social Policy

Dr Tracy Lin – Dept Health Policy

Team members:

Prof Rita Giacaman- Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University

Dr Weeam Hammoudeh - Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University. 

Project Funder

Emirates Foundation via the Middle East Centre at the LSE 

A Tale of Two Green Valleys


Innovation is central to the economic renewal process at the heart of market capitalism and yet its impacts are uneven and contested. Our project focuses on the digital transformations taking place within contemporary agriculture. On farms across the world, growers are deploying both ‘conventional’ agricultural technology and increasingly digital technologies, which have enabled growers to record information about inputs and processing techniques, improve their production processes and supply consumers with safe, easily traceable and differentiated goods (i.e. single origin, heirloom, fair trade or organic, etc). Embracing technology has both improved their productivity but also, in some cases, moved their farms into new areas of production in which they can command a technological premium. When compliance hardens or when such farms integrate into larger input or supply systems, these systems may become a requirement. These informational chains have value beyond farmers and compliance agencies, providing the platform operator with valuable market intelligence and frameworks for conducting research and development. 

Aims and Research Questions

1)    How are the ideas and interest of Tech and Agritech firms reshaping agricultural innovation networks and business infrastructures within and between the two valleys?

2)    How do farmers, workers, traders and Agribusinesses understand digital transformations of their sectors and assert their interests and ideas in relation to data-driven changes?

3)    How do policy-makers use regulatory frameworks, trade policy, industrial policy and fiscal policy to strategically shape innovation in ways that might advance the commercial interests of their national economies (and/or specific interests within their national economies)? And what role do ideas, ideologies and domestic politics play in motivating their actions?

4)    What role do donors and international development actors play in shaping innovation ecosystems and the commercialization of digital data in developing countries? And what role do ideas, ideologies and commercial interests of national authorities play in motivating their actions?

Together these questions will help us answer our over-arching question: How might we re-conceputalise data as a strategic resource for inclusive and equitable growth?


Laura Mann - Assistant Professor in the Department of International Development and a research affiliate of the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa.

Gianluca Lazzolino - Post-doctoral research fellow at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa.

Tin Hinane El Kadi - Research Assistant.

Natasha Koverola Commissiong - Grants Programme Officer at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa. 


Spatial Inequalities in the Political Economy of Africa


Starting in March 2018 and running for 3.5 years, Catherine Boone will lead the ESRC-funded project on Spatial Inequalities in the Political Economy of Africa.  This project is a collaborative effort between scholars in the UK, US, and Kenya:  co-PI's are Leigh Gardner in Economic History at the LSE, Michael Wahman in Political Science at Michigan State University, Andrew Linke in Geography at University of Utah, Fibian Lukalo at the National Land Commission of Kenya, and research assistants in Government and Economic History at the LSE and University of Nairobi in Kenya. Each party brings different disciplinary, methodological, and substantive expertise to questions of African political economy. 

Aims and Research Questions

The project asks: How do inequalities across subnational regions within African countries shape patterns of conflict, competition, and political mobilization? The objective is to develop theory and data that will show that there are economic, socio-economic and institutional drivers of regionalized competition that have been systematically overlooked in policy and social-scientific understandings of political competition and conflict in Africa. Researchers will develop new theory, data, and innovative empirical strategies at the subnational, regional level for 10 African countries, which the goal of developing hypotheses and protocol for extending our analyses to a wider sample of countries over time.   

The project team aims produce a regional analysis of national electoral coalitions; an analysis of the local-level administrative and political units that shape political competition within countries; analysis of how and why regional inequality can drive differing preferences on distributive policy issues; and an examination of how national rulers can use land allocation and population movement to shape regional coalitions for partisan advantage. 

Two exciting aspects of the project have to do with territorial politics and land politics.  One is the first-ever geocoding of all Kenyan settlement scheme boundaries since 1960, generating a complete inventory of scheme perimeters that will allow us to track changes in the size, location, location attributes, numbers of settlers and parcels, and other aspects of the nearly 400 official settlement schemes that the Kenya government has created over time.  The second is the collection and geocoding of internal administrative and political boundaries in our sample of countries from the mid-1950s onwards.  This will make it possible to track constancy and change in "internal borders" in African countries since the creation of colonial native authorities in the colonies, and to ask how these institutions have shaped patterns of resource allocation, internal migration, the shape of electoral constituencies, and land access over time. 

Project streams incorporate African researchers and students, and we have built-in scholarly and user knowledge exchange which will draw upon the MoU between the LSE and the Research Land Commission in Kenya that was established in 2017.  The project will culminate in a series of co-authored scholarly publications and research workshops at the British Institute in Eastern Africa in Nairobi and at the LSE in Spring 2019, 2020, and 2021.


This project is a collaborative effort between scholars in the UK, US, and Kenya: 

Professor Catherine Boone (PI) - Department of International Development  
Dr Leigh Gardner (Co-PI) - Economic History

Dr Michael Wahman - Political Science at Michigan State University 

Dr Andrew Linke - Geography at University of Utah 

Dr Fibian Lukalo - The National Land Commission of Kenya, and research assistants in Government and Economic History at the LSE and University of Nairobi in Kenya

Project Funder

Economic and Social Research Council

Mozambique Elections: A collective research project

The Mozambique Elections File contains all available data on Mozambican elections from 1999 through to 2014. Election results are in a mix of pdf and xls formats and in different levels of detail, as published by the National Electons Commission.

In addition there are some Constitutional Council rulings which contain results, some parallel vote tabulations (PVTs), official lists of polling stations, and data contributed by other researchers in this network, which follow the ofiicial results. Material will be added over time, as it become available.

We are building a collaborative network of scholars doing statistical research and analysis on Mozambique elections. If you are using this data, we ask that you send us not just your articles and working papers but also your data sets to be posted and shared here. All updates will be credited to the author.

One problem with the files as presented is that they are not in useful formats for statistical analysis and thus require some work in reformatting. Therefore, if you have done the hard work, could you send the reformatted initial files to the editor, Joseph Hanlon, so others can build on your work

Click here to access the Mozambique Election Data

Timing and determinants of age at menarche in LMICs


Age at menarche has been declining; better nutrition and increased wealth have been linked to this decline in HICs (Prentice, Fulford et al. 2010). Our understanding of the relationship in LMICs is very poor.  Evidence from the Philippines suggests that earlier menarche could be characteristic of girls who live in urban, higher socioeconomic status households, as indicated by higher maternal education, better housing quality, and household asset ownership (Adair 2001). In addition, age at menarche is significantly associated with birth characteristics with low birth weight having an earlier age at menarche (Adair, 2001). The current limited evidence base precludes generalisability. 

This proposed research will highlight the major gaps in knowledge linking literature from social epidemiology, demography, population health, life course studies, reproductive and mental health as well as bio-demography. The analysis will cut across disciplines looking at socio-economic as well as biometric measures of wellbeing.

Aims and Research Questions

The aim of this project is to review the evidence on the determinants and timing of age at menarche in LIMCs. This study will use literature and the 14 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) that have asked the question on age at first period to analyse patterns and develop a larger external grant proposal in 2019. 


Dr Tiziana Leone (PI)- Department of International Development 

Project Funder