Tim Lann, '19
How Do We Know We're Helping?
I entered Stanford with a passion for serving those in need, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career in international service. However, it wasn't until my second year that my plans came into focus.
I had led a service organization while I was in high school, but I didn't have a framework for analyzing the true, sustainable impact of the work I was doing. During my sophomore year at Stanford, I took Pascaline Dupas's developmental economics class. I learned about impact evaluations and randomized controlled trials, and how the field studies the impact that public service projects are making.
This inspired me to take other classes within the developmental economics field and start my own research project on how female leadership impacts education inequality in India. The research is a continuation of Esther Duflo's work in the early 2000s and demonstrates that when a woman is in a political leadership position in India, the investment in education increases. I published my first research paper on this topic in 2018 and plan to continue this research in the coming years.
Through learning about impact evaluations, I realized how many service efforts go un-studied and un-analyzed. This is a major problem across many fields of service; we can't know if we're actually helping unless we have a framework of analysis. This realization has motivated my current desire to pursue international development consulting, to act as a liaison between big development funders such as The World Bank and USAID and the people working and serving on the ground. In the next few years, I hope to work to increase the rigor and analysis that goes into measuring the success or failure of service projects.