Rigorous methods, cutting-edge tools, and granular data
Mission and Vision
Housed at William & Mary's Global Research Institute, AidData connects decision-makers and researchers who have a shared interest in working together using granular data and innovative tools to solve pressing problems, precisely target resources, and use rigorous evidence to measure the impacts—intended and unintended—of policies and investments.
We prioritize working in areas where our expertise can have an outsized impact: data-poor environments where there is an unmet need for better evidence and insights.
Featured Principal Investigators
AidData’s team of economists, political scientists, geographers, developers, program evaluators, policy analysts, and media and communications professionals has a track record of successfully managing more than 90 grants and contracts worth more than $50 million over the last 16 years.
See all our People, or visit our Join the Team page for career and student opportunities with us!
AidData has a proven track record of designing rigorous and replicable methods to analyze China's expanding portfolio of overseas investments and soft power activities—from infrastructure projects to public diplomacy initiatives. We organize convenings of leading policymakers and scholars; conduct outreach to media outlets worldwide; provide custom analysis to senior public sector decision-makers; and collaborate with an international network of researchers to publish peer-reviewed articles and books as well as influential policy reports, such as Banking on Beijing, Corridors of Power, Banking on the Belt and Road, How China Lends, Silk Road Diplomacy, and Ties that Bind.
AidData has established itself as a leading innovator in new methods to quantify which economic and soft power tools China, Russia, and the U.S. use, with whom, and to what end. We have produced first-of-its-kind analysis to measure Beijing’s public diplomacy footprint in the Asia-Pacific and South and Central Asia; designed novel metrics to monitor the Kremlin’s ability to influence civic space, media resilience, and energy security in Europe and Eurasia; and convened thought leaders to understand U.S. strategic communications and foreign assistance options in an era of great power competition. AidData regularly provides advice, training, custom analytics, public-facing dashboards, policy reports, and data for government agencies, multilaterals, NGOs and think tanks to monitor and counter foreign influence.
Women’s economic empowerment is critical for the overall development of societies. Yet, understanding which policies and programs are most effective is incredibly difficult. AidData is putting its proven track record in geospatial data, machine learning, remote sensing, and impact evaluation methods—as well as deep subject matter expertise on the role of gender in development—to better measure and contextualize women’s economic empowerment. By combining household survey data and high-resolution satellite imagery, we can produce gender-disaggregated outcome measures at local scales and more nuanced insights about the effectiveness of gender-focused policy interventions in rural settings. Our analysis gives funders insight into how to increase future program impacts while addressing outcomes particularly important to women, including crop selection, household bargaining power, and intimate partner violence.
AidData is a recognized leader in geospatial impact evaluations (GIEs). Over the last ten years, we have led a wide-ranging, global effort to use causal inference tools and subnationally georeferenced data to measure program impacts. GIE methods are especially useful and cost-effective in under-evaluated sectors and settings where measuring outcomes over space and time is challenging. AidData has deployed GIEs to evaluate infrastructure, public health, land rights, irrigation programs, and more. We also use artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to build next-generation development outcome measures of crop productivity, food security, and local resilience to climate change. Finally, AidData’s free spatial data integration and extraction tool, GeoQuery, lowers the barriers to geospatial analysis by helping users more easily measure local conditions in data-poor environments.
AidData is a market leader in fielding regular surveys to 100,000 government, civil society, and private sector leaders across 140 developing countries. AidData triangulates information from its biennial surveys, snap polls, and interviews to produce public reports and bespoke analysis that help development agencies be more responsive to partner priorities and maximize their impact with Global South leaders. Our analysis regularly feeds into agency-wide evaluations and strategy reviews, as well as international standard-setting bodies, such as MOPAN, Paris21 and the OECD. Our team members advise both development agencies and Global South policy research organizations on how they can build stronger in-house capabilities to assess policy influence.
With its pioneering Tracking Underreported Financial Flows (TUFF) methodology, AidData shines a light on the activities of donors and lenders that do not fully participate in global reporting systems. We publish uniquely comprehensive and granular project-level datasets; create interactive dashboards and maps; and analyze the nature, scale, composition, and effects of underreported financial flows. We support government officials who need transparent data and tools to scrutinize incoming proposals and negotiate more favorable contracts. We are also engaged in a wide-ranging effort to understand the impacts of underreported development finance on environmental protection, public health, debt sustainability, socio-economic welfare, and governance.
Over nearly two decades, AidData has successfully managed more than 90 grants and contracts worth more than $50 million in collaboration with multilateral organizations (the IMF, World Bank), U.S. government agencies (USAID, State, MCC), private foundations (Gates, Hewlett, Ford, McGovern), and foreign governments (Germany, Denmark, the UK), among others.
AidData also partners with Global South research organizations and government agencies that are bringing vital evidence to bear on the design and implementation of policies and programs. AidData has become a go-to provider of data and analysis for policymakers and practitioners, focusing our efforts on six program areas.
Housed in William & Mary's Global Research Institute, AidData's work crosses sectors and disciplines, and serves the unique needs of both policy and academic communities, as well as acting as a bridge between the two.
AidData's interdisciplinary team works together to seek entry points for research and analysis, using a wide range of novel methods, tools, and data sources to answer questions that cut across sectors, geographies, and disciplines.
Our insights help a diverse set of forward-leaning partners answer critical strategic and operational questions, fueling adaptive learning from initial program design to ex-post evaluation.
In partnership with strategic, long-term collaborators, we invest in public goods and ahead-of-the-market innovations that can fundamentally improve how policies and programs are designed, implemented, and evaluated.
AidData was founded when three organizations—William & Mary, Development Gateway, and Brigham Young University—grew frustrated with the informational status quo and came together together to provide the global development community with more granular and comprehensive data on foreign assistance projects worldwide.
A small core team of around eight staff initially focused their efforts on generating and publishing more sectorally- and spatially-precise data on bilateral and multilateral aid projects.
But AidData's activities and ambitions expanded and evolved over time. As we put more and better data into the public domain, demand for practical applications of the data sharply increased. AidData responded to this demand by refocusing our efforts on demonstrating the art of the possible with better data on development investments and outcomes.
AidData also began to place more emphasis on partnering with international development organizations to accelerate the use of our data by policymakers and practitioners. Since 2004, AidData has worked with more than 40 bilateral, multilateral, and foundation partners. Our global reach also expanded through in-country partnerships with more than 90 civil society organizations, line ministries, think tanks and universities in 21 different countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
By 2016, AidData had more than quadrupled in size and was established as an independent research lab at William & Mary. Development Gateway and Brigham Young University remained engaged as strategic partners through the AidData Center for Development Policy.
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