Samantha Custer

Director of Policy Analysis

Policy Analysis



Samantha is the Director of Policy Analysis for AidData. She has co-authored World Bank papers on open data and citizen feedback with the Open Development Technology Alliance, and assisted former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to teach a class on foreign policy. Samantha previously advised on multilingual education policy with SIL International and coordinated the advocacy efforts of the Asia Multilingual Education Working Group for UNESCO. She holds a dual MS in Foreign Service and Public Policy from Georgetown University.


Samantha Custer leads AidData’s Policy Analysis Unit to produce rigorous analysis of development investments and results, generate new evidence on the use and impact of open data, and leverage surveys to learn from the experiences of decision-makers in low- and middle-income countries regarding the impact of external money and ideas on domestic policy reforms.  

Samantha oversees AidData’s survey practice, leveraging a 55,000-strong sampling frame to learn from the experiences, perceptions and priorities of decision-makers in 126 countries. Her analysis focuses on understanding in-country demand for and uptake of various types of data, evidence, and policy advice from both domestic and external sources, capturing feedback from in-country decision-makers on development problems and priorities, and providing donors, international organizations, NGOs, and think tanks with a means of analyzing feedback about their influence and performance.

Samantha’s current projects include: an evaluation of World Bank open government initiatives in the Philippines; a three-country study of open data use in the context of development decision-making with USAID; a series of studies related to the use of governance data with the Governance Data Alliance; and a pilot project to track all-source financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She previously worked with the World Bank’s Governance Global Practice to design a new coding schema to track and analyze World Bank institutional development investments. She also worked with the Templeton and Smith Richardson Foundations on producing two flagship reports featuring AidData’s survey data. She serves as a senior representative for AidData to the Follow the Money network and the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data.

Samantha brings a diversified portfolio of over 15 years experience that cuts across traditional boundaries between academia, policy and practice. She has co-authored several World Bank studies on open data and citizen feedback; advised on multilingual education policy with SIL International and overseen two country offices; coordinated the advocacy efforts of the Asia Multilingual Education Working Group for UNESCO; and taught a class on foreign policy with former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She holds an MA in Foreign Service and an MA in Public Policy from Georgetown University.


Open Data, Open Government, Sustainable Development Goals, Governance, Citizen Feedback


Professional Associations