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Dr. Tara Grillos Awarded NSF Grant

Dr. Tara Grillos Awarded NSF Grant

Tara Grillos, Assistant Professor of Political Science, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant for a project titled “Collective decision making and local public good provision: Experimental evidence.” Grillos will undertake the research with Michael Touchton of the University of Miami.

At the heart of the project is a randomized control trial conducted in 90 communities in the east African country of Kenya. According to Grillos, “All villages will receive a local public good, such as a solar array or borehole, for the benefit of the community as a whole.” The project will highlight the impact of different randomly assigned decision-making processes (preference aggregation through consultation, preference aggregation through votes cast at a public gathering, and consensus building as a result of  deliberative discussion) on the types of goods selected, the incorporation of preferences/views of marginalized groups, and the willingness of the local community to support long-term investment in these public goods.  

The funded project has deep roots in her intellectual journey. For Grillos, it “expands on the theme of participatory development and collective decision processes that I began with my dissertation.” It also allows Grillos to build upon earlier work undertaken in a laboratory setting in Kenya with the help of an Exploratory Research in Social Sciences Grant from Purdue.

The research Grillos and Touchton will undertake in Kenya will be done in partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government. IPA “is a research and policy nonprofit that discovers and promotes effective solutions to global poverty problems.” The Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government has plans to implement a participatory budgeting program at the ward level, but has not decided on the exact design of the program. According to Grillos, “Our results will be shared with the County Government and will directly inform the design of these new institutions of direct democracy.” The research will also be shared with global funders and decision-makers to inform the design of participatory processes around the world.

Grillos’s work has been published, or is forthcoming, in the American Journal of Political Science, World Development, Nature Climate Change, Environmental Science and Policy, Public Administration Review, and Ecological Economics.

Grillos joined the Purdue faculty in 2017. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2015. During graduate school, she spent two summers in Kenya as an NGO intern and a student in a Swahili immersion course, and one academic year in Kenya as a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow. She has undertaken field research in Honduras, Bolivia, and Indonesia, in addition to Kenya.