About Us

Bringing together an interdisciplinary community of researchers and practitioners to address urgent global challenges


The biggest social, political, and economic challenges affecting people in developing countries are multi-faceted and complex. The Penn Development Research Initiative (PDRI) – DevLab@Penn brings together faculty and graduate students from 7 schools across the University of Pennsylvania whose research seeks to identify solutions to the challenges facing developing countries. PDRI-DevLab seeks to foster impactful international development research by harnessing the expertise of its affiliates from various disciplines and utilizing diverse methodological approaches. PDRI-DevLab serves as a launchpad for extramurally-funded research projects that include collaborations with international NGOs, local NGOs, and government agencies while also serving as an intellectual hub for Penn faculty and graduate students conducting research in developing countries.


PDRI-DevLab affiliates work on projects focused on various aspects of international development including education, health, governance, environment, gender, urbanization and migration, labor markets, poverty, and economic growth. Through regular seminars, conferences, collaborative research projects, and dissemination activities, PDRI-DevLab makes it possible for faculty and graduate students at Penn to expand their efforts to conduct research that advances science and contributes to the improvement of well-being in developing countries.

Connecting international development researchers at Penn. While many international development researchers are trained to use theory to formulate potential solutions to complex problems and test those solutions in real-world settings, individual disciplinary perspectives are rarely sufficient for solving complex problems. Addressing these challenges requires joining forces with researchers from multiple disciplines. PDRI-DevLab helps to facilitate such collaboration across the Penn campus.

Connecting researchers at Penn to the world. Even the best research can be inadequate for solving problems if it is isolated from the world of practice. Local and international practitioners and various government agencies have valuable platforms for learning and critical expertise in implementing and scaling potential solutions. PDRI-DevLab focuses on connecting social scientists at Penn who work in international development with the community of development practitioners to create rigorous programming, collect monitoring and evaluation data, and conduct impact evaluations of development projects. We bring together scholars and students attuned to the research frontier and with advanced capabilities in experimental and quasi-experimental impact evaluation designs, survey design and other data collection tools, and data analytics, including web scraping and geospatial analysis.

As established social scientists, we are able to identify opportunities for knowledge generation that will benefit the Penn community of scholars and the scientific community more broadly. As academics trained in applied statistics, we are able to offer advice on best practices for cutting-edge program evaluation to practitioners. Our setting also gives us access to a range of experts on the frontier of technology relevant to program evaluation.


PDRI-DevLab’s affiliates hail from 7 schools: School of Arts and Sciences, Wharton Business School, Weitzman School of Design, School of Social Policy and Practice, Graduate School of Education, School of Medicine, and Nursing School. As such, our faculty and graduate students cover a wide range of expertise, both substantively and methodologically. PDRI-DevLab is well-positioned to manage all aspects of research, from grant writing, research design, data collection, and data analysis to grant management and writing. If you are interested in collaborating with us, please contact us to learn more.


The work of PDRI-DevLab is made possible by the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts (SAS) and Sciences and the UPenn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE).


Interested in learning more about PDRI-DevLab?
Email us here: pdri-info@sas.upenn.edu
Follow us on Twitter: @pdri_devlab

University of Pennsylvania
Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics
133 S. 36th Street, 4th floor
Philadelphia PA, 19104

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