Integrating Knowledge, Skills, Experience

Engaging learners at all levels — undergraduates, pre- and post-docs, policy studies master's students, professionals — we teach and train in the classroom and on the ground, in the lab and on the job.

    Our Approach
  • Our Approach
  • In the Lab
  • In the Class
  • In the Field
  • In the Workplace

Our Approach

Teaching and learning are an integral part of the Poverty | Violence | Governance Lab. Our research team engages scholars at every level, from undergraduates with an exploratory interest in global development to MA students in International Policy Studies studying security issues, from predoctoral social scientists experimenting with new research methodologies to postdoctoral fellows in search of specialized training at Stanford. The lab environment fosters interdependence between the faculty, who teach and challenge students, and the students, who question and challenge faculty.  At the same time, we employ an increasingly broad range of methods and tools for data collection, analysis and interpretation, and draw on a range of disciplines — development economics, anthropology, geography, population studies, clinical medicine, public health. This organic synthesis of teaching and learning energizes our research and drives the team's pursuit of knowledge.

In the Lab

The Poverty, Violence and Governance Lab offers our students the opportunity to become immersed in the process of discovery through observation, exploration, and problem solving, while working cooperatively and interdependently as a team. We challenge our student researchers to ask curiosity-driven questions and then works as a team to seek answers. Lab-based instruction promotes active learning and effective decision making through critical thinking, integrating theory with practice.

The informal, unstructured atmosphere of the Lab tends to promote curiosity and discourse, motivating the team toward discovery and the chance to practice science the way that professionals do. Our student researchers are also able to gain mastery through hands-on use of disciplinary tools and techniques, such as analytical software applications like STATA, geographical information systems and web-scrubbing tools.

By guiding their explorations and collaborations, the Lab familiarizes students with the world of science and the rigors of investigation. Our Lab can be among the richest experiences students will have at Stanford, developing practical and transferable skills, as well as content knowledge and scientific understanding.




In the Class

Courses taught by the faculty of the Poverty, Violence and Governance Lab are designed introduce students to governance challenges in developing countries worldwide and to deepen students’ understanding of the political dynamics driving failures in political institutions, the rule of law,  law enforcement, and the provision of basic public services, with an emphasis on Latin America. Signature and other courses include:.

POLISCI 247G: Governance and PovertyPoverty relief requires active government involvement in the provision of public services such as drinking water, healthcare, sanitation, education, roads, electricity and public safety. Failure to deliver public services is a major impediment to the alleviation of poverty in the developing world. This course will use an interdisciplinary approach to examining these issues, bringing together readings from across the disciplines of political science, economics, law, medicine and education to increase understanding of the complex causal linkages between political institutions, the quality of governance, and the capacity of developing societies to meet basic human needs. Conceived in a broadly comparative international perspective, the course will examine cross-national and field-based research projects, with a particular focus on Latin America and Mexico.

POLISCI 248S: Latin American PoliticsFundamental transformations in Latin America in the last two decades: why most governments are now democratic or semidemocratic; and economic transformation as countries abandoned import substitution industrialization policies led by state intervention for neoliberal economic polices. The nature of this dual transformation.

PoliSci 144T: Democracies and Dictatorships.  Social scientific findings and debates; cross-sectional approach. What accounts for the emergence of democracy; under what conditions are democracies stable; why are so many developing countries ruled by dictators; why do rulers who destroy their own societies survive for so long; and what accounts for the breakdown of autocratic regimes?

PoliSci 248: Mexican Politics.  Why did Mexico fail to eliminate poverty and destitution despite resources channeled to that end and a rhetoric of social justice inherited from the Revolution? The durability of the political regime, the peculiar characteristics of the Mexican process of democratization, and the regime's incentives to redress ancestral problems of inequality and destitution. Emphasis is on crafting research projects on the political economy of Mexican development, and hypothesis testing with empirical data.

PoliSci 440A: Theories in Comparative Politics.  Required of Political Science Ph.D. students with comparative politics as first or second concentration; others by consent of instructor. Theories addressing major concerns in the comparative field including democracy, regime change, the state, revolutions, national heterogeneity, and economic performance.

PoliSci 440D: Workshop in Comparative Politics.  Faculty, guest speakers, and graduate students conducting research in comparative politics present work-in-progress. Graduate students may enroll for up to 5 total units apportioned by quarter. Auditors welcome. Graduate students whose major or minor field is comparative politics must make at least one presentation to the seminar.

In the Field

Students at all levels of scholarship and training are an instrumental part of the mission of the Poverty, Violence and Governance Lab. Our work is carried out in a team-based laboratory environment led by principal investigator Beatriz Magaloni. Staffed by a cadre of research scholars, including team leader Gustavo Robles, a Stanford-trained political scientist, our trainees include PhD, master’s and undergraduate students. They have been selected for their interest in global problems, familiarity with social science research, and strong grasp of statistical analysis and quantitative methods.

Because lab and fieldwork are an essential component our research, our program actively engages students in the many of the practical tasks required for academic investigation. Student trainees are expected to have a demonstrable interest in global problems, familiarity with social science research and its protocols, and a strong grasp of statistical analysis and quantitative methods so that they can contribute to data collection, analyses, and writing. In the field they are exposed to both observational and experimental approaches, and they learn about cost-effective fieldwork, managing and securing data, working on a team, and considering common ethical issues. Students were instrumental in the following projects.

Brazil. In 2011, the Lab brought 20 master’s students from the Stanford’s International Policy Studies program to Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia to meet with policymakers, academics, civil society organizations and residents of the favelas to learn about conditions on the ground and the development of relevant policies to address security problems. Students met with Rio state's Secretary of Security, the city's Secretary for International Affairs, the director of an energy research group, and the Brazilian National Development Bank, NGOs, and officers of the police pacification project. In Brasilia, the students met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Vice-Minister for the Environment, and civil society organizations dedicated to tackling corruption.

Beginning in 2012, the Lab’s multi-year study of the pacification process in the favelas of Rio involved on-the-ground interviews with government officials, police, NGOs, university professors, and residents of the favelas and, eventually, a collaborative agreement with Rio’s Ministry of Security to develop an evaluation of the impact of a new police retraining program aimed at reducing the use of lethal force by the police.                                                                                                                               

In 2013, the Lab brought an undergraduate cohort from the Bing Overseas Studies Program to Rio de Janeiro for a 3-week summer seminar. The course introduced students to Rio's culture and politics in an intensive course that include numerous site visits, interviews, and meetings. The seminar exposed students to the city’s favelas and the pacification projectin advance of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Mexico. A team that includes undergraduates, master’s students in the International Policy Studies program, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows has been formed to help with the Lab’s major U.S. State Department-funded project, “Police Accountability and Citizen Trust.” While undergraduates are restricted from traveling to Mexico because of government warnings and university policy, graduate students are expected to be a central part of a major data collection and ethnographic work effort at multiple site throughout Mexico over the next two years. The new data will complement the wide-ranging geographic and demographic statistical analysis currently underway aimed at understanding the nature and degree of criminal violence and drug-trafficking activities throughout Mexico. The engagement of students on this major research project presents an opportunity for young scholars to learn about and contribute to new knowledge of some of the most important issues of the day.

For the Lab’s project, “Governance and Public Good Provision in Indigenous Mexico,’ students joined the Lab’s faculty, Beatriz Magaloni and Alberto Diaz-Cayeros in Oaxaca and Chiapas for fieldwork designed to understand the developmental impacts of granting indigenous villages legal autonomy. Students used multi-method approaches in the collection of aggregate data on development outcomes, as well as surveys and ethnographic work. Surveys on governance in indigenous villages were combined with in-depth interviews about the dynamics of local government and the distribution of services.

In San Cristóbal de las Casas and surrounding towns, the team collaborated with two German anthropologists, Kristóf Gosztonyi and Jan Koehler, on conflict research while the team trained 20 young men and women from nearby villages to collect data and in-depth interviews in their own language in more than 20 local towns. The project also recruited local university students from the National University of Chiapas and from the Anáhuac University in Oaxaca.

Graduate trainees and postdoctoral fellows joined the Lab’s faculty leaders for a seminal project on youth at risk and educational opportunities in Guadalajara. The project involved an impact evaluation of Jóvenes con Porvenir (Youth with Hope), a vocational training program in Zapopan, Mexico that offers free training for local young men aged 15-30. The goal of the program is to promote employment, foster continuing  education, and reduce recruitment into gangs and criminal organizations. The evaluation involved a quasi-experimental design with a treatment and control groups, and analysis ofheterogeneous effects by gender, age, and socio-economic status. Results indicates that the program had a positive and statistically significant effect on the probability of getting a job, monthly income, hours of labor per week, access to professional networks, and beneficiaries’ general optimism about their future.

Guatemala. For several years, the Lab's faculty has led an undergraduate team of research interns to do fieldwork and clinical care in the rural highlands of Guatemala. With a home base of San Lucas Toliman on the shores of Lake Atitlan, the research team carried out fieldwork on issues of children and maternal health, governance and access to public goods in rural indigenous communities. This program works in conjunction with Paul Wise, professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine, to investigate the work of community health promoters in filling a void in governance and public services in this underserved region. Students were expose to the complex issues of extreme poverty and poor governance, common conditions in developing countries like Guatemala.  


In the Workplace

Delivering new insights to the broader community is one of the most important societal benefits our research. The Lab targets its outreach to government policymakers, civil society organizations and law enforcement professionals to support practical solutions for better policy and practices that address weak or corrupt governance, endemic violence, and persistent poverty.

An important new area of professional education is the Lab’s curriculum on current theories and practices of effective law enforcement and democratic accountability designed for police professionals. In 2016 we rolled out a week-long workshop one campus for the Planning Unit of the Mexican Comision Nacional de Seguridad. Taught by a line-up of Stanford political scientists and legal scholars, the workshop addressed a wide range of topics focused on the dynamics between criminal violence, police practices and citizen trust, including: design of effective police interventions, how to measure success, empirical evidence to develop public policy, and issues of accountability, anti-corruption practices, trust in public institutions, civil engagement, human rights, and the role of international organizations. The programs also involved site visits to the Stockton Police Department Department to meet with Chief of Police Eric Jones, an innovator in effective community policing and use of body-worn cameras, and to the Map Center to work with digital mapping software to manipulate, enlarge, quantify, aggregate, and visualize geo-data in unique ways for research.

The workshop and site visits were instrumental in advancing key goals of U.S. State Department-funded research project on project police accountability and citizen trust, which include  partnering with Mexico law enforcement institutions on assessing the efficacy of new law enforcement approaches in coordinating policing between federal, states and municipal agencies, mapping criminal activity and drug trafficking routes in Mexico, and correlating socio-economic characteristics with levels of trust among Mexican citizens.

The curriculum will be reproduced as an instructional manual that can be used widely by police organizations around the world, with a special focus on issues unique to Latin America.