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The Generalizability Puzzle

The Stanford Social Innovation Review's Generalizability Puzzle is a paper that recognizes that any practical policy question must be broken into parts. Some parts of the problem will be answered with local institutional knowledge and descriptive data, and some will be answered with evidence from impact evaluations in other contexts. The generalizability framework set out in this paper provides a practical approach for combining evidence of different kinds to assess whether a given policy will likely work in a new context. If researchers and policy makers continue to view results of impact evaluations as a black box and fail to focus on mechanisms, the movement toward evidence-based policy making will fall far short of its potential for improving people’s lives.

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