Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2011

Scholars Who Became Practitioners

Nora Lustig

August 2011

Center for Global Development


Celebrated by academics, multilateral organizations, policymakers and the media, Mexico’s Progresa/ Oportunidades conditional cash transfers program (CCT) is constantly used as a model of a successful antipoverty program. Here I argue that the transformation of well-trained scholars into influential practitioners played a fundamental role in promoting a new conceptual approach to poverty reduction, ensuring the technical soundness and effectiveness of the program, incorporating rigorous impact evaluation, and persuading politicians to implement and keep the program in place. The involvement of scholar-practitioners also helped disseminate the new CCT “technology” to many countries around the world quite rapidly.