Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hayes-Birchler uses policy to reduce global poverty

Andria Hayes-Birchler Andria Hayes-Birchler


Andria Hayes-Birchler won the 2011 Gender Integration Award from the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Read more

Related Workshop Reports

Gender and Economic Development in Millennium Challenge Corporation Indicators:  An Assessment and Recommendations: Xiaojia (Lydia) Bi, Mariah Quinn Duffy, Bickey Rimal, Kelly Thorngate, and Andrew Trembley analyze the gender sensitivity of current and potential MCC indicators for evaluating applicant countries. They propose modification of four indicators and creation of four indicators for the MCC to promote gender equality as a meaningful investment in economic development.

Evaluation of the U.S. Government Millennium Challenge Corporation "Investing In People" Indicators: 2010 alumni Daniel Bellefleur, Allie Bagnall, Marissa Mommaerts and Emily Plagman prepared used the MCC's indicator criteria and two criteria of their own to create a framework for assessing five of MCC's indicators.

Improving the Quality of Education in Bangladesh: 2008 alumni Samuel Austin, William Harford, Andria Hayes-Birchler, Sina Javaherian, Ometere Omoluabi, and Yoshifumi Tokushige prepared this report for Dr. John Richards of the Bangladesh Government Advisory Group on Primary Education. The authors explored ways to improve primary education in Bangladesh with a focus on student testing linked to teacher salaries, decentralization of school management, and the hiring of tutors to work in classrooms. They developed concrete pilot projects, assessed them across several criteria, and recommended the classroom tutor policy.

Reports available online

Members of class of (mostly) '08 gather in Kentucky, on Madison softball fields

Thirteen members of the class of 2008 and five friends vacationed together in July 2010 at a cabin in Garfield, Kentucky, while another group from the same class fielded a softball team in Madison. Read more

Andria Hayes-Birchler is fighting global poverty as a development policy officer with the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Hayes-Birchler conducts research and data analysis that MCC's Board of Directors uses to select countries as eligible for grant assistance. The selection decisions are based primarily on how countries perform on 17 quantitative policy measures. "The indicators measure inflation, immunization and control of corruption, for example, and I help analyze those data," Hayes-Birchler says. "To supplement the quantitative indicators, we conduct research on policy strengths and concerns in each country, such as poverty distribution and human rights."

The U.S. Congress created MCC to allocate foreign assistance to countries that have good governance, specifically related to ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom. "Aid is more effective when government policies allow development to succeed," Hayes-Birchler says. "MCC's mandate is to provide assistance to countries that have good governance, as measured by 17 independent and transparent indicators of policy performance. My job is to analyze these data, conduct additional research on policy context, and help stakeholders understand what the indicators and data tell us about policy performance."

The position blends Hayes-Birchler's interests in quantitative analysis and qualitative research. Although much of the work is very academic in nature, it has clear policy ramifications, she says. "The job is intellectually stimulating but we also have a clear pragmatic objective that we are moving toward."

After graduating from the La Follette School in 2008 with a Master of International Public Affairs degree, Hayes-Birchler started the two-year Presidential Management Fellowship, a leadership development program for advanced degree candidates beginning careers in the federal government.

Hayes-Birchler spent her first year with the U.S. Agency for International Development as a monitoring and evaluation specialist, and then spent six months with MCC. "A perk of the Presidential Management Fellowship is doing short-term rotations, sometimes in other agencies," Hayes-Birchler says. "I went to MCC for six months and had an absolutely wonderful experience."

During that time, she connected MCC with La Follette School professor Melanie Manion, who taught the spring 2010 workshop in international public affairs. MCC became a client, and a team of four students evaluated MCC's indicators related to social investments.

Hayes-Birchler returned to USAID and recruited grant applicants for the agency's new Development Innovation Ventures, which applies a private venture capital model to international development. "I looked at ways to identify, evaluate and scale innovations that promised to improve people's quality of life in developing countries," Hayes-Birchler says.

Hayes-Birchler joined MCC permanently in September 2010. "For me, one of the biggest lessons of having a professional career is that one opportunity leads to another. When I look at my resume, it appears so linear in retrospect but it never feels that way at the time."

She again brought the La Follette School workshop into MCC's process to identify ways to measure results of gender-related policies. "We are in the midst of reviewing our criteria for selecting countries to receive MCC aid," Hayes-Birchler says. "The 2010 and 2011 capstone reports will help inform our analysis about whether to change the indicators. Indeed, we asked this year's workshop team to send their report in sections so we can use it in real time."

Hayes-Birchler's 2008 workshop experience at La Follette has been valuable in the workplace. Her team's project, an analysis of policies to improve the quality of education in Bangladesh, featured the quantitative and qualitative mix she relishes. "It's important to understand how to process lots of information quickly and produce a rigorous report," she says. "Academically, the La Follette School offers a great balance between rigorous research methods and the quantitative skills that are so valuable to employers."

The school's supportive environment is another great benefit, Hayes-Birchler adds. "The warm, collegial atmosphere really contributed to my experience. We formed strong friendships that lasted after graduation. Several groups of us live together as roommates in Madison and D.C. We held a reunion in Kentucky last summer, and it was so great to see how successful and happy everyone seems with their careers." She and La Follette classmate Jennie Mauer are training for the 2011 Madison Ironman race in which participants swim 2.4 miles, bicycle 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles.

At La Follette, Hayes-Birchler worked as a research assistant for professor Mark Copelovitch. She wrote a literature review of recent academic work on the International Monetary Fund's lending policies, and she helped prepare data for analysis for his 2010 book, The International Monetary Fund in the Global Economy: Banks, Bonds, and Bailouts, published by Cambridge University Press.

She interned with USAID during the summer after her first year. "I studied indicators that try to measure civil society and wrote a paper assessing those indicators," Hayes-Birchler says. "The work there ended up being highly relevant to my current position at MCC."

Prior to enrolling at La Follette, Hayes-Birchler spent two years in Mali with the Peace Corps. "That experience informed my decision to dedicate my career to fighting poverty," Hayes-Birchler says. "I believe in the MCC model. I believe policies matter in creating economic growth and reducing poverty."

Hayes-Birchler's training gives her a comparative advantage at MCC, she says. Government officials and other MCC stakeholders come to her in order to better understand why and how they are being assessed and how they can improve their scores. "When I meet with ambassadors to explain MCC and the selection criteria," she says, "I am able to discuss their country's policy performance by using both quantitative data and qualitative analysis. I'm grateful that La Follette emphasized both skill sets."

— article last updated December 20, 2011