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Shawn Cole

Co-Chair, Research and Training
Affiliated Professor
John G. McLean Professor of Business Administration Harvard Business School

Shawn Cole is the John G McLean Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. His research examines agriculture, corporate finance, banking, and consumer finance in developing countries. He has conducted randomized evaluations in education, financial literacy, agricultural risk management, and ICT for agriculture.

Featured Affiliate Interview

When I was about 21 years old, trying to decide on a career, I asked myself “What is the most important problem facing humanity?” and decided global poverty reduction was likely very high on the list.

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What got you interested in development economics, and particularly in financial issues?

When I was about 21 years old, trying to decide on a career, I asked myself “What is the most important problem facing humanity?” and decided global poverty reduction was likely very high on the list. My interest in financial topics originated from work with my advisors at graduate school, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. Financial products are particularly well suited for testing a wide variety of aspects of economic theory.

What is one current research project that you're particularly excited about?

Nilesh Fernando, Michael Kremer and I are working to study and scale up mobile-phone based agricultural advisory services.

What is your "dream evaluation"? (It doesn't have to be feasible!)

I would love to see a series of experiments evaluating changes in monetary policy—it’s a very important tool for government, but one whose effects are not well understood.

What is your most memorable story from the field?

I have very fond memories of work I did with Pratham, an educational NGO in Mumbai focused on improving primary school education. The chance to work at length with the staff, on a project that would ultimately turn out to be important, was quite rewarding.

Any other project/news/hopes you'd like to share with us?

I’m particularly excited about the scope for greater integration of analytics and evaluation in the provision of digital services to low-income populations.