The Millennium Villages Project is Working Well

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) is a systematic approach to achieving the millennium development goals in rural Africa. The model is community-led development with simultaneous, integrated, science-based interventions in five main areas: agriculture, education, health, infrastructure (roads, power, water, sanitation, connectivity), and business development. The project’s bottom line is to achieve the MDGs in the millennium village sites in ways that are rigorously documented, replicable and scalable.

When we began the project, we knew that randomised trials would not be the appropriate methodology for evaluating it’s impact. Our focus was, and is, on designing operational systems across many sectors to achieve the eight MDGs, a task that is far more complex than can be addressed in a standard clinical trial. Systems design in a complex setting is based on local context, learning by doing, community participation, and a high degree of technical innovation – especially using information and communication technology tools. Designing such systems is quite different from testing a new drug or a new bednet, neither of which is the point of the project or its main contribution to achieving the MDGs.

Of course, the MVP is based on rigorous measurement, detailed comparison of the villages with other sites, and peer-reviewed science. It is just not framed as a simple randomised trial among a few “arms” of an experiment. Rather, we document the methods of advancing the MDGs, measure budgetary needs with care, and create a portfolio of online tools for replicability and scalability of the successes. The approach is enormously successful. The millennium villages are making rapid progress towards the MDGs, much faster than in the countries at large, and in a manner that is leading to massive imitation, replication and scaling.

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