Helping Markets and States Work for Development


CDF: Helping Market and States Work for Development

The Centre for Development Finance is a non-profit action research think tank focused on improving government systems’ and markets’ capacity to channel finance into sustainable, holistic development. Founded in 2006 with a broad mandate to focus on improving delivery of public goods in India, our work addresses this challenge on two margins: First, we seek to identify and demonstrate ways to increase the overall quantum of public and private funds available for roads, water supply, telecommunications, electricity, health, education, and other infrastructure and services. Second, we identify ways to improve public and private sectors’ ability to invest money more effectively in public goods that contribute to inclusive social and economic opportunity.

Development is an ongoing multi-dimensional process. More than raising incomes or improving health and educational outcomes, we seek to create a social, political, and economic context where all citizens have the tools and the confidence to forge rewarding individual and collective futures. Our definition of “development” includes economic security, long-lasting environmental quality, access to opportunity, and, most importantly, inclusive government and market systems that can perpetuate and build on today’s achievements.

Our research and consulting in two core areas: Infrastructure and Governance and Environmentally Sustainable Finance seek to influence public policies, improve program implementation and impact, and inform private and nonprofit interventions. Analysts in our Development Metrics group enable more effective prioritization and oversight of development interventions by developing platforms for aggregating and disseminating local socio-economic data. The Strategy Advisory Group concentrates on providing strategic insights and project guidance while designing customized solutions for development entrepreneurs, corporates, investors and non-profits seeking to contribute to India’s development. Our approach across all program areas combines deep contextual knowledge and operational experience with academically grounded development insight to contribute to more effective delivery of the infrastructure and services that are essential underpinnings for inclusive, sustainable economic and social o pportunity.

Tactical Public Policy Research

CDF demonstrates a new, more active, approach to development research that brings together contextual knowledge and academic insight to identify, enable, and encourage small changes with far-reaching consequences for public policy and private practice. We actively support other development-focused organizations by providing platforms to aggregate and share development data and analysis available with a broad audience. Our researchers know the details of the local context through experience, ongoing interaction with a broad network of NGOs, community organizations, government officials, and other stakeholders, and close attention to formal and informal local media.

We leverage broader lessons from cutting edge social science research to filter these details and identify those that are likely to either be bottlenecks or solutions that can scale. We are development practitioners as well as researchers. Many of our researchers have substantial operational and field experience when they join CDF, and we encourage them to preserve their relationships with the development community. We often carry out research through pilots – learning by doing as well as studying. When possible, CDF researchers also participate directly in implementing suggestions that stem from research projects.

Bridging Gaps CDF seeks to bridge gaps between academia and practice and develop strategies for effective collaboration between public, for profit, non-profit, and community-based organizations. We believe that all of these groups - from communities to the highest levels of India's government and international organizations; from small businesses to international corporate leaders; from "ivory tower" to "in the field" - have important knowledge and experience to contribute to accelerating development in India.
Activating Information

Most of the major challenges in development can be traced back to some kind of information gap. Policymakers and NGOs cannot prioritize their interventions when they do not have full information about the context or the demands of the people they are seeking to help. Citizens cannot effectively press for public responses to their needs if they cannot identify allies with similar issues as well as convey these needs effectively. The market cannot connect demand for development “goods” such as environmental sustainability, fair labor practices, or other values if the supply of these cannot be measured and monitored.

“Activating” information insure that it becomes data that can be analyzed by policymakers and citizens to generate insights that accelerate development is thus an important part of CDF’s strategy. We undertake data creation, dissemination, and visualization to make the basics ingredients of “evidence” more available to the development community. Our data creation program focuses on developing technologies that enable the aggregation and use of local insight for improving development interventions. CDF’s data dissemination and visualization program, particularly the India Development Indicators www.indiadevelopmentindicators.org project, seeks to make data that could provide a common understanding of development needs, facilitate effective policy interventions, and enable citizen and government oversight and learning to improve these efforts, readily available for policy makers and citizens who could effect change.

Harnessing Markets for Development

Markets are one of the most powerful, sustainable, and far-reaching mechanisms for deploying goods and services and linking needs to responses (and innovations). Their power has yet to be harnessed effectively for development - in some cases pressures for profit are directly inimical to long-run development, and in other cases market based contributions to development have failed to live up to their expectations and potential. CDF seeks to work on both margins to improve markets' ability to deliver development.

On the first, limiting the conflict between markets and development, we seek to identify and advocate regulatory and other policies to address market failures and to identify interventions that improve peoples' agency in interacting with markets. On the second, enabling more effective market-based interventions, our work in infrastructure and governance in particular focuses on disentangling need from demand in order to drive social entrepreneurship that respects the base of the pyramid as both clients and consumers.


The Centre for Development Finance is one of seven research centres affiliated with the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in Chennai, India. http://ifmr.ac.in/researchcenters.html
As part of the IFMR, we are registered as a non-profit society in India.

Advisory Board


DR. JESSICA SEDDON WALLACK - Research Advisor, ex-Director (CDF)

Dr. Jessica Seddon Wallack is the former Director of the Centre for Development Finance. Trained as an economist and political scientist, her research focuses on the ways in which individuals' knowledge and beliefs interact with institutional pressures to create aggregate social outcomes. One cluster of projects focuses on the institutional political economy of India, and in particular the role of IT in shaping the forms of citizen oversight and checks and balances that are possible. A second cluster of projects focused on the epistemology of development seeks to identify ways to improve the production and management development data to support a more nuanced understanding of the development context and its dynamics. A third cluster of projects focuses on the interaction of scientific knowledge with policy and market incentives in the context of climate change mitigation, particularly with respect to short-lived climate forcing agents. Seddon has published a wide variety of articles and book chapters in international academic and policy journals and her work has been supported by grants from Google.org, Australian Development Research Awards, ICICI Foundation, Stanford University, and University of California San Diego, among others. Seddon serves as a member of the Advisory Board to the Wilderhill Global Clean Energy Index (NEX), Prakti Design, and is a Senior Advisor for the Indian Institute for Human Settlements. She is also Research Scholar, Global Information Industry Center, San Diego, California and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Prior to coming to IFMR, Wallack was Assistant Professor, Political Economy, at University of California, San Diego. She has also worked at the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank. Dr. Wallack earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University Graduate School of Business and her B.A. from Harvard University.

SUMAN BERY – Director-General, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER)

Since January 1, 2001, Mr. Suman Bery has held the position of Director-General (CEO) of National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi. The NCAER is one of India's leading independent policy research institutions and undertakes social science research under sponsorship from the government, private and international sectors. It is particularly known for its work on economic forecasting, household surveys, infrastructure, trade policy and human development.

Prior to this, Mr. Bery spent was with the World Bank in Washington DC.  Areas of focus included the macro-economy, financial markets; and public debt management and focus on Latin America. From 1992-1994 on leave from the World Bank, Mr. Bery worked as Special Consultant to the Reserve Bank of India, Bombay, where he advised the Governor on financial sector policy, institutional reform, and market development and regulation. In addition to serving on numerous government committees, Mr. Bery has served as an independent (non-Executive Director) on the board of State Bank of India, India’s largest commercial bank.

Mr. Bery has been appointed as member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister.


Ashwin joined the faculty in the Building Technology and Construction Management division of the Civil engineering department at IIT-Madras in 2006. He received a B.Tech in Civil engineering from IIT-Madras and then proceeded to Stanford University for a Masters in Construction Engineering and Management. Ashwin then helped start up an internet based company in the USA called All Star Fleet, aimed at providing asset management services for construction companies. Following this he returned to Stanford University to pursue a PhD. His doctoral thesis work was on understanding and mitigating unintended costs due to institutional differences in the design and construction phases of infrastructure projects.

Ashwin's current research interests are in the areas of Governing Public Private Partnerships in Infrastructure planning and management, Global Project delivery and management, Visualization and automation of construction processes, and sustainable development. He has published papers in several leading international juornals and has been invited to speak at several conferences. Ashwin also coordinates some of the activities of the entrepreneurship cell at IIT-Madras. When he's not at work, he likes to be out on the tennis courts.


The Centre for Development Finance’s work is supported by donors and project fees from public and private clients. We are fortunate to have the internal resources to carry out independent, high quality public policy research and data dissemination to strengthen government and markets’ ability to deliver development. Our relationships with partners and clients ensure that we remain connected to real-world development questions.

We are grateful to the ICICI Technology Finance Group and the Institute for Financial Management and Research for their initial corpus grant in 2006. Since then, our work has been supported by grants from Google.org, British High Commission, Australia Development Research Awards, and ICICI Foundation among other donors. Our clients and research partners include the ICICI Foundation, Rural Innovations Network, Government of India, Government of Tamil Nadu, eGovernments Foundation, IFMR Trust, and World Resources Institute among others.