What it does: Independently-conducted quantitative research and interdisciplinary collaboration to inform policy decision-making in Pakistan.
Best known for: Carefully analysing evidence that wouldn’t be scrutinised otherwise.
The good: Meaningful work. Youthful culture.
The not so good: Weak training and career growth.
Hiring grads with degrees in: economics; statistics; public policy.
CERP was established by a group of Harvard economists in 2008 as a non-profit solution to the lack of evidence in local policy decisions. While Pakistan had many ongoing development projects, it sorely lacked the means of quantitatively evaluating the performance of each. So, the centre acted as a place for researchers to congregate and remedy the issue, attracting other researchers from around the world in the process.
The initial vision was solely to conduct research. But realising the need for immediate action, the founders quickly dedicated it to engaging policymakers too. So, it soon began incorporating realistic budget considerations into its recommendations and involving these policymakers in the process as early as possible.
By 2018, it had built a network of over 60 Research Fellows worldwide across universities and policy institutes. Today, its many economists, policy experts and social scientists are involved in over 15 different broad project areas, including women’s rights, education, tax policy, finance and public health.
CERP offers internships to start you off, followed by research assistant and associate positions.
Internships usually run each summer. They’re a reasonable starting point for aspiring researchers and policy advisors, allowing applicants to engage with a variety of projects, which can lead to an assistant position.
Assistant positions involve administering surveys, analysing data and drafting reports in service to one of these projects. If you’ve already graduated, go for an assistant position straight away. They’re a good way to get involved with cutting-edge policy issues and potentially make a difference. You’ll be surrounded with intelligent, like-minded people from around the world working on meaningful issues.
Unfortunately, working at CERP carries a few downsides. Some young assistants rarely stay longer than a year or two because there’s practically no clear career path. Furthermore, what little path there is demands postgraduate study, which can be off-putting for some. Training opportunities are minimal to non-existent. On-the-job learning is basically all there is.
If you’re not interested in community development or research work, there’s no reason to apply here. If you are, it’s a great place to grapple with issues facing Pakistan, but only stay here if you love the work.
For internships, applicants fill out a simple form, providing current GPA, whether or not they’re still at university, what degree level they’re at and what they’re studying. You then have to email your CV and cover letter to a year-specific email address (eg internship2025@cerp...), with the year in the subject line. You’ve got a few potential project areas to engage with, which you’ll have to specify in your application via the dropdown menu, including but not limited to:
Assistant positions have a similar recruitment process. It’s another online form, but instead of simply choosing from a dropdown menu, you’ll have to rank all active projects in order of importance to you, where 1 is the highest priority and 8 is lowest. They also prefer applicants with one or two years of experience, but this isn’t a hard requirement, especially if you’re familiar with STATA (data science software). You’ll have to specify your level of STATA competency from 0 to 4, where 0 is novice level and 4 is an expert.
If they like what you’ve sent them, you’ll go through an equally comprehensive interview process, either online or in-person, where you’ll be asked in detail about previous experiences and quiz you on problems that may arise throughout the job, most prominently how to deal with large datasets and other associated issues. Get through this and you’re in!
Their mission is to facilitate evidence-based decision-making in all public policy decisions through the use of surveys, research and analytics. They hope to accomplish this through three capacities: