Summer Fellowship at the Instituto Mora

Hello, World! My name is Darice Xue and I’m currently a member of the Class of 2016 at the College of William & Mary studying International Relations and Finance. This summer, I will have the pleasure of working at the Instituto Mora’s Observatorio de la Cooperación Internacional para el Desarollo en México (Observatory of the International Cooperation for Development in Mexico, henceforth “Observacoop”) through AidData’s Summer Fellowship Program. AidData is a research innovation lab that seeks to improve international aid transparency through the use of geospatial technology and mapping software. To date, it represents the collaborative effort of students and faculty from Brigham Young University, the University of Texas at Austin, and of course, here at the College. I have been working at AidData since my freshman year of college, geocoding aid information from a medley of media reports, World Bank documents, and government reports, and it’s been exciting to see the trends that have emerged over time.

The Instituto Mora is a research institution located in Mexico City that specializes in Mexican history, politics, and cultural studies. Observacoop operates as a part of the Instituto, serving as a platform within the organization that facilitates discussion and research on issues of international development. Specifically, it aims to “build information systems, streamline and standardize methodologies to codify development data, promote collaboration and knowledge sharing, and analyze data for policy.” As a representative of AidData, my primary responsibility this summer will be to assist Observacoop in implementing AidData’s geocoding methodology as well as leveraging this geocoded data for analysis. In other words, my colleagues and I who will be going to Mexico this summer will teach our partners at Observacoop how to categorize aid information based on attributes such as geographic location (city, municipality, region…), aid project sector (agricultural, educational, infrastructure…), and aid project type (grant, loan, in-kind good…), and how to input this information into a database that can later be used to compare with other factors such as a the  disease prevalence, poverty levels, or violence within a country to assess the impact of aid. Hopefully as I begin my work with Observacoop, I’ll be able to provide some examples to clarify the end product – but I promise that it’s a pretty cool concept, and a delight to anyone who is a visual learner (like myself).

That being said, I must admit that I am also going to Mexico out of an academic desire to learn more about Mexican foreign policy, and on a broader scale, Mexico’s goals within the global order. In the past year I have had the opportunity to work in AidData’s Tracking Underreported Financial Flows division, which focuses on the aid contributions of those countries outside the traditional group of OECD donors, as well as an opportunity to work with a professor on a project investigating non-western perspectives of international relations. As a result, I want to know more about the new identities of emerging economies by investigating their foreign aid patterns and the underlying politics that drive them.

All in all, I am very excited to begin my fellowship, and I look forward deepening my understanding of development in the months to come.