Randomization in the tropics

Today we ran a very public randomization for our field experiment in Uganda. Village and parish leaders gathered for a presentation and meeting, and after introductions and some discussion, everyone lined up to take turns selecting villages into treatment and control. Despite some hiccups, a big success.

The trouble with randomized experiments, some fear, is the randomization. In some instances I’d agree. Here, the leaders we met seemed to be pleased that aid was finally being allocated transparently and fairly.
In this case the lottery was particularly easy. There is no permanent control group, merely a Phase 1 and Phase 2. The control villages will receive the program in 18 months time (a reasonable consolation). The NGO is running at max capacity just to fit in all the Phase 1 people, and the leaders seemed to like the fact that no favorites were played.
Even so, there were collective cries and laughs when one parish’s villages would all get Phase 1, and another would get nearly all to Phase 2.  The only truly sorrowful cry came from the blogger/econometrician at the table, as he saw some of his statistical power drift away. 
Ah, to be able to block and randomize on a computer…