Social capital and targeted beneficiaries of a development project: A lab in the field experiment in rural Zimbabwe

Last registered on June 28, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Social capital and targeted beneficiaries of a development project: A lab in the field experiment in rural Zimbabwe
Initial registration date
December 20, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
January 03, 2023, 4:47 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
June 28, 2023, 6:23 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
CEE-M - University of Montpellier
PI Affiliation
University of Zimbabwe
PI Affiliation
University of Zimbabwe

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Biases are inherent to the selection of development project beneficiaries. Three biases have been identified in the literature: 1) self-selection of individuals into projects, 2) the criteria of the implementation agency and 3) the intermediary/delivering agent bias.
This paper looks at the initial level of social capital in targeted beneficiaries of a development project, as it has been showed that social capital is a key ingredient for the success of development programs.
We measure, through survey and incentivized lab-in-the-field experiments, ex-ante social capital levels in beneficiaries of a project aiming at the development of loans and savings associations in rural Zimbabwe.
Our hypothesis is that, due to the combined effects of beneficiaries’ self-selection, targeting criteria and DAs interventions, prior to the start of the project, social capital is already higher in beneficiaries than in non-beneficiaries.
We discuss how, and to which extent, the three mentioned factors (i.e.: self-selection, implementation agency criteria and DA intervention) can be at the origin of these differences, and provide suggestions for future research in order to better disentangle their effects.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Belard, Amandine et al. 2023. "Social capital and targeted beneficiaries of a development project: A lab in the field experiment in rural Zimbabwe." AEA RCT Registry. June 28.
Sponsors & Partners


Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The effect of development projects' selection methods on the level of beneficiaries' ex ante social capital.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The trial aims at identifying the combined effect of three sources of bias in the selection of development projects' beneficiaries, namely: a) beneficiaries' self selection bias, b) the bias coming from the implementation agency criteria; and c) the delivery agents' ties bias.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Our first hypothesis (H1) is that the ex-ante level of social capital is unequal in the population of potential beneficiaries. The targeted beneficiaries (treatment group) have a higher level of social capital that non-beneficiaries, i.e. there is a selection bias.

According to H1, beneficiaries are more likely than non-beneficiaries to have had social interactions among them before the implementation of the program, as well as different levels/duration of collaborations. For instance, in a project aiming at the development of loans and savings associations, some beneficiaries could have already had previous experiences in similar micro-finance organisations.

Our second hypothesis (H2) refines H1 for the targeted beneficiaries. Targeted beneficiaries that have previously participated in projects or initiatives similar to the project at stake exhibit higher social capital than targeted beneficiaries that have not.

To undertake this survey, we collaborated with an NGO in Zimbabwe that implemented in 2021 a micro-finance project targeting small-holder farmers. The project aims at the creation of associations for loans and savings. The NGO has already been working with rural communities on this matter for a year, but they are extending their number of beneficiaries to more communities. We obtained the list of associations and the number of members that are about to benefit from training and support from the NGO.

Each session involves 5 parts:
1) An experimental part that consists of three incentivized tasks: A Dictator game, a Trust game, and a Public Good game. Participants in a session will play all games in a pencil and paper mode. One of the three games will be randomly selected to be paid out for real. If either the dictator or the trust game is selected, pairs will be randomly formed. If the public good game is selected, groups of four will randomly made. Bots will be used when a group does not have enough participants (this will be common knowledge).
2) A stated preference questionnaire measuring risk-tolerance, patience, and trust, based on a 0-10 integer scale.
3) A questionnaire adapted from Grootaert, Narayan, Nyhan Jones, and Woolcock (2004) aiming at measuring structural social capital.
4) A demographic questionnaire (variables: gender, age, education level, number of cows, crop diversity, food security).
5) A grid adapted from Avdeeenko and Gilligan (2014) that aims at eliciting the stated level of relationships among the participants in a session.

All written document are in English. Oral Shona translation will be available at each session by a facilitator.

We intended to implement our lab-in-the field experiment in February 2023. Due to field constraints we were obliged to anticipate the work in the field in October 2022.

Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
We randomly selected (using R) 10 associations among the communities that will be working with the NGO in 2022 (treatment group). We compare the levels of social capital of these (future) beneficiaries with the levels in a control group, composed of similar farmers from neighbouring villages.

The selection of the control group was done by the NGO in collaboration with the extension officers and the village agents. The instructions were to select farmers with similar characteristics (age, gender) in neighbouring villages.
Randomization Unit
The randomization unit is the association.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
10 associations
Sample size: planned number of observations
N = 341
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The final sample is composed of 143 treated and 198 control observations over 6 wards. The control group is slightly bigger due to sampling constraints: control sessions were always composed of 20 participants, while treated sessions were composed of the number of members in an association (ranging from 10 to 25).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
CEE-M’s Internal Ethics Committee Assessment on a Non-Interventional Research
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials