48 WORLD AUTUMN 2013 STANFORD BUSINESS POWER At a polling station in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a woman casts her ballot for president in the November 2012 elections. BOUNDARIES
49 BOUNDARIE IES Name Teekay Goes Here GOVERNMENT Crossing the Ethnic Barriers Research in Sierra Leone explores the role of information in strengthening a democracy. BY KATHLEEN O’TOOLE AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell In the weeks leading up to the November 2012 elections in Sierra Leone, villagers gathered to watch a 45-minute debate among candidates for parliament. The debaters were not there in person, but rather in a video projected on the outside of the local polling center. For Katherine Casey, an assistant professor of political economy at Stanford GSB, who was one of about 250 people watching in one village, the attentive crowd offered hope for Sierra Leone’s restored democracy — and may even provide lessons that can be applied elsewhere. The lesson, she suggests, is that providing voters with information about candidates can help create the conditions that encourage the election of better leaders, the dampening of ethnic rivalries, and, as a result, a strengthened democracy. Sierra Leone has now held several peaceful elections, a far cry from the intimidation and violence that racked the Katherine Casey is an assistant professor of political economy at Stanford GSB.