March Social Enterprise Lecture Series: Translating Evidence into Action

by Paula Bass Werner

On Wednes­day March 20th the Social Enter­prise Lec­ture Series wel­comed Angela Ambroz of the Latif Jameel Poverty Lab (JPAL) and Heather Lan­thorn of Inno­va­tions for Poverty Action (IPA) to dis­cuss pol­icy dri­ven by evi­dence and the use of the sci­en­tific method to mea­sure the impact of poverty inter­ven­tion initiatives.

JPAL was estab­lished in 2003 as a research cen­ter at MIT that aimed to ensure that pol­icy was dri­ven by evi­dence. Since then it has expanded to work glob­ally with its head­quar­ters still located in MIT, but with regional offices in Africa, Europe, Latin Amer­ica, South Asia, and South­east Asia. In addi­tion, JPAL has theme research pro­grams that include: Agri­cul­ture, Edu­ca­tion, Envi­ron­ment and Energy, Finance, Health, Labor Mar­kets, and Polit­i­cal Econ­omy and Gov­er­nance. JPAL has a three tier approach. The first uses ran­dom­ized eval­u­a­tions to mea­sure the impact of poverty alle­vi­a­tion efforts. The sec­ond tier is con­cerned with shar­ing these find­ings with pol­icy mak­ers and mak­ing sure that effec­tive ini­tia­tives are scaled up or repli­cated. Lastly, they train other orga­ni­za­tions to con­duct their own impact mea­sure­ments using ran­dom­ized evaluations.

Sim­i­larly Inno­va­tions for Poverty Action was estab­lished in 2002 to mea­sure the effec­tive­ness of poverty alle­vi­at­ing pro­grams and to trans­late this research into con­crete action. IPA, sim­i­larly to JPAL, works to bridge the gap between research and imple­men­ta­tion and scal­ing up of effec­tive ini­tia­tives. IPA also works glob­ally and it focuses on five main research ini­tia­tives: Ultra-Poor Grad­u­a­tion Port­fo­lios, Global Finan­cial Inclu­sive ini­tia­tive, US House­hold Finance ini­tia­tive, and Post Con­flict Recov­ery and Frag­ile States. How­ever, IPA works in a wide range of sec­tors that include: Agri­cul­ture, Char­i­ta­ble Giv­ing, Edu­ca­tion, Health, Micro­fi­nance & Enter­prise, Gov­ern­ment & Com­mu­nity Par­tic­i­pa­tion and Water & Sanitation.

More and more gov­ern­ments, donors and investors in poverty ini­tia­tives look for orga­ni­za­tions and projects that are prov­ing to be effec­tive at improv­ing the lives of the poor. Thanks to orga­ni­za­tions like JPAL and IPA, these stake­hold­ers have eas­ier access to this infor­ma­tion thus pro­mot­ing the scal­ing and repli­ca­tion of suc­cess­ful poverty alle­vi­a­tion initiatives.