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.