News and Announcements

  • Chris Blattman on poverty programs in Washington Post Monkey Cage

    Jul 06/15 | From the newsroom | 

    IPA researcher Chris Blattman thoughtfully considers what we know about anti-poverty programs that work, and how to make them better. Specifically, he looks at our research on the Graduation model, the six-pronged approach to helping the poorest of the poor, whose results were recently published in Science. One of this big costs of this and many similar approaches is the program staff spending time with beneficiaries. It sounds good, but is it necessary? Another IPA study from Uganda, described in a new brief (PDF) involved training, and a grant, but randomized the expensive staff follow-up visits, and found they were not effective enough to justify their cost. Read the full piece here, a summary on Chris' blog here, a short summary of the Uganda study here, and more on the Graduation approach here
  • Foreign Policy asks: Can you teach your way out of a war?

    Jul 02/15 | From the newsroom | 

    Hodei Sultan and Hamidullah Natiq from the US Institute of Peace ask in Foreign Policy Magazine if teaching peace skills is effective. They profile Afghanistan's Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education, which teaches “Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution” alongside the traditional curriculum. The story cites IPA's research on peace education in rural Liberia which found increases in non-violent disputes and decreases in violent ones. Read the full story here and watch a video about IPA's project below.



  • DevEx on new Goldilocks initiative and non-profit data collection

    Jun 30/15 | From the newsroom | 

    DevEx reports on the Aspen Institute for Development Entrepreneurs’ annual gathering, where IPA's Delia Welsh discussed best data collection practices and our new Goldilocks initiative. As she told DevEx:
    The idea is that pointed questions can weed out which metrics an organization chooses to use in its impact assessment. 
    “It means saying no sometimes to data collection,” IPA’s Delia Welsh said. “Sometimes organizations struggle with what they want and what their external stakeholders want.”
  • The Atlantic covers research on how to integrate ex-combatants in Liberia

    Jun 26/15 | From the newsroom | 
    IPA's research in Liberia with Chris Blattman of Columbia University and Jeannie Annan of the International Rescue Committee, is featured in The Atlantic article "Can Jobs Deter Crime?" The research evaluated a program aimed at young men, giving them literacy and vocational training along with cash to buy agricultural supplies. Overally the data showed the group who participated in the program spent more time on agricultural activities, and had higher assets, along with less interest in joining a new conflict in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire. Read more about the study here, and the full Atlantic article here.
  • Dean Karlan in Reuters: How to help the ultra-poor

    Jun 25/15 | From the newsroom | 
    IPA President and founder Dean Karlan has an op-ed in Reuters titled: New data reveals which approach to helping the poor actually works. He reviews what we know from the 6-country randomized controlled trials published in Science, testing the Graduation approach to helping those who live on less than $1.25 per day. Read more about the project here.
  • IPA's research on ultra-poor in Peru21

    Jun 24/15 | From the newsroom | 
    Peru's former Minister of Social Development, Carolina Trivelli, writes about IPA's recent presentation of our work on helping the ultra-poor in that country's Peru21 newspaper. Dean Karlan recently presented the results there, along with Ministry of Economy and Finance and Plan International. The full article (in Spanish) is here.
  • New $7.4 million Grant Will Support Research for Financial Inclusion

    Jun 22/15 | Announcement | 
    June 22, 2015 NEW HAVEN, CT:  Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) announced today a new $7.4 million grant to support research on product design innovations that enable the poor to access, use, and benefit from financial services. This Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant will help researchers design effective financial services and products to serve the billions of unbanked and underbanked adults around the developing world and accelerate their transition out of poverty. 
    Access to safe and appropriate tools to mitigate risk, save, transact, and borrow money is an important avenue to help the poor transition out of poverty. Technology, particularly the growth of digital finance, is rapidly transforming and growing the suite of financial services accessible by the poor. While access is expanding, 46 percent of adults in developing economies remain unbanked, and important gaps in financial inclusion continue to persist for women and poorer households. An important challenge is to ensure (and measure) that the financial services and products accessed by the poor benefit them by helping them manage shocks and invest in their future.
    “We’re seeing unprecedented gains in the ability to bring financial services to the poor,” remarked Dartmouth College’s Jonathan Zinman, academic co-lead of the initiative, “but do these financial services actually help the poor? We need more rigorous evaluations to understand whether they do, and how to do it better.”
    Through a new 4-year initiative, the Financial Inclusion Program at IPA will build evidence on what works in financial services by supporting rigorous research on product design to help the poor manage and grow their money. The program uses an annual competitive fund to support randomized evaluations of financial services and product design, with a particular focus on services offered through digital channels. This initiative builds on a foundation of evidence which IPA developed in partnership with Yale University by testing solutions to foster the use of savings and payment products among the poor.  
    The research this grant supports will test innovations addressing the key barriers to financial inclusion faced by low-income households through product design. According to Dean Karlan of Yale University and academic co-lead of the initiative, “There is a need for more collaboration between researchers and financial service providers to design and test financial products for the poor. We are especially looking at ways to embed insights on human behavior into product design, and developing tools that are effective in helping women, farmers, and entrepreneurs fully benefit from access to financial services.”
    The growing ecosystem of digital channels and payment technology is opening the way to new opportunities to deepen inclusion and the impact of these services on the lives of the poor by designing financial and non-financial products and services linked to digital payment platforms.  “We’re excited to receive funding from the Gates Foundation to support cutting-edge research on effective financial solutions for the poor, and most importantly we look forward to the impact the work can have on helping the poor save and grow their money,” said Annie Duflo, IPA’s Executive Director.
    The competitive fund will provide support to several randomized evaluations across at least three annual competitive funding rounds. The first Call for Expressions of Interest is now open and will accept applications through August 2, 2015.  For more information and to apply to the competitive fund, please visit competitivefund.
    Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy non-profit that discovers and promotes effective solutions to global poverty problems. IPA brings together researchers and decision-makers to design, rigorously evaluate, and refine these solutions and their applications, ensuring that the evidence created is used to improve opportunities for the world’s poor.
    Contact:  Jeffrey Mosenkis, Innovations for Poverty Action, , 203-772-2216
  • IPA and randomista movement in Wall Street Journal feature

    Jun 19/15 | From the newsroom | 
    The Wall Street Journal Weekend Review section had front page feature on Innovations for Poverty Action and randomized controlled trials called "The Anti-Poverty Experiment." It explains how IPA approaches evidence-baesd policy through rigorous evaluations, and how the approach has changed the field, featuring perspective from Dean Karlan, Esther Duflo, Richard Thaler and others. The story also explains how behavioral economics is being integrated into anti-poverty programs and looks at several of them. It was also featured in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Real Clear Politics
  • Coverage of IPA & J-PAL policy work in Peru

    Jun 18/15 | From the newsroom | 
    IPA Peru, togehter with J-PAL Latin America and Carribean and San Pablo Catholic University co-organized a workshop titled "Evidence-based public policy: Impact Evaluation." The workshop's objective was to contribute to promote the use and generation of evidence on the impact of social programs in the Arequipa region of Peru, in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public policies to the benefit of the poorest populations. The event was covered by the papers Diario El Pueblo and Diario La Voz.
  • Anti-poverty strategy offers sustained benefit for world’s ultra-poor, says new study in Science

    May 14/15 | Announcement | 
    May 15, 2015 NEW HAVEN CT - A new six-country study shows a comprehensive approach for the ultra-poor, the approximately one billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day, boosted livelihoods, income, and health. Published in Science (available here), the research tested the effectiveness of an approach known as the “Graduation model” in six countries by following 21,000 of the world’s poorest people for three years. The data show this approach led to large and lasting impacts on their standard of living.
    Previous efforts by governments and aid groups to reduce poverty among the ultra-poor have not been proven to work. Addressing this gap, the new study reports on a six-country evaluation of a comprehensive approach that addresses the many challenges of poverty simultaneously. According to study co-author Dean Karlan of Yale University and the research and policy non-profit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA): "Being ultra-poor usually means more than just not having an income - like not enough food to eat, no way to save, no information, and low perception of their opportunities to escape their situation," Karlan said. "We tested an approach that addressed several factors at once, and found significant improvements, even three years after the program did the bulk of the work.”
    In Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan, and Peru, researchers tracked over 21,000 people to test how much the Graduation approach improved their lives and their families’ welfare. The program included six components over a two-year period:
    An asset to use to make a living, such as livestock or goods to start an informal store. 
    Training on how to manage the asset.
    Basic food or cash support to reduce the need to sell their new asset in an emergency.
    Frequent (usually weekly) coaching visits to reinforce skills, build confidence, and help participants handle any challenges.
    Health education or access to healthcare to stay healthy and able to work.
    A savings account to help put away money to invest or use in a future emergency.
    Borrowing from healthcare research methodology, the researchers used a randomized controlled trial, tracking both people invited to participate in the two-year program and a similar group who was not, to compare how their lives changed up to a year after the program ended. Those in the program group had significantly more assets and savings, spent more time working, went hungry on fewer days, and experienced lower levels of stress and improved physical health.  
    “Not only is it effective, but it represents a significant return on investment,” according to Kate McKee of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor in Washington, DC, which helped implement the project. “The hope is that we can next learn how NGOs or governments can better integrate this approach into their programs effectively.”  
    The program is cost effective, with positive returns in five of six countries, ranging from 133 percent in Ghana to 433 percent in India. In other words, for every dollar spent on the program in India, ultra-poor households saw $4.33 in long-term benefits. “The Graduation approach has led to broad improvements in key dimensions of economic and non-economic well-being in most countries where it was tested. Policymakers seeking a program to sustainably improve the lives of the very poor should consider investing in this approach,” according to study co-author Esther Duflo of MIT's economics department and Director at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).
    The government of Ethiopia plans to expand the program to benefit three million people through the country’s Productive Safety Net Program, and the program is already being scaled up in Pakistan and India. A key factor for decision-makers using the model is how comprehensive the evaluation was: "The positive results across such a range of different settings is highly encouraging, and gives us substantial confidence that this approach works for individuals, can be an effective strategy for governments, and can be a tremendous guide to improve the livelihoods of poor families," said Frank DeGiovanni, a director at the Ford Foundation, which helped build and fund the effort.  
    According to Innovations for Poverty Action Executive Director Annie Duflo, “Governments, aid organizations, and donors have been looking for something backed by real evidence showing it can help the poorest of the world, and this Graduation approach does exactly that.” 
    Downloadable media (right click and "save as"):
    Infographic here
    Photos from Peru (credit: Michael Rizzo/CGAP): Photo 1Photo 2 Photo 3
    Publication citation: 
    Banerjee, Abhijit, Esther Duflo, Nathanael Goldberg, Dean Karlan, Robert Osei, William Parienté, Jeremy Shapiro, Bram Thuysbaert, and Christopher Udry. 2015. “A Multi-faceted Program Causes Lasting Progress for the Very Poor: Evidence from Six Countries.” Science.
    Jeff Mosenkis, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), 203‐672‐9552, 
    Sophie Beauvais, The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), 617-324-4498,
    Sue Pleming, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), 202-330-2683,
    Implementing Partners by country:
    Relief Society of Tigray, Ethiopia; Presbyterian Agricultural Services and IPA, Ghana; Proyecto MIRE, Honduras; Bandhan, India; Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Agha Khan Planning and Building Services, Badin Rural Development Society, Indus Earth Trust, Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization, Pakistan; Association Arariwa, PLAN International, Peru.
    Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) discovers and promotes effective solutions to global poverty problems. IPA designs, rigorously evaluates, and refines these solutions and their applications together with decision-makers to ensure that the evidence created is used to improve opportunities for the world’s poor. In the ten years since its founding IPA has worked with over 250 leading academics to conduct over 400 evaluations in 51 countries.
    The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) was established in 2003 as a research center at MIT’s Department of Economics. Since then, it has built a global network of 120 affiliated professors and regional offices in Africa, Europe, North America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. J-PAL’s mission is to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. It does this by working with governments, non-profits, foundations and other development organizations to conduct rigorous impact evaluations in the field, policy outreach to widely disseminate the lessons from research, and building the capacity of practitioners to generate and use evidence. Over 202 million people have been reached by the scale-up of programs evaluated by J-PAL and found to be effective.
    The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is a global partnership of 34 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion. CGAP develops innovative solutions through practical research and active engagement with financial service providers, policy makers and funders to enable approaches at scale. Founded in 1995 and housed at the World Bank, CGAP combines a pragmatic approach to responsible market development with an evidence-based advocacy platform to increase access to the financial services the poor need to improve their lives.
Syndicate content
Copyright 2014 Innovations for Poverty Action. All rights reserved.