Despite the initial promise of microcredit, randomized evaluations have found at best modest effects of microloans on poverty. Digitized payments from government cash transfer programs provide a unique opportunity to offer microcredit while addressing some of its shortcomings, potentially reducing interest rates, default risk, and repayment issues.

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Youth account for 60% of the unemployed in Africa. One approach to increasing employment among youth is to provide training and mentoring for young people to help them find jobs or start new businesses. This study evaluates the impact of a training and mentorship program with a robust long-term support component on Tanzanian youth’s employment, entrepreneurial activities, and self-confidence.

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A panel discusses the entrepreneurship evaluation in Mexico

A lack of access to finance can impede the potential for growth among small firms. To meet this finance gap and to encourage high-growth entrepreneurship, governments and multilateral agencies throughout the developing world often directly fund small and medium enterprises. Governments, however, have little guidance when it comes to choosing the firms with growth potential, and making sure that limited funds are targeted where they will spur the most growth.

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Numerous developing country governments, such as Brazil and Mexico, have adopted conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs as a social safety net, providing billions of dollars in transferred funds to millions of low-income citizens, in many cases by depositing them directly into a bank account. However, most of these recipients have little to no previous experience with formal financial products, thus providing the opportunity for product-linked training.

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Women in Malawi are assigned family planning courses

Improving access to family planning in Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to help women and couples achieve their desired family size and avert unintended pregnancies and unwanted births. It may also have longer-term effects by improving women’s health, educational attainment, and socio-economic status. However, little is actually known about the effectiveness of family planning.

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A fertilizer retailer in Tanzania

Small farm productivity in sub-Saharan Africa lags behind that in Asia and other parts of the world. One reason for this may be low rate of adoption of inputs such as fertilizer. In Tanzania one reason for this may simply be the absence of local retailers, especially in more remote areas. Researchers are testing if their absence may be because of the costs of entering these markets or demand, with interventions targeted to each.

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Microenterprises, businesses with one to nine employees, in low-and middle-income countries face disadvantages compared to larger firms when it comes to sourcing inventory. Because of their smaller purchasing quantities, they may pay higher costs and have to travel frequently to restock.

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Around the world, 168 million children are engaged in child labor, and in the Philippines many of the children working illegally are in occupations that pose a threat to their health and safety. However, poor families may have little other choice to support themselves. The government of the Philippines aims to help families avoid child labor by providing them with a one-time asset transfers equivalent to US $500 and training in using the asset to develop a livelihood.

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Lack of access to finance constrains small business growth—a problem that is exacerbated for Muslim business-owners, many of whom do not take out traditional loans for religious reasons. Innovations for Poverty Action is supporting research in Pakistan on a lease-based product that features more flexible repayment schedules, allows businesses to share risk with a large microfinance institution, and complies with local Islamic financial norms.

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Farmers in Burkina Faso are selling more of their crops and taking on non-agricultural work

The agricultural sector in Sub-Saharan Africa has been changing in recent years, with more farmers living near urban areas, selling more of their crops for income, and also engaging in more off-farm work and non-agricultural activities to supplement farm revenue. However, little evidence exists thus far on how these trends are affecting nutrition, especially that of the most vulnerable members of farming families—women and children.

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Close to 450,000 people in the U.S. die prematurely each year from smoking-related causes and annual losses in productivity due to smoking-related morbidity top US$96 billion. While many programs exist to help people quit smoking, many have only been effective in the short term. This study will examine whether a combination of positive and negative commitment devices can induce long-term smoking cessation in smokers from a low-to-moderate income background in Connecticut.

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In emerging markets, women own nearly one-third of small and medium enterprises, but their average growth rate is significantly slower than that of male-owned SMEs. Working women in developing countries also often face significant stress from the combination of long working hours, family responsibilities and barriers to work that requires being away from home.

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A sugar cane farm in Kenya

Agricultural production entails large risks from crop failure that can leave small farmers who lack other sources of income without enough food for the year. Attempts to reduce these risks through insurance contracts have typically been unsuccessful because farmers have chosen not to buy insurance when it comes time to plant.

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In theory, local government meetings provide important opportunities for citizens to be directly involved in decisions about important services that affect their daily lives. In practice, citizens can be disengaged from local governments, either because they are uninformed or because they do not believe their involvement is welcome or effective.

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Startups in developing countries grow more slowly over their life cycle than those in high-income countries, but the reason why is not understood. Slow growth could be due to difficulties for firms’ increasing productivity or because of difficulties boosting demand for their products.

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Democratic accountability relies on performance-based voting, in which citizens vote based on candidates’ expected or previous performance. Yet, if citizens do not have this information, they cannot use it to inform their vote choices.

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An advertisement for waste management in Accra, Ghana.

Poor sanitation in the developing world leads to major diseases, increased public health expenditures, and causes childhood diarrhea, a leading cause of mortality in children under five.To explore how market interventions can be designed to address the unique sanitation challenges faced in developing countries, Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate the impact of an information intervention on access to improved sanitation services in Accra, Ghana.

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Extractive industries represent a major part of the local economy in many rural parts of Peru, but these communities often do not experience development improvements due to corruption and poor management. Can access to information about the distribution of royalties improve political accountability, increase local political participation, and reduce conflict related to extractive industries?

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Helping the ultra-poor develop sustainable livelihoods is a global priority, but policymakers are faced with competing ideas about the best way to approach this problem. Researchers are working with Village Enterprise and Innovations for Poverty Action in Uganda to evaluate programs with contrasting styles of engagement with ultra-poor households.

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Sustainable growth requires the management of scarce natural resources, such as water. Although policymakers have put in place pricing structures meant to discourage wasteful water use, a number of barriers may prevent customers from effectively curbing water wastage. Researchers are working with Innovations for Poverty Action and a water company in Zambia to evaluate whether improved information and incentives can help households manage their water usage.

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