1. We create high quality evidence.
2. We help turn that evidence into better programs and policies for the poor.
Our theory of change addresses two problems we see in the world, that there is limited evidence on what works to help the poor, and that the evidence that does exist is often unused by those who create and run programs for the poor. This leads to programs that are either ineffective or not as effective as they could be, and often, to wasted money and enduring poverty. Imagine if the trillions of dollars spent on aid in the past fifty years went to programs that had a tangible, cost-effective impact. IPA exists to make this vision a reality. By designing and evaluating potential solutions to global poverty problems and supporting decision-makers to use this evidence, IPA is helping to create better programs and policies, and ultimately, is building a world with more evidence and less poverty.
1. Creating high quality evidence
In partnership with top researchers in the field, we design and implement randomized evaluations to measure the effectiveness of programs and policies aimed at helping the poor. We specialize in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) because this rigorous methodology allows us to isolate the effects of a program from other factors. Like in medical trials, researchers assign participants at random to different study groups. One or more groups receive a program (the “treatment groups”) and another group serves as the comparison (or “control”) group.
IPA evaluations do not simply give a passing or failing grade to programs, but rather seek to uncover and disentangle causal mechanisms and determine which adjustments will make a program more effective.
Our well-established partnerships in the countries where we work, and a strong understanding of local contexts, help make our research projects successful. Our teams operating in 22 countries work on the ground to develop new studies with NGOs and government institutions interested in conducting rigorous evaluations of their programs and in testing new ideas. IPA has more than 1,000 research staff who implement the research on the ground. Studies range in time from months, to years, to decades.
Once an intervention has proven effective in one context, we work to test it in other contexts. This replication process is an essential step on the path to scaling up effective programs.
IPA has an extensive network of more than 600 researchers from among the top universities in the world who collaborate with us in designing and conducting the evaluations. Many of these academics are pioneers in their fields of research, particularly in development economics.
To date, we have designed and evaluated more than 550 potential solutions to poverty problems and have over 280 more evaluations in progress. With this experience, IPA has developed extensive expertise in conducting successful evaluations, from the initial concept stage to the sharing of results.
2. Turning evidence into better programs and policies for the poor.
IPA also works to ensure that decision-makers use and apply evidence by making it useful and accessible. Our approach to ensuring evidence is used to inform decision-making includes three key components:
- Creating high quality, policy-relevant evidence together with decision-makers.
- Proactive sharing of results.
- Technical assistance to apply solutions at scale.
At the study level, our teams work closely with their implementing partners from government, NGOs, for-profits, and civil society to ensure that they are involved in crafting the research questions, understand the data they are collecting, and will be able to use it. Our teams also write plain language summaries of each study, both before there are results, and an update after, for our website and to share locally.
At the sectoral level, we synthesize evidence, often in collaboration with our partners at J-PAL. We also produce media releases, op-eds, and events that highlight and summarize evidence across a particular sector.
As an organization, our comparative advantage is our local presence in the countries where we have established offices. This allows us both to develop strong long-term relationships with decision-makers and a long-term view for evidence-based policy.
Our country level approach leverages these relationships to:
- work with decision-makers in priority sectors to identify key research questions.
- share key findings through events, workshops, and local media.
- train local organizations and government entities to understand, use, and apply evidence.
- promote and facilitate the adoption of the most effective solutions.
From the concept stage of a study to results sharing with policymakers and practitioners, IPA is working to make sure strong evidence exists on what programs work, and that development aid and practice move towards those effective programs.