Helping the ultra-poor develop sustainable livelihoods is a global priority, but policymakers, practitioners, and funders are faced with competing ideas about the best way to reduce extreme poverty.

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Governments and organizations around the world employ media messaging to effect behavioral and attitudinal change. In Uganda, Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to evaluate whether videos encouraging communities to speak out about and counter violence against women (VAW) in the household could change behavior, attitudes and norms related to VAW.

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Citizens in low-income countries are often unable to hold their government representatives accountable for the effective delivery of social services such as education and healthcare. Increases in mobile phone access present new opportunities for direct communication between citizens and government officials that may help governments respond to citizens’ needs more effectively.

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Most public-sector workers and many private sector employees in developing countries are paid monthly, a schedule that means large lump-sum payments follow periods of relative scarcity. Employees who receive wages following a cash-strapped period may be more likely to buy temptation goods––spending large sums of money in ways they later regret.

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Millions of children die from preventable diseases every year, primarily in low-income countries. In rural Uganda, researchers are working with Innovations for Poverty Action to evaluate the impact on child mortality of an at-scale community health worker program based on a micro-franchise business model.

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Despite a substantial decline in child mortality in recent years, millions of children still die from preventable diseases every year. In this study in rural Uganda, researchers evaluated the impact of a micro-franchise model, which incentivizes door-to-door community health workers. The program reduced mortality among infants and children, improved knowledge about health among clients, and increased the visits that households received from health workers. 

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Uganda land

Curbing deforestation in developing countries may be a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of a payments for ecosystem services (PES) program, in which Ugandan landowners were paid not to cut forest trees on their property.

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Millions of people make their living running microenterprises, but these businesses typically fail to expand or provide more than subsistence-level income to their owners.  Giving loans and training to small businesses offer the possibility of helping them grow, but research has not found this to be effective. Yet, much of the existing evidence looks at women-owned businesses, as they are the primary recipients of microfinance programs.

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Mobile health technologies have the potential to strengthen health systems by increasing transparency and accountability in those systems. In Uganda, researchers are partnering with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health to develop a mobile health (mHealth) accountability system and to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the delivery of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services in Uganda.

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Previous research suggests that charging even very small user fees sharply limits access to preventive health care, such as bed nets or home water purification. While distributing health products for free in low-income countries is common, it is unclear whether this is the best practice for all products.

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 1.8 million people became infected with the HIV virus in 2011, with the majority of new cases attributed to unprotected sex. This study tested whether providing sexual health information through SMS messaging could lower rates of risky behavior.

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For democracies to function well, citizens need to hold leaders accountable, yet in many African nations demand for accountability appears low. This research tests the theory that because people are loss averse, taxation pushes citizens to demand more from their leaders.

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Heavily subsidizing essential health products like insecticide-treated bed nets has the potential to substantially decrease child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, but there is widespread concern that poor governance and limited accountability among health workers undermines the effectiveness of subsidy programs . Researchers measured the impact of several financial and monitoring incentives on the quality of bed net delivery to pregnant women in Ghana .

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Many local bureaucrats operate in settings with weak institutions and limited oversight, resulting in poor service delivery. A growing number of initiatives and studies seek to address this by empowering communities to monitor front-line service providers directly. This study tests another avenue: Empowering local politicians, who have the mandate but often lack the tools to monitor local bureaucrats, who in turn oversee front-line service providers.

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Ownership and use of bank accounts is low in many developing countries. Researchers partnered with banks in three countries to see if removing the costs to opening basic bank accounts would lead to more households opening and using bank accounts. Overall, use of the accounts was low across all three countries, and being offered a free, basic bank account had no impact on savings, expenditures, health, or education.

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