New Survey: In North Sulawesi and South Sumatra, Women Entrepreneurs Lack Access to Financial Services

October 2021. JAKARTA, INDONESIA — A new survey from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) in Indonesia shows that despite ambitions for growth, women-owned micro, small, and medium enterprises face significant barriers in accessing financial services, especially credit.

Researchers conducted phone surveys of 500 women entrepreneurs in North Sulawesi and South Sumatra from April—May 2021. Businesses were identified through the 2016 Economic Census and filtered based on their “growth potential.” Researchers used criteria from MCC to identify entrepreneurs operating in high-growth sectors, and leveraged a series of survey questions from the Mastercard Foundation to identify entrepreneurs who self-identified as “capable of achieving significant objectives on their own.”

Of the women entrepreneurs in this study, only 40 percent of respondents had accessed credit from a formal financial institution at the time of the survey. Despite the low rate of borrowing from banks or microfinance institutions, 75 percent owned a savings account and 54 percent have used some form of credit to grow their business.

“When we ask the reasons for borrowing, we see that women borrow to expand their businesses or for a specific growth opportunity. We also see that women-owned businesses can be very deliberate and strategic about the loan amounts they request. They only request the amount that they need or based on what they can pay back. We’re not seeing a lot of overborrowing or over-indebtedness,” said Kate Glynn-Broderick, Associate Director of Financial Inclusion at IPA. “And yet, when asked, the majority of respondents said they preferred informal credit because it was easier. The hassle of formal paperwork and proximity of informal credit makes informal credit a more attractive option.”

Previous studies of credit and entrepreneurship have shown that access to collateral is a persistent barrier in women’s ability to access finance. In this study, researchers found that over 65 percent of all firms had either joint or sole ownership of business assets that could be used for collateral. Despite this, about 70 percent of women still needed their husband’s approval for a loan–even if she owned the asset entirely herself.

“There are opportunities here for financial service providers to engage more with women-owned firms when they are trying to access credit,” said Glynn-Broderick. “This can include streamlining the paperwork process or easing spousal requirements. It could also mean expanding collateral eligibility.”

Addressing these challenges is therefore an opportunity for formal financial service providers to expand their client base. Researchers, government officials, and representatives from financial service providers discussed these opportunities during a June 23rd workshop, “Delivering Last Mile Financial Services: A Focus on Women Entrepreneurs,” co-hosted by IPA, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Indonesian National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), and the Indonesian Financial Services Authority (OJK).

In their opening remarks, Bappenas and OJK further underlined the link between improving women-owned micro, small, and medium-enterprises (WMSMEs) access to finance and Indonesia’s economic productivity. Bappenas highlighted the importance of micro, small, and medium-enterprises (MSMEs) as employment generators; nearly 97 percent of Indonesia’s labor force is employed by MSMEs—45 percent of which are women-owned. Bappenas emphasized that improving women’s access to finance will translate to real gains for the labor force. OJK also expressed a commitment to support and strengthen financial intermediation for WMSMEs in Indonesia, specifically by using alternative credit assessments, increasing the use of financial technologies, and supporting innovative lending approaches.

In order to expand the availability of appropriate financial services to women entrepreneurs in North Sulawesi and South Sumatra, IPA will work with financial providers to better understand these survey results and incorporate them into the design of new innovative financial products for women-owned businesses in these underserved provinces.

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. Since its founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 600 leading academics to conduct over 830 evaluations in 52 countries.

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New Study is the First Randomized Trial to Show that Wearing Masks Reduces COVID-19 in a Real-World Setting

New study is the first randomized trial to show that wearing masks reduces COVID-19 in a real-world setting. 

Washington D.C. >> Getting more people to wear masks, particularly surgical masks, is effective in reducing COVID-19, according to a new study led by researchers from Yale University, Stanford Medical School, University of California, Berkeley, and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). The randomized evaluation conducted in Bangladesh is the largest and most rigorous trial of its kind to date, testing the effectiveness of masks in a real-world setting with more than 340,000 adults.

The paper reports that increased mask wearing–– as a result of a community-level mask distribution and promotion campaign–– led to a significant reduction in the number of people with COVID-19, based on symptom reporting and SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing. Twenty-nine out of every 100 people began wearing masks because of the intervention. Surgical masks were particularly effective in reducing COVID-19, preventing 1 in 3 symptomatic infections among community members 60 years and older.

“The reduction in symptomatic cases is impressive, particularly when you consider that this was a community setting, not a lab, and less than half of people who received the intervention were wearing masks,” said Dr. Ashley Styczynski, a co-author on the study and an infectious disease fellow at Stanford’s Division of Infectious Diseases & Geographic Medicine. 

The researchers point to the findings on surgical masks as being particularly policy-relevant at this moment. “Our results are consistent with lab research suggesting surgical masks are effective at reducing COVID-19,” said co-author Laura Kwong, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “These results suggest that we could prevent unnecessary death and disease if we got people to wear high-performance masks, such as surgical masks, in schools, workplaces, shopping centers, places of worship, and other indoor spaces.” 

Mushfiq Mobarak, an economist at Yale who hails from Bangladesh and is a senior author on the study, realized early on in the crisis that as one of the most densely populated countries in the world and with a relatively weak health system, Bangladesh was very vulnerable to COVID-19. “We thought that masks could be an important line of defense in Bangladesh, particularly given likely delays in mass administration of vaccines, but most people weren’t wearing them. We therefore also had to uncover cost-effective ways to change community-wide mask wearing norms, and are now working with governments in South Asia to scale up those strategies,” Mobarak said.

Researchers partnered with IPA and local institutions including Aspire to Innovate (a2i), Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Bangladesh Medical Research Council, Green Voice, and North South University to design and evaluate ways to increase mask-wearing and provide the international community with strong evidence to inform public health decisions.

The randomized controlled trial was carried out among 341,830 adults in 600 villages in rural and peri-urban areas of Bangladesh between November 2020 and April 2021. Three hundred villages received the mask promotion campaign and the other three hundred made up the comparison group and weren’t given the intervention at the time of the study. In order to detect differences in COVID-19, the researchers needed a very large sample of people. 

To measure the impact on COVID-19, adults in the study communities were first surveyed to determine if they experienced symptoms of COVID-19. Blood was then collected from consenting, symptomatic individuals, a total of 10,952 people, and analyzed for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The research team is planning a follow-up study to assess the impact of mask-wearing on asymptomatic and symptomatic infections. 

Prior observational research has compared the rates of COVID-19 among people who wear masks with the rates among people who do not wear masks. The risk with these comparisons is that people who choose to wear masks may also adopt other behaviors that reduce their risk. This study was designed to overcome this limitation. Whole communities were randomly assigned to receive the mask promotion intervention or to serve as a comparison community. 

“The randomized design provides confidence that the lower rates of COVID-19 in the intervention communities resulted from the mask promotion,” said Dr. Stephen Luby, co-author and a professor of medicine and infectious disease at Stanford. “These results illustrate the remarkable protection that low-cost masks provide,” Dr. Luby said.

In order to increase mask-wearing in the treatment group, the research team implemented a wide variety of approaches. “We wanted to create an environment where wearing a mask was the expected behavior,” said Jason Abaluck, a professor of economics at Yale. “Our strategies were designed to create a social norm: people have masks, know why they are supposed to wear them, and also know that if they don’t wear a mask, someone might politely ask them to wear one.”

A core set of four strategies, now termed the “NORM” model, proved effective, tripling mask wearing from 13 percent in the comparison group to 42 percent in the treatment group. This “N-O-R-M model” – which stands for “No-cost mask distribution, Offering information, Reinforcement to wear masks, and Modeling by local leaders”  – is now being scaled up to reach over 100 million people in several countries given its demonstrated impact. Asif Saleh, the executive director of BRAC, one of the main actors scaling up the approach, said, “This effective model is a critical component of any large scale COVID-19 response, especially in rural areas with limited vaccine access, and the NORM team has been very helpful in ensuring we are able to apply this evidence to save lives."

The research team gratefully acknowledges GiveWell, which recommended a grant from the Effective Altruism Global Health and Development Fund to support this research.

Contact: press@poverty-action.org

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Study Finds COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance Is Higher in Low- and Middle-Income Countries Than in Richer Countries

Study examines vaccine acceptance and hesitancy in 10 low- and middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. 

New research published in Nature Medicine reveals willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine was considerably higher in developing countries (80% of respondents) than in the United States (65%) and Russia (30%). 

The study provides one of the first insights into vaccine acceptance and hesitancy in a broad selection of low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), covering over 20,000 survey respondents and bringing together researchers from over 30 institutions including the International Growth Centre (IGC), Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), WZB Berlin Social Science Center, the Yale Institute for Global Health, the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE), and HSE University (Moscow, Russia). 

Personal protection against COVID-19 was the main reason given for vaccine acceptance among LMIC respondents (91%), and concern about side effects (44%) was the most common reason for vaccine hesitancy. Health workers are considered the most trusted sources of information about COVID-19 vaccines. 

The study comes at a critical juncture when vaccine shipments are still slow to arrive to the majority of the world’s population, and COVID-19 cases are surging in many parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The findings suggest that prioritising vaccine distribution to low- and middle-income countries should yield high returns in expanding global immunisation coverage. 

“As COVID-19 vaccine supplies trickle into developing countries, the next few months will be key for governments and international organisations to focus on designing and implementing effective vaccine uptake programmes,” said Niccoló Meriggi, Country Economist for IGC Sierra Leone and study co-author. “Governments can use this evidence to develop communications campaigns and systems to ensure that those who intend to get a vaccine actually follow through.”

The researchers, who conducted the surveys between June 2020 and January 2021, point out that vaccine acceptance may vary with time and the information that people have available to them. While the evidence on the safety and efficacy of available COVID-19 vaccines has become more clear in the last six months, severe, but rare, side effects may have undermined public confidence. 

Saad Omer, Director of the Yale Institute of Global Health and study co-author, said: “What we’ve seen in Europe, the US, and other countries suggests that vaccine hesitancy can complicate policy decisions, thereby hindering rapid and widespread vaccine uptake. Governments in developing countries can start engaging trusted people like health workers now to deliver vaccine messaging about side effects that is accurate, balanced, and easily available to the public.” 

“Across countries, we observe that acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines is generally somewhat lower than for other vaccines, perhaps because of their novelty. However, the consistently pro-vaccine attitudes we see in low- and middle-income countries give us reason to be optimistic about uptake,” said Alexandra Scacco, Senior Research Fellow at the WZB and study co-author. “We hope that evidence from our study can help inform strategies to expand global COVID-19 vaccination.”


Funding for this study was provided by: Beyond Conflict, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Columbia University, Givewell.org, Ghent University, HSE University Basic Research Program, International Growth Centre, Jameel Poverty Action Lab Crime and Violence Initiative, London School of Economics and Political Science, Mulago Foundation, NOVAFRICA at the Nova School of Business and Economics, NYU Abu Dhabi, Energy for Economic Growth (EEG) led by Oxford Policy Management, funded by UK Aid, Social Science Research Council, Trinity College Dublin COVID-19 Response Funding, FCDO, UKRI GCRF/Newton Fund, United Nations Office for Project Services, Weiss Family Fund, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Yale Institute for Global Health, Yale Macmillan Center, and anonymous donors to IPA and Y-RISE. 

Researchers on this study represent the following institutions: WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), International Growth Centre (IGC), Wageningen University & Research, International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development (HSE University, Moscow, Russia), Yale Institute for Global Health, Nova School of Business and Economics, Lahore University of Management Sciences, The Institute for Fiscal Studies, University of St. Andrews & The Institute for Fiscal Studies, Stockholm School of Economics and Misum, Economics Department of Ghent University, Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives, Trinity College Dublin, Cornell University, University of Illinois Chicago, NYU Abu Dhabi, Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE), Princeton University, Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) at Stockholm University, Tufts University, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, London School of Economics and Political Science, Columbia University, Yale University, Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP), Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS) - Pakistan, University of Michigan, Busara Center for Behavioral Economics (Nigeria and Kenya), Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM) - Nepal, and Morsel Research & Development (India). 
 

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New Study Shows Pandemic’s Toll on Jobs, Businesses, and Food Security in Lower Income Countries

Washington, D.C..—The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp decline in living standards and rising food insecurity in developing countries across the globe, according to a new study by an international team of economists.

The study, published Feb. 5 in the journal Science Advances, provides an in-depth view of the health crisis’s initial socioeconomic effects in low- and middle-income countries, using detailed microdata collected from tens of thousands of households across nine countries. The phone surveys were conducted from April through July 2020 of nationally and sub-nationally representative samples in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. Across the board, study participants reported drops in employment, income, and access to markets and services, translating into high levels of food insecurity. Many households reported being unable to meet basic nutritional needs. 

“COVID-19 and its economic shock present a stark threat to residents of low- and middle-income countries—where most of the world’s population resides—which lack the social safety nets that exist in rich countries,” said economist Susan Athey, of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. “The evidence we’ve collected show dire economic consequences, including rising food insecurity and falling income, which, if left unchecked, could thrust millions of vulnerable households into poverty.”

Across the 16 surveys, the percentage of respondents reporting losses in income ranged from 8% in Kenya to 86% in Colombia. The median, or midpoint of the range, was a staggering 70%. The percentage reporting loss of employment ranged from 6% in Sierra Leone to 51% in Colombia with a median of 29%. 

“Painting a comprehensive picture of the economic impact of this global crisis requires the collection of harmonized data from all over the world,” said Edward Miguel, the Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, Director of the Center for Effective Global Action, and a co-author of the study. “Our work is an exciting example of fruitful collaboration among research teams from UC Berkeley, Northwestern, Innovations for Poverty Action, The Busara Center for Behavioral Economics in Kenya, Yale, and many others working in multiple countries simultaneously to improve our understanding of how COVID-19 has affected the living standards of people in low- and middle-income countries on three continents.”

Significant percentages of respondents across the surveys reported being forced to miss meals or reduce portion sizes, including 48% of rural Kenyan households, 69% of landless, agricultural households in Bangladesh, and 87% of rural households in Sierra Leone — the highest level of food insecurity. Poorer households generally reported higher rates of food insecurity, though rates were substantial even among the better off. The steep rise in food insecurity reported among children was particularly alarming given the potentially large negative long-run effects of under-nutrition on outcomes later in life, according to the study.

Survey results from Bangladesh and Nepal suggest that levels of food insecurity were far higher during the pandemic than during the same season in previous years. In most countries, a large share of respondents reported reduced access to markets, consistent with lockdowns and other restrictions on mobility implemented between March and June 2020 to contain the spread of the virus. The amount of social support available to respondents from governments or non-governmental organizations varied widely across the surveys, but the high rates of food insecurity reported suggest that support was insufficient even when present, the researchers state. 

The study shows that in addition to increasing food insecurity, the pandemic and accompanying containment measures have undermined several other aspects of household wellbeing. Schools in all sample countries were closed during most or all of the survey period. Respondents also reported reduced access to health services, including prenatal care and vaccinations. Combined, these factors could be particularly damaging to children, in the long run, the researchers note. 

“The pandemic’s economic shock in these countries, where so many people depend on casual labor to feed their families, causes deprivations and adverse consequences in the long term, including excess mortality,” said study co-author Ashish Shenoy, of the University of California, Davis. “Our findings underscore the importance of gathering survey data to understand the effects of the crisis and inform effective policy responses. We demonstrate the efficacy of large-scale phone surveys to provide this crucial data.”

Current circumstances may call for social protection programs that prioritize addressing immediate poverty and under-nutrition before tackling deeper underlying causes, the researchers state. They suggest policymakers consider identifying poor households using mobile phones and satellite data and then provide them mobile cash transfers. The researchers also recommend providing support for basic utilities, such as water and electricity, through subsidies and by removing penalties for unpaid bills. They note a fundamental link between containing COVID-19 and providing economic relief as households facing acute shortages may be less willing than others to follow social distancing rules so that they can find opportunities to meet basic needs. 

Researchers on the study represent the following institutions: University of California, Berkeley and the Center for Effective Global Action; The World Bank; Innovations for Poverty Action; University of California, Davis; Northwestern University, Global Poverty Lab and the Kellogg School of Management; Yale University and Y-RISE; University of Basel, Switzerland; Princeton University; Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, Nairobi, Kenya; Stanford University; WZB Berlin Social Science Center; Columbia University; London School of Economics and Political Science, International Growth Centre; Vyxer Remit Kenya, Busia, Kenya; American University; University of Goettingen, Germany; Harvard University; and Wageningen University, Netherlands.

 

IPA Establishes Human Trafficking Research Initiative with $5.61 Million Award from U.S. State Department

The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. State Department announced on Friday that IPA is among the awardees of the new 2020 Program to End Modern Slavery (PEMS). The program will strengthen global anti-trafficking efforts to measure and reduce the prevalence of modern slavery and assess the effectiveness of interventions

The $5.61 million award to IPA will support rigorous research and expand the limited evidence base on what programs work to prevent and prosecute human trafficking and to protect victims around the world. While there have been numerous high-quality studies to understand the complex dynamics of trafficking in persons there have been few projects assessed through randomized evaluations. IPA will bring our unique depth of experience in conducting randomized evaluations of social science interventions around the world to test strategies to address trafficking. This initiative will be ambitious in scope and strive to generate actionable findings and produce some of the highest-quality studies to date by working with a multidisciplinary network of leading researchers from public health, law, psychology, political science, and economics.

With academic leadership from scientific advisors Guy Grossman (University of Pennsylvania) and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo (University of California, Berkeley), the initiative will work to foster partnerships between researchers and practitioners; innovate on and improve the research methods for studying this challenging topic; initiate formative pilot testing of programs; and conduct large-scale studies on the efforts to prevent trafficking, prosecute crimes, and protect trafficked persons. 

In order to expand the evidence on Human Trafficking, IPA will commission new research that advances the understanding of what works to reduce trafficking and influence current policy and practice. The Human Trafficking Research Fund will be the central focus of the initiative. The priority themes and guiding questions will be developed through the consultative process with leading policymakers, practitioners, and researchers during the first year of the initiative. We currently anticipate releasing our first funding window in the late fall of 2021.

IPA Congratulates 2019 Nobel Prize Winners Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer

On Monday, IPA-affiliates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of MIT, and Michael Kremer of Harvard were named co-winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for their “experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” 

"We want to congratulate Abhijit, Esther, and Michael on this well-deserved accolade," IPA’s Executive Director (and Esther’s sister) Annie Duflo said. "They were the early pioneers of randomized evaluations in the field of development—bringing rigor into the sector and inspiring hundreds, if not thousands, of others to continue in their path. Along with the large network of researchers they have created, these Nobel laureates have generated evidence that has benefitted millions of people living in poverty. We are so proud to be part of this movement of using a rigorous, evidence-based approach to fight poverty."

Esther Duflo is the second woman and, at age 46, the youngest person to receive the Nobel in economics. She told NPR, “I think the three of us stand for hundreds of researchers – who are part of a network that have worked on global poverty that we created together 15 years ago - J-PAL (the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab) - and thousands of staff and of course all of the partners and NGOs and governments that we have worked with.”

The Nobel committee described the Laureates' contribution as transformative for the field: “In just two decades, their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics, which is now a flourishing field of research,” the Nobel committee said on Twitter. 

Dean Karlan of Northwestern University—who studied under all three Laureates and is proud to have been Esther's first PhD student—founded IPA in 2002 to expand research in the field of development economics. Esther and Abhijit were founding board members of IPA, and IPA and J-PAL have worked together closely since the start. 

Since its founding, IPA’s infrastructure for carrying out field experiments helped enable a proliferation of rigorous evaluations. IPA's largest office, in Kenya, was started in 2005 to carry out projects that Michael Kremer and other researchers had started. As of 2019, IPA has implemented over 830 evaluations of programs in 51 countries, each led by leading researchers, such as the three Laureates, to test key questions about how to alleviate poverty.  

"We are proud of and thankful for the thousands of staff (past and present) and the hundreds of researchers and partners who continue to make this work possible," Dean said. "Everyone's compassion for humanity brought them to the fight against poverty, and their passion for analytical rigor and willingness to ask tough questions led everyone to join this movement of evidence."  

“The world is a better place because of these three,” said Chris Udry of Northwestern University on Twitter. “Their work sparkles with originality, and sets an appropriately high standard for rigor. They've built institutions so that many others can follow.” 

IPA and J-PAL Announce $16 Million Grant From UK Government to Fund New Research on Solutions to Challenges in Governance, Crime and Conflict, and Peace and Recovery

New Haven, CT / Cambridge, MA – Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), two research centers working to support evidence-informed policymaking, were jointly awarded a grant of GBP£12 million (US$16 million) from the UK Department for International Development to generate new research on effective policies to promote peace and good governance, reduce crime, and support individuals and communities recovering from conflict.

The grant, approved in December 2016 and signed in August 2017, contributes to three research programs:

  • IPA’s new Peace and Recovery Initiative, which supports research on prevention, mitigation, responses to, and recovery strategies for social and political violence and humanitarian emergencies.
  • J-PAL’s new Crime and Violence Initiative, which funds randomized evaluations relating to crime and social and political violence; and
  • J-PAL’s Governance Initiative, which funds randomized evaluations to identify effective approaches to increasing citizen participation and political accountability, reducing corruption, and improving the capacity of governments to deliver social services;

The first projects to be funded under the grant were announced this week. These include studies evaluating the impacts of safety practices in garment factories in Bangladesh, police patrols near schools in Brazil, organized crime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, earthquake resettlement in Nepal, training on women’s rights in Pakistan, gender-based violence prevention in Peru, and incentives for teachers in Uganda, among other topics.

Chris Blattman, professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, chair of IPA’s Peace and Recovery Initiative, and co-chair of J-PAL’s Crime and Violence Initiative, said, “This grant sends an important message that investing in rigorous research is critical to finding solutions to challenges of governance, crime, and conflict. Without such research, policymakers are only guessing what works. Now, we can generate high-quality evidence—and in doing so, help governments and civil society improve the effectiveness of their programs.”

IPA Executive Director Annie Duflo greeted the announcement as timely. “This DFID grant represents a significant investment in researchers seeking to make practical contributions to peacebuilding and post-conflict recovery. In a world where violence is widespread, solutions are urgently needed. This grant enables us to support innovative approaches that will lead to real change for countries and communities coping with and recovering from conflict,” said Ms. Duflo.

In addition to research, both IPA and J-PAL conduct extensive policy outreach to put research results into the hands of policymakers, NGOs, and citizens; and work with these partners to apply evidence from research to social policies and programs.

Projects funded under J-PAL’s Governance Initiative, also supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, can be found here. Projects funded under J-PAL’s Crime and Violence Initiative can be found here. IPA’s Peace and Recovery Initiative will announce funded projects in late 2017.

For more information about IPA, visit www.poverty-action.org. For more information about J-PAL, visit www.povertyactionlab.org.  

IPA Peace & Recovery Program Launches First Call for Expressions of Interest

The Peace & Recovery (P&R) Program at Innovations for Poverty Action is launching its first request for proposals, through an Expression of Interest (EOI) Form available now. Expressions of Interest are due on September 15, 2017.

The P&R Program is designed to support field experiments and related research in several broad areas:

  • Reducing violence and promoting peace
  • Reducing “fragility” (i.e. fostering state capability and institutions of decision-making)
  • Preventing, coping with, and recovering from crises (focusing on conflict, but also including non-conflict humanitarian crises)

We encourage you to read the Peace & Recovery Program's Guiding Principles and Funding Priorities document, which includes critical details about the program's core research themes and questions, before submitting an EOI.

Timeline

The following is a tentative timeline for P&R’s first call for proposals.

  • June 29, 2017 -- P&R Description and Strategic Objectives released
  • August 15, 2017 -- Expression of Interest (EOI) form released
  • September 15, 2017 -- EOIs due
  • October 15, 2017 -- Applicants will receive a response to EOI
  • November 15, 2017 -- Full applications due
  • January 15, 2018 -- Expected project start dates

Expression of Interest Phase August/September 2017

It is not a requirement to participate in the Expression of Interest phase in order to submit a Full Proposal in November. Applicants are encouraged to submit an EOI, however, for two reasons:

  1. This will allow the P&R Program to let the applicant know whether the project may or may not be a good match for P&R before the researchers invest time in the full application, and may allow the P&R team to provide feedback.
  2. The P&R Program may grant limited travel or pilot funding based on EOIs and discussion with the applicants even before the full applications are due.

Paying Farmers Not to Cut Down Trees in Uganda Helps Fight Climate Change, New Study Shows

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[New Haven, CT – July 20, 2017] A new study finds that simply paying landowners in the developing world to not cut down trees can significantly reduce carbon in the atmosphere. It may also be a very cost-effective way to help meet goals such as the Paris Accord targets. The study, published today in the journal Science, found that in Uganda, offering small financial incentives to landowners cut deforestation in half. Because the amounts of money involved are fairly small, paying the farmers to conserve and plant trees was an estimated 10 to 50 times more effective per dollar spent than many energy efficiency programs in the U.S.

 
In Uganda, poverty reduction and environmental conservation interests overlap, but can also come into conflict. Uganda’s forests are home to endangered chimpanzees, but between 2005 and 2010 Uganda had one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with 2.7 percent lost per year. Seventy percent of Ugandan forests are on private land, often owned by poor farmers, who tend to cut down trees at an even higher rate. Trees are valuable for timber and charcoal for fires, and once land is cleared, it can be used to grow crops. 
 
“It’s critical we figure out how to get a handle on climate change,” said lead author and Northwestern University economist, Seema Jayachandran. “We often focus our environmental programs on our own country, which is important. But it’s easy to forget that a lot of the best opportunities lie in the developing world.” One reason for this is that there are many undeveloped areas which can still be preserved, but another is that these opportunities might be much less expensive than achieving comparable results in a wealthy country. Jayachandran explains, “Small investments can go much further in poor countries. So we wanted to test if simply paying farmers not to cut down trees could be a win for them and a very cheap way to help manage greenhouse gas emissions.”
 
Seema Jayachandran and Joost de Laat, economists specializing in poverty at Northwestern University and the Dutch organization Porticus, respectively, teamed up with the research and policy nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Uganda conservation organization Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT). Together with a team of researchers at Stanford, led by Eric Lambin and including Charlotte Stanton, Robin Audy, and Nancy E. Thomas, they set up a scientific test of the idea. Using a randomized controlled trial, they randomly assigned half of a group of 121 villages to a program that made landowners a simple offer. Landowners with forest on their property could get the equivalent of approximately 28 dollars per year for every hectare of forest on their land left untouched (with some exceptions for emergencies). The other group of villages continued as normal as a comparison group. 
 
The team then procured detailed satellite images, with such high resolution that they could essentially see each tree. Using sophisticated “object-based image analysis” methods, they analyzed hundreds of millions of pixels and tracked what happened to the trees for the subsequent two years. Lambin explained, “We used state-of-the-art change detection methods to extract fine-grain information on gain or loss in tree cover from the satellite images."
 
The agreement worked, with villages offered the program preserving 5.5 more hectares of forest than villages in the comparison group. This equates to 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere, at a total cost of just 46 cents per ton not released over the two years of the study. “Economists tend to be a cynical bunch,” according to de Laat. “Many of our colleagues were sure that the landowners would find loopholes in the contract or just move their deforestation to other nearby land. But they didn’t.” In fact, the researchers found the program attracted some of the landowners who would have done the most tree-cutting without the program – and got them to leave their trees in place.   
 
Annie Duflo, Executive Director of Innovations for Poverty Action, said that this study will be key to informing future conservation programs in the developing world. “This is the first experimental study of its kind to show not just how effective, but how cost-effective, programs like this can be. Good science like this helps us understand how to combat climate change and preserve endangered habitats, while also helping poor farmers.“ 
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Imran Matin Joins IPA as First Chief Research and Policy Officer

Imran Matin

IPA is pleased to announce the appointment of our first Chief Research & Policy Officer, Imran Matin. This new role will be responsible for developing and leading IPA’s strategy to ensure relevant evidence is developed for and used by decision-makers and that IPA’s voice continues to lead the fields of both rigorous impact evaluation and informing policy to improve opportunities for the world’s poor.

 
Imran brings to IPA over 20 years’ experience working at the intersection between evidence and practice. He has led programs for global non-profits, like Save the Children, and has deep experience at the country level, for example leading research, evaluation, and learning of BRAC’s pioneering graduation model in Bangladesh. He has a DPhil in Economics and a MA in Development Economics from the University of Sussex in the UK.
 
"I am passionate about learning to improve policy and practice, based on robust and relevant evidence building, thoughtful experimentation, and rigorous evaluation,” Imran said upon his appointment. “The IPA model is unique in tying together the strength of world class academia and the agility of a professional NGO with a strong country presence and deep local relationships. I look forward to leveraging this unique model by working with this committed and talented team to achieve much more in improving opportunities for the world’s poor. "
 
“This new role will help us realize our vision and take us to the next level in terms of moving evidence to policy and practice,” said Annie Duflo, IPA’s Executive Director. “Imran’s rich experience both in leading research and working to apply and adapt evidence will inform and build on our existing successes and global and local leadership, and I am thrilled to have him join our senior management team.”
 
As Chief Research & Policy Officer, Imran will oversee a team of senior research and policy staff which lead IPA’s policy outreach and communications, sector programs, the development of policy relevant research agendas and replications, and new activities that further IPA’s goals to promote the use of evidence, such as the Goldilocks Initiative. He and his team will also work with IPA’s regional and country leadership, as well as leading academic partners, to develop policy-relevant research agendas and strategies to influence practice and policy at the country level.
  
“I am really excited to join at such a critical time,” continued Imran. “IPA and its affiliated researchers have played an important role in creating a new normal of evidence-based approaches to design, delivery, and the discourse of anti-poverty solutions. And together we will grow a new normal of genuine exchange between rigorous evidence and good policy and practice, that enriches both and expands opportunities for the world’s poor.”

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