Financial Products Innovation Fund Report Released

IPA’s U.S. Household Finance Initiative (USHFI) released a report on the Financial Products Innovation Fund, a competitive research fund supported by the Ford Foundation. The report details the seven products and product features piloted by the Fund, as well as information about the results and lessons learned. IPA shared the report with donors, implementing partners, and researchers.

Leading Global Experts Prioritize Key Measures to Optimize Digital Finance for World’s Poorest People

ANTALYA, Turkey, September 9, 2015: How are phones and cards changing the ways the global poor access and manage their money, and what should governments and financial institutions do to ensure innovative products and services meet the need of lowincome customers? These and related topics were the subject of intense discussion and debate by leading global experts at a G20-backed event this week in Antalya, Turkey, one of the countries being transformed by digital innovation.

The sixth annual Responsible Finance Forum, held on September 7-9, convened more than 130 senior financial services providers, policy-makers, researchers and practitioners to debate the most effective ways to deliver inclusive and responsible digital finance. The forum provided a unique evidence-based discussion on the products and services, financial capability programs and consumer protection measures that are required in today’s digital world to give full, secure access to the more than 2 billion adults still excluded from formal financial services.

“Increased access to digital financial services offers great opportunities for consumers, but these benefits are not without risks. Empowering users to understand and mitigate these risks is a critical component for increasing uptake and active use. Not only is it good for consumers, it also makes sense for financial service providers,” said Greta Bull, newly appointed CEO of CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), one of the co-organizers of the Forum.

The Responsible Finance Forum kicked off a week of events in Antalya focused on financial inclusion, including workshops hosted by the G20’s Global Partnership on Financial Inclusion (GPFI).

“Responsible finance is core to the goal of Universal Financial Access by 2020, whereby adults globally can get access to a transaction account to store money and send and receive payments,” said Peer Stein, Director of Finance and Markets at the World Bank Group. “New account-holders need to have the right information to be able to choose and benefit from financial services that best meet their needs, and to be able to trust that their rights as consumers will be protected.”

Leading researchers at the forum presented the latest impact evidence on financial services for low-income consumers, engaging the financial services providers, policymakers and practitioners in the audience on the most promising policies, practices and industry standards to achieve financial inclusion at scale.

“There are a myriad of financial products and services we can develop, but which ones will be the most helpful for the global unbanked and underserved?” asked Dean Karlan, Yale University economist and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). “It’s important for researchers to work together with the industry and policy-makers to move forward based on what works.”

Experts from the private, public and non-profit sectors outlined innovations in the design and delivery of financial products and services, as well as the latest financial capability approaches, while regulators and providers debated the latest regulatory frameworks and codes of conduct governing the fast-growing digital finance sector.

“Through honest dialogue and constructive debate, we defined the roles and actionable next steps for stakeholders, the knowledge gaps and the areas for future research to advance responsible and inclusive digital financial services for all,” said Susanne Dorasil of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

“Collaboration between the private sector and governments is crucial to foster inclusive and responsible digital financial systems. In contrast to cash, digital financial services have the big advantage of greater transparency and accountability to customers, allowing better recourse and protection mechanisms,” added Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the United Nations’ Better than Cash Alliance.

Speakers at the forum included:

  • Njuguna Ndung’u, Former Governor, Central Bank of Kenya; Governor and Former Steering Committee Chairperson, Alliance for Financial Inclusion
  • Kusumaningtuti Sandriharmy Soetiono, Commissioner, Consumer Education and Protection, Indonesia Financial Services Authority (OJK)
  • Josephat Mutepfa, Senior Director, National Payment Systems, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
  • Mikhail Mamuta, Head, Microfinance, Central Bank of Russia
  • Jonathan Dixon, Deputy Executive Officer for Insurance, Financial Services Board, South Africa
  • Norbert Mumba, Deputy Executive Director, Alliance for Financial Inclusion
  • Stefan Hunt, Head of Behavioural Economics and Data Science, Financial Conduct Authority, UK
  • Gail Hillebrand, Associate Director, Consumer Education and Engagement, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, USA
  • Chen Long, Chief Strategy Officer, Ant Financial Services Group
  • John Staley, Chief Officer, Finance, Innovation and Technology, Equity Bank
  • Ginger Baker, Head of Payments Partnerships, Square
  • James Onyutta, Chief Executive Officer, Musoni Kenya
  • Ruan Swanepoel, Head of Mobile Financial Services, Tigo Pesa Millicom
  • Michael Schlein, Chief Executive Officer, Accion International; Member, Microfinance CEO Working Group
  • Kamal Bhattacharya, Vice President, IBM Research - Africa
  • Karen Gifford, Special Advisor for Global Regulatory Affairs, Ripple Labs
  • Xavier Giné, Lead Economist, Finance and Private Sector Development, World Bank Group
  • Dean Karlan, Professor, Yale University; President, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)
  • Tavneet Suri, Associate Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management; Research Affiliate, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)
  • Robert Annibale, Global Director, Citi Community Development and Citi Inclusive Finance

The forum was organized by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ), the Better than Cash Alliance (BTCA), CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and the World Bank. The Forum was supported by the Citi Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MasterCard Foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the G20 Turkish Presidency. The event was managed by the Financial Times.

For more details on the Responsible Finance Forum, please visit:

For further information, please contact:

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)
Jeffrey Mosenkis + 1 203 772-2216

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.

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (BMZ)
BMZ Press
+49 30 18 535 24 51

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) develops the guidelines and the fundamental concepts on which German development policy is based. It devises long-term strategies for development cooperation with partner countries and international development organizations.

The Better than Cash Alliance (BTCA)
Angela Corbalan
+1 212 906-5573,

The Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA) is a partnership of governments, companies and international organizations that accelerates the transition from cash to digital payments in order to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth. Based at the UN, the Alliance has over 40 members, works closely with other global organizations, and is an implementing partner for the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, MasterCard, Omidyar Network, United States Agency for International Development, and Visa Inc fund the Alliance. The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) serves as the secretariat.

CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor)
Esther Lee Rosen + 1 202 458-0147

CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) 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, policymakers, and funders to enable approaches at scale. Housed at the World Bank, CGAP combines a pragmatic approach to responsible market development with an evidencebased advocacy platform to increase access to the financial services the poor need to improve their lives. More at

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)
Chiara Pace +1 212 906-6569

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). UNCDF uses its capital mandate to help LDCs pursue inclusive growth. UNCDF uses ‘smart’ Official Development Assistance (ODA) to unlock and leverage public and private domestic resources; it promotes financial inclusion, including through digital finance, as a key enabler of poverty reduction and inclusive growth; and it demonstrates how localizing finance outside the capital cities can accelerate growth in local economies, promote sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure development, and empower local communities. Using capital grants, loans, and credit enhancements, UNCDF tests financial models in inclusive finance and local development finance; ‘de-risks’ the local investment space; and proves concept, paving the way for larger and more risk-averse investors to come in and scale up.

The World Bank Group
John McNally, International Finance Corporation (IFC) + 1 202 458-0723

The World Bank Group is one of the world's largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries. It comprises five closely associated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), which together form the World Bank; the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Each institution plays a distinct role in the mission to fight poverty and improve living standards for people in the developing world. For more information, please visit,, and

New $7.4 million Grant Will Support Research for Financial Inclusion

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


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

Coverage of IPA & J-PAL policy work in Peru

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.

Innovations for Poverty Action and the Citi Foundation Launch Fund to Create Evidence on Financial Capability

For Immediate Release:

Innovations for Poverty Action and the Citi Foundation Launch Fund to Create Evidence on Financial Capability

(New Haven, CT & New York, NY - June 19, 2012) Innovations for Poverty Action and the Citi Foundation announced today the creation of the Citi IPA Financial Capability Research Fund. The $3.4 million program focusing on emerging economies seeks to incubate, develop, and rigorously study products and product-linked interventions to improve the poor's financial capability.

The Citi-IPA Financial Capability Research Fund is supported by the Citi Foundation and will administer a competitive project solicitation process inviting expressions of interest from teams of practitioners and researchers seeking to test products and interventions aimed at improving the behavior of users of financial services.

“The Citi Foundation has long supported financial capability programs around the world because we know that positive financial behaviors are a key factor in achieving economic stability,” said Pam Flaherty, President & CEO of the Citi Foundation. “We are pleased to partner with IPA to launch this Fund that will identify innovative approaches to building consumer financial capabilities and, most importantly, measure their impact.”  

Dean Karlan, President of Innovations for Poverty Action and Professor of Economics at Yale University commented that “this fund represents an important contribution to the development of rigorous research on financial capability. We look forward to seeing innovations in product design and evaluations of cost-effective interventions change behavior and improve the way clients manage their money.”

Access to financial services is improving across the world, thanks to technological innovations and the expanded operations of microfinance providers.  However, financial capability, or the ability to make informed decisions about the use and management of one's money, has not kept pace with these advances.

This financial capability gap threatens the progress of financial inclusion for low- and moderate-income individuals across the world. There is little evidence, however, about which products and interventions improve financial capability.

The Citi Foundation and Innovations for Poverty Action have designed this fund with the goal of contributing to the sparse evidence in this field.  With a focus on cost-effective, client-based interventions, the fund seeks to generate rigorous evidence on products and product-linked innovations aiming to improve individuals' abilities to make informed judgments and effective decisions about the use and management of their money.

The competitive fund will provide support for approximately ten randomized evaluations across at least two competitive funding rounds. The first Call for Expressions of Interest is now open and will accept applications through October 19, 2012.

Practitioners or researchers seeking to build a research partnership in order to pursue a promising idea in this area are encouraged to apply to the fund's matchmaking program. The program will take place during the Impact and Policy Conference on Evidence in Governance, Financial Inclusion and Entrepreneurship from August 30 to September 1, 2012. The most promising partnerships will be awarded research preparation grants to conduct research and pilot testing in preparation for the competitive fund submission. Applications for the matchmaking program are due July 6, 2012. (Deadline extended to July 20th)

For more information and to apply to the competitive fund or the matchmaking program, please visit

About the Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation is committed to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of low- to moderate-income individuals and families in the communities where we work so that they can improve their standard of living. Globally, the Citi Foundation targets its strategic giving to priority focus areas: Microfinance, Enterprise Development, College Success, and Financial Capability and Asset Building. In the United States, the Citi Foundation also supports Neighborhood Revitalization programs. The Citi Foundation works with its partners in Microfinance, Enterprise Development, and Neighborhood Revitalization to support environmental programs and innovations. Additional information can be found at

About Innovations for Poverty Action

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is dedicated to discovering what works to help the world's poor. Established in 2002, IPA designs and evaluates programs in real contexts with real people, and provides hands-on assistance to bring successful programs to scale. IPA partners with researchers in top universities and implementing organizations around the world to ensure that poverty-fighting activities are supported by the utmost methodological rigor. IPA shares the evidence generated with development practitioners, policymakers and donors, and provides technical assistance and support to governments and non-governmental actors to implement successful programs and bring them to scale around the world. IPA has ongoing research operations in 48 countries across Africa; North and South America; and South and South East Asia. Additional information can be found at


Media Contacts:      

Heidi McAnnally-Linz, Innovations for Poverty Action,, +1 203 772 2216

David Roskin, Citi,, +1 212 559 4767

IPA Seeks IRB Chair

IPA's growing research program is based on principles of international research ethics guidelines, to protect the dignity, rights and welfare of all participants. We are looking for an enthusiastic external Institutional Review Board (IRB) Chair with an interest in ethics, research and international development. He/She will lead IPA's existing IRB and to help position IPA as a thought leader in conducting and promoting ethical research in the field of impact evaluation. The independent IPA IRB Chair is responsible for reviewing, in a timely and thorough manner, all research involving human participants. The IRB Chair works together with the IRB members and IPA's Research Department to promote a culture of continuous learning for research ethics across IPA and its partners.

  • Preside over meetings of the fully convened IRB and ensure that the IRB carries out its duly authorized responsibilities as required by federal regulations, ethical principles, state laws and IPA IRB Guidelines.
  • Review and approve protocol submissions that qualify for expedited review pursuant to federal regulations, ethical principles, state laws and IPA policies, or delegate such authority to a qualified and experienced IRB member to conduct such review and approval.
  • Ensure that membership of the IRB is recruited, appointed and oriented such that the IRB is duly qualified to fulfill its obligations to review, require modifications to, approve (or disapprove) research protocols that represent the breadth of research submitted to the IRB by IPA researchers.
  • Serve as a liaison between the IRB and the IPA research team to promote communication and understanding of the concerns of the IRB, the research team and other IRB partners.
  • Ensure that reports related to safety, noncompliance, unanticipated problems in research and adverse events are reviewed, attended to and reported pursuant to federal regulations, state laws and IPA IRB Guidelines.
  • Respond to local and federal investigations relating to protocols and actions, as required.
  • Disseminate IPA Research Ethics learning at seminars, conferences, and peer-reviewed journals.
  • In conjunction with the IRB, IPA Research Team, and IPA Senior Management Team, develop IRB policies, procedures and guidelines to stay current with societal thinking, regulatory changes and national best practice standards.
Please direct your interest by sending a cover letter and a CV to Dr. Thoai Ngo, Senior Director, Research & Knowledge Management at
Download PDF annoucement here.

1 This is not a full time position. Commitment is estimated at 5days/month.


Small and medium enterprise initiative events

Sparking a Conversation on Small and Medium Enterprises

The SME Initiative's network of researchers and decision-makers works together to set a policy-relevant research agenda, conduct cutting-edge research, and share findings and best practices to improve the way SME policy is implemented around the world. Twice a year, the Initiative hosts a Working Group meeting to bring network members together to discuss research ideas and results, as well as new opportunities for collaboration. This blog post discusses some of the research presented at the SME Initiative's 4th Working Group meeting, held in collaboration with Private Enterprise Development for Low-Income Countries in London in December 2013. The blog post was also published on

The SME Initiative's 5th Working Group meeting was held in Boston on September 19. The list of presentations from this meeting can be found on our Events Page.


New study shows text messaging could be useful tool in fight against malaria

New study shows text messaging could be useful tool in fight against malaria
New Haven, CT,  Oct. 28 2014 - Each year, malaria kills over 600,000 people, more than half of them children. In a study published today in PLOS ONE (summary here and full study here), researchers with the non-profit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and Harvard University found that simple text message reminders to take malaria medication can help in the fight against the disease by boosting the rates at which patients complete their medication regimen.
One challenge in fighting malaria is that the disease has evolved resistance to many drugs that formerly worked, according to Julia Raifman, a Ph.D. candidate in the Harvard School of Public Health, who co-authored the study. Only one class of drugs, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) remains effective and available. "When patients don't complete their full medication regimen, diseases can develop resistance to treatment. And with infectious diseases like malaria, drug resistant diseases can spread to others" Raifman said. "Even in the United States, studies show that about half of people don't adhere to their medications-it's easy to forget, or to think you've beaten the disease because you feel better. We've already begun to see resistance to artemisinin in Southeast Asia. It would be catastrophic if that became widespread and there was no effective treatment for the most deadly form of malaria," she added.
The researchers, working with IPA's research staff in Ghana, drew on previous research using SMS reminders in situations where people fail to follow through on intentions, such as saving money, paying back loans, or completing college financial aid forms. The research staff in Ghana recruited more than 1,100 people outside pharmacies and healthcare facilities, who then used their mobile phones to enroll in an automated system. The system randomly assigned half to receive the text message reminders to take their medication at the 12 hour intervals corresponding to when the pills were to be taken. The local staff followed up with the participants several days later at their homes to check how many pills they had taken. Study authors Raifman, Heather Lanthorn, Slawa Rokicki, and Günther Fink found that those who received the texts were significantly more likely to finish the full regimen.
The study also tested whether a short versus longer, more informative message would be more effective and found unexpectedly that the shorter messages had a significant impact, but the longer ones did not. "SMS reminders are a 'nudge,' not a 'shove' " said Aaron Dibner-Dunlap, an Innovations for Poverty Action researcher who studies text message reminders. "They can help people follow through on something they originally intended to do, but human nature is tricky and the science is still young. We're optimistic because the technology has become so widespread and inexpensive to administer, that for programs like this one that work, there's huge potential for helping people at very low cost."
The study was implemented by IPA in Ghana, with researchers Julia RG Raifman and Heather Lanthorn, both doctoral candidates at Harvard's School of Public Health, Slawa Rokicki, doctoral candidate at  Harvard's Department of Health Policy, and Günther Fink, Associate Professor of International Health Economics at Harvard's School of Public Health.
More information about the study is available at (
Additional information:
Malaria is one of the leading causes of death for children under five worldwide.
Of malaria deaths, 92 percent occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa, where Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent form of the malaria parasite, is most common.
This study took place in and around Tamale, the capital of Ghana's Northern Region.
Ghana was a pilot country for the Global Fund's Affordable Medicines Facility - malaria (AMFm), which aimed to expand access to ACTs by highly subsidizing their cost. National health insurance allows members to receive the medications free of charge.
Jeff Mosenkis, Innovations for Poverty Action ( 203-672-9552 )
Julia RG Raifman, Harvard School of Public Health (jrgoldbe at
About Innovations for Poverty Action:
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 decisionmakers 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. More information is available at

SME Initiative Launches New RFP


The Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) Initiative is pleased to announce a special call for proposals to its Competitive Research Fund on Entrepreneurship and SME Growth. This request for proposals has a focus on High-Growth Entrepreneurship in Latin America and is funded by the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (MIF/IDB). The objective of this call is to fund studies which will contribute to existing knowledge about fast-growing small and medium enterprises and examine policies that identify and support them. In view of this objective, proposals should focus on "transformational” rather than subsistence entrepreneurship. Funding will be allocated competitively to projects which address relevant research questions, use rigorous methods, and have the utmost policy relevance in the area of fast-growing businesses in Latin America.

This round of funding is open to all researchers and institutions without restrictions on eligibility. Please see the full RFP description, the application form, and budgeting guidelines.  Complete proposals should be mailed to by 5:00 pm EST on May 5th, 2014.


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