SME Initiative Announces Fourth Round of RFP

We are pleased to announce our FOURTH ROUND of Research Funding for Entrepreneurship and SME Growth. The goal of the fund is to support innovative research to build a systemic body of evidence on the contribution of SMEs and entrepreneurship to poverty alleviation and economic development. We hope this competition will have a catalyzing effect to stimulate high quality research on the role of access to finance, human capital, and markets for SME growth and their contribution to development. Please see the Competitive Fund page for more information. 

Complete proposals should be emailed to by 5:00pm EST on September 28, 2012.  If you have any questions, please contact Eleanor Coates (

See: Request for Proposals, Proposal Template, Budgeting Guidelines

Linking Evidence with Policy Growth

A summary of the main questions and presentations from the SME day of the IPA Policy and Impact Conference in Bangkok, including a short discussion of the main barriers to growth for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in low- and middle-income countries and  how to design and target programs to more effectively address these barriers and promote entrepreneurship and SME growth.

This Week - Global Experts Meet in Bangkok


Innovations for Poverty Action
Asian Development BankJ-PAL
For Immediate Release
Bangkok, August 28, 2012 - More than 250 researchers, policymakers and development practitioners will converge in Bangkok from August 30th - September 1st to share evidence and ideas about what works to combat global poverty.  For three days, experts will present results from new studies, sharing them with government officials, other researchers, and NGO leaders. The Impact and Policy Conference: Evidence in Governance, Financial Inclusion, and Entrepreneurship is unique because it not only presents evidence about successes and challenges, but also pairs up researchers with policymakers and organizations that address poverty to develop new ideas and provides funding to the most promising ones.
Speakers will include distinguished government officials, such as S.Y. Quraishi, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India, and Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process in the Philippines, as well as researchers from Harvard Business School, Yale University, and other leading organizations. They will address topics ranging from the role of finance, markets, and human capital in fostering entrepreneurship and development; how technology and innovative product design can improve access to financial services; why aid money can fail to make it to the poor; and how publicizing independent audits of elected officials can change election outcomes.
Betty Wilkinson, Lead Financial Sector Specialist of conference host Asian Development Bank said "Financial inclusion, small business development, and good governance are critical for inclusive growth. When rigorous evaluations show us what works, policymakers have evidence they can use in their efforts to reduce poverty.”  Annie Duflo, the Executive Director of Innovations for Poverty Action, one of the conference co-organizers, said "We’re very excited to bring top researchers together with those who have on-the-ground knowledge from countries around the world and fund them to test new ideas together.”  Pam Flaherty, President & CEO of the Citi Foundation, which is funding research partnerships in the area of financial capability, said "We are pleased to join many of our partners at the Impact and Policy Conference that are working with us to surface, test, and evaluate innovative approaches to build financial capability and promote positive financial behaviors.”

The Impact and Policy Conference: Evidence in Governance, Financial Inclusion, and Entrepreneurship will take place at the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand from August 30-September 1, 2012, and is jointly sponsored by the Asian Development Bank, Innovations for Poverty Action, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Citi Foundation.

Additional information, including the full agenda, can be found at


Follow the conference on Twitter at #PolicyImpact

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
About the Asian Development Bank:
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members -- 48 from the region. In 2011, ADB approvals including cofinancing totaled $21.7 billion.
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 the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab:
The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a center within the Economics Department at MIT, with a South Asia regional office at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR), Chennai and in Delhi. J-PAL's mission is to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is based on scientific evidence. J-PAL works to achieve this by conducting rigorous impact evaluations, building capacity, and informing policy.
For More Information, Contact
Jeffrey Mosenkis, Innovations for Poverty Action +1-203-772-2216 x240 or here.

IPA and the Citi Foundation Launch Fund to Create Evidence on Financial Capability

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.

Click here to read the full press release.

Indian state of Bihar makes history with world?s largest school-based deworming program

Patna, India:

Over 17 million children in the Indian state of Bihar were provided with deworming treatment as part of one of the largest school-based deworming efforts ever conducted in the world. The announcement was made by Mr. Rajesh Bhushan, the State Project Director of the Bihar Education Project Council (BEPC) and Secretary of Public Relations Department, Mr. Sanjay Kumar, Secretary of Department of Health & Family Welfare and Executive Director of the State Health Society Bihar (SHSB), and Ms. Prerna Makkar, Regional Director - South Asia, Deworm the World (DtW) as they reported the results of Bihar’s first-ever statewide school-based deworming program implemented from February through April 2011.  Mr. Kumar said "it is remarkable that such a technically simple intervention, as regular and systematic deworming, can have such a profound effect on the nutritional, health and education status of millions of children." 

Bihar has a very high rate of parasitic worm infection,with all school-age children at risk and more than 50% infected in most districts, according to prevalence surveys conducted by DtW.  As worm infections damage children’s health, education and development, all school-age children in Bihar - nearly 21 million - were targeted for deworming by this program.  Infected children are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and anemia, resulting in children who are either too sick or too tired to concentrate in class or to attend school. This can cause lifelong harm to a child with research showing that children who remain infected earn 43% less as adults, and are 13% less likely to be literate. 

Fortunately, treating worm infection is as easy as administering a deworming tablet once or twice each year to all school-age children. The medication is safe for both infected and uninfected children, and delivery through schools ensures the greatest coverage and impact.  Deworming children in schools, where the treatment is administered by teachers and supported by healthcare staff, is a simple and cost-effective way to improve children’s health and their ability to learn.  Researchers at Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley have found that school-based deworming reduces school absenteeism by as much as 25%.

This massive first-time deworming program in Bihar was launched under the direction of the State School Health Coordination Committee (SSHCC), an inter-sectoral committee between the SHSB and the BEPC in coordination with DtW.  Mr. Bhushan stated that “a strong three-way partnership amongst the BEPC, SHSB, and Deworm the World along with elaborate advance planning and large-scale training of education and health personnel led to the program's success.”  Program costs in Bihar were financed by the BEPC, SHSB and Information and Public Relations Department, with support for DtW’s technical, coordination and monitoring assistance provided by the World Bank and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases.

During the program, nearly 140,000 teachers and 20,000 healthcare staff throughout Bihar were trained to deliver the medication.  “Deworming Day” treated both enrolled and non-enrolled children between the ages of 6 and 14 through a network of over 67,000 government schools statewide.  Children who receive treatment benefit immediately - previous research shows that school participation increases and children are better able to learn in school. The SSHCC is actively considering implementing a second round of deworming in 2012, with the goals of continuing treatment for the millions of children already reached, and expanding the program to include even more school-age children. 

The large scale of the Bihar program exemplifies the success and positive impacts of school-based deworming.  According to Dr. Lesley Drake, Executive Director of DtW, “there are very few interventions which are as safe, cost effective and as easy to administer as deworming.  For less than 50 cents per year, a child can be free from worms and free to learn.  The children of Bihar are already experiencing the benefits of treatment, and we will continue to support governments in their efforts to ensure that millions more children can live healthy lives and fully reap the benefits of education.” 

Bihar provides a model that can be rapidly scaled up and sustained over time to improve the education, health and productivity of school-age children. 

Find out more about school-based deworming at

Click here for more information about DtW's deworming work.



Deworm the World (DtW) is an initiative of Innovations for Poverty Action and the Partnership for Child Development. DtW works directly with Ministries of Education and Health, in coordination with development partners, to help launch, strengthen and sustain school-based deworming programmes.

DtW has helped to reach over 37 million children in 27 countries.

Request for Proposals - Financial Products Innovation Fund

The US Household Finance Initiative (USHFI) at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is pleased to announce a Request for Proposals for financial institutions to collaborate with IPA as part of its Financial Products Innovation Fund.  USHFI is seeking to collaborate with financial institutions on the development and beta testing of new financial products and product features that apply insights from behavioral economics to help low-income households achieve financial resiliency.  Awardees will work closely with USHFI and behavioral economists Drs. Dean Karlan and Jonathan Zinman to design and test product prototypes.  We invite proposals from any and all segments of retail and wholesale financial service provision, either nonprofit or for-profit.  The Financial Products Innovation Fund is generously supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

Proposals should be emailed to Rebecca Rouse ( by 5:00pm EST on October 31, 2011. Please see the full Request for Proposals [HERE] and application form [HERE] for details.

EduLAB Media Mentions

On April 17, the Ministry of Education of PeruJ-PAL LAC and IPA Peru hosted a workshop aimed at presenting to the Ministry’s implementing units how they can collaborate with EduLAB, the innovation lab on education policy established within the Secretariat of Strategic Planning of the Ministry of Education.  

EduLAB identifies areas for improvements in education policy and works with academics to develop low-cost, evidence-based interventions to address them. Interventions designed in the framework of the lab are subsequently rigorously evaluated using administrative data, which significantly lowers the cost of conducting experimental evaluations. J-PAL LAC and IPA Peru have worked with the Ministry of Education of Peru during the past year to establish the lab as an internal unit under the Secretariat of Strategic Planning.

The workshop´s aim is to present EduLAB internally within the Ministry, its objectives, organizational structure and processes, as well as, to communicate to the Ministry’s implementing units how they can collaborate with the lab to design and rigorously evaluate cost effective innovations in their areas of work.The workshop  was opened by Jorge Mesinas, the Secretary of Strategic Planning of the Ministry of Education.  Following this, Juan Manuel Hernández-Agramonte, J-PAL LAC Policy Manager, talked about the importance of innovation and the use and generation of evidence in order to improve the efficacy and efficiency of education policy.

Francisco Gallego, J-PAL LAC Scientific Director, Associate Professor at  Instituto de Economía UC, and a member of the lab’s Scientific Directorate, gave a complete review of existing evidence on effective education interventions, as well as a review of cutting edge research currently being developed.

Fabiola Cáceres, Evaluation Specialist at the Strategic Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, presented  EduLAB’s progress to date in implementing and evaluating cost-effective innovations in education policy. Finally, Daniel Anavitarte, Chief of the Strategic Monitoring and Evaluation Office,l led an open debate and the workshop’s closing.The event gathered together staff at the Ministry’s implementing units, researchers, EduLAB staff, as well as, J-PAL LAC and IPA staff in order to explore opportunities to design innovative interventions education policy. These interventions will be implemented and evaluated under the framework of the lab in the course of 2016.

Anti-poverty strategy offers sustained benefit for world’s ultra-poor, says new study in Science

May 15, 2015 NEW HAVEN CT - A new six-country study shows a comprehensive approach for the ultra-poor, the approximately one billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day, boosted livelihoods, income, and health. Published in Science (available here), the research tested the effectiveness of an approach known as the “Graduation model” in six countries by following 21,000 of the world’s poorest people for three years. The data show this approach led to large and lasting impacts on their standard of living.

Previous efforts by governments and aid groups to reduce poverty among the ultra-poor have not been proven to work. Addressing this gap, the new study reports on a six-country evaluation of a comprehensive approach that addresses the many challenges of poverty simultaneously. According to study co-author Dean Karlan of Yale University and the research and policy non-profit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA): "Being ultra-poor usually means more than just not having an income - like not enough food to eat, no way to save, no information, and low perception of their opportunities to escape their situation," Karlan said. "We tested an approach that addressed several factors at once, and found significant improvements, even three years after the program did the bulk of the work.”

In Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan, and Peru, researchers tracked over 21,000 people to test how much the Graduation approach improved their lives and their families’ welfare. The program included six components over a two-year period:

  • An asset to use to make a living, such as livestock or goods to start an informal store. 
  • Training on how to manage the asset.
  • Basic food or cash support to reduce the need to sell their new asset in an emergency.
  • Frequent (usually weekly) coaching visits to reinforce skills, build confidence, and help participants handle any challenges.
  • Health education or access to healthcare to stay healthy and able to work.
  • A savings account to help put away money to invest or use in a future emergency.

Borrowing from healthcare research methodology, the researchers used a randomized controlled trial, tracking both people invited to participate in the two-year program and a similar group who was not, to compare how their lives changed up to a year after the program ended. Those in the program group had significantly more assets and savings, spent more time working, went hungry on fewer days, and experienced lower levels of stress and improved physical health.  

“Not only is it effective, but it represents a significant return on investment,” according to Kate McKee of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor in Washington, DC, which helped implement the project. “The hope is that we can next learn how NGOs or governments can better integrate this approach into their programs effectively.”  

The program is cost effective, with positive returns in five of six countries, ranging from 133 percent in Ghana to 433 percent in India. In other words, for every dollar spent on the program in India, ultra-poor households saw $4.33 in long-term benefits. “The Graduation approach has led to broad improvements in key dimensions of economic and non-economic well-being in most countries where it was tested. Policymakers seeking a program to sustainably improve the lives of the very poor should consider investing in this approach,” according to study co-author Esther Duflo of MIT's economics department and Director at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).

The government of Ethiopia plans to expand the program to benefit three million people through the country’s Productive Safety Net Program, and the program is already being scaled up in Pakistan and India. A key factor for decision-makers using the model is how comprehensive the evaluation was: "The positive results across such a range of different settings is highly encouraging, and gives us substantial confidence that this approach works for individuals, can be an effective strategy for governments, and can be a tremendous guide to improve the livelihoods of poor families," said Frank DeGiovanni, a director at the Ford Foundation, which helped build and fund the effort.  

According to Innovations for Poverty Action Executive Director Annie Duflo, “Governments, aid organizations, and donors have been looking for something backed by real evidence showing it can help the poorest of the world, and this Graduation approach does exactly that.” 




Downloadable media (right click and "save as"):

Infographic here

Photos from Peru (credit: Michael Rizzo/CGAP): Photo 1Photo 2 Photo 3


Publication citation: 

Banerjee, Abhijit, Esther Duflo, Nathanael Goldberg, Dean Karlan, Robert Osei, William Parienté, Jeremy Shapiro, Bram Thuysbaert, and Christopher Udry. 2015. “A Multi-faceted Program Causes Lasting Progress for the Very Poor: Evidence from Six Countries.” Science.


Jeff Mosenkis, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), 203‐672‐9552, 

Sophie Beauvais, The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), 617-324-4498,

Sue Pleming, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), 202-330-2683,

Implementing Partners by country:

Relief Society of Tigray, Ethiopia; Presbyterian Agricultural Services and IPA, Ghana; Proyecto MIRE, Honduras; Bandhan, India; Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Agha Khan Planning and Building Services, Badin Rural Development Society, Indus Earth Trust, Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization, Pakistan; Association Arariwa, PLAN International, Peru.

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. In the ten years since its founding IPA has worked with over 250 leading academics to conduct over 400 evaluations in 51 countries.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) was established in 2003 as a research center at MIT’s Department of Economics. Since then, it has built a global network of 120 affiliated professors and regional offices in Africa, Europe, North America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. J-PAL’s mission is to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. It does this by working with governments, non-profits, foundations and other development organizations to conduct rigorous impact evaluations in the field, policy outreach to widely disseminate the lessons from research, and building the capacity of practitioners to generate and use evidence. Over 202 million people have been reached by the scale-up of programs evaluated by J-PAL and found to be effective.

The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) 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, policy makers and funders to enable approaches at scale. Founded in 1995 and housed at the World Bank, CGAP combines a pragmatic approach to responsible market development with an evidence-based advocacy platform to increase access to the financial services the poor need to improve their lives.


IPA Small and Medium Enterprise Program announces new RFP

IPA's Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Program is pleased to announce its' ninth round of requests for proposals, with the deadline of June 15th, 2015. The program seeks to build a body of evidence on the effectiveness of programs and policies that promote SME growth. 
SME Program Research Focus Areas
The three key research areas of interest for the SME Program are:
  • Access to Finance
  • Human Capital and Skills
  • Access to Markets and Information
In addition, there are three cross-cutting themes that are relevant to each of our research areas: economic growth, poverty alleviation & job creation, and social empowerment & gender.


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