In parts of southern Africa, environmental pressure on the land from over-grazing has contributed to land and water shortages and made communities more vulnerable to drought. In Namibia, researchers are measuring the impact of a community-based natural resource management program on livestock assets, income, social cohesion and land quality.

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As road congestion and urban sprawl worsen in ever-expanding African cities, many governments are investing in public transit infrastructure. But transit systems are often expensive and difficult to construct. Bus rapid transit (BRT)—or dedicated lanes for buses that run along existing roads—are a relatively low-cost public transit option, but there is little rigorous evidence on their efficacy in reducing congestion or improving socio-economic outcomes.

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Governments must pay their employees for states to function, but frequent delays and leakage of salary payments can undermine government effectiveness. In partnership with the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to study whether mobile salary payments (MSPs) improve learning by increasing teacher attendance and morale.

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Pension systems aim to prevent poverty among the elderly and to help ensure people have adequate income across their lifetime. But, only a small proportion (25 percent) of the global labor force contributes or accrues pension funds, and in developing countries essentially no small firms’ employees have pension coverage.

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The government of Bangladesh is trying to strengthen local justice systems in rural areas by establishing close-to-home, low-cost village courts that adjudicated minor disputes between residents. Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate the impact of the village court system on access to and quality of justice as well as socioeconomic outcomes.

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Although attending and completing a high quality secondary school program can propel students towards greater success in the job market, many students do not enroll in secondary school. Further, some of those who do enroll either drop out or attend low quality secondary schools, even when they qualify for higher performing options.

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Can social incentives increase demand for skilled pregnancy care? How much do people care to signal to others that they looked after their and their children's health? How much do people learn from observing others’ actions?

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

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When small or informal firms are invisible or inaccessible to large buyers, including governments, these firms cannot grow and reach their full potential.  Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate whether a bid training provided by Building Markets that intends to teach businesses how to find, apply for, and win larger contracts can help small businesses grow.

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Despite the initial promise of microcredit, randomized evaluations have found at best modest effects of microloans on poverty. Digitized payments from government cash transfer programs provide a unique opportunity to offer microcredit while addressing some of its shortcomings, potentially reducing interest rates, default risk, and repayment issues.

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Youth account for 60% of the unemployed in Africa. One approach to increasing employment among youth is to provide training and mentoring for young people to help them find jobs or start new businesses. This study evaluates the impact of a training and mentorship program with a robust long-term support component on Tanzanian youth’s employment, entrepreneurial activities, and self-confidence.

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Primary school enrollment has risen in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades, but secondary school enrollment rates remain relatively low. In this ongoing study in Ghana, researchers are evaluating the effect of secondary school scholarships on educational attainment and cognitive skills in the short run, and on life outcomes in the longer run, from employment and health outcomes to civic participation and attitudes.

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A panel discusses the entrepreneurship evaluation in Mexico

A lack of access to finance can impede the potential for growth among small firms. To meet this finance gap and to encourage high-growth entrepreneurship, governments and multilateral agencies throughout the developing world often directly fund small and medium enterprises. Governments, however, have little guidance when it comes to choosing the firms with growth potential, and making sure that limited funds are targeted where they will spur the most growth.

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Women in Malawi are assigned family planning courses

Improving access to family planning in Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to help women and couples achieve their desired family size and avert unintended pregnancies and unwanted births. It may also have longer-term effects by improving women’s health, educational attainment, and socio-economic status. However, little is actually known about the effectiveness of family planning.

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A fertilizer retailer in Tanzania

Small farm productivity in sub-Saharan Africa lags behind that in Asia and other parts of the world. One reason for this may be low rate of adoption of inputs such as fertilizer. In Tanzania one reason for this may simply be the absence of local retailers, especially in more remote areas. Researchers are testing if their absence may be because of the costs of entering these markets or demand, with interventions targeted to each.

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Lack of access to finance constrains small business growth—a problem that is exacerbated for Muslim business-owners, many of whom do not take out traditional loans for religious reasons. Innovations for Poverty Action is supporting research in Pakistan on a lease-based product that features more flexible repayment schedules, allows businesses to share risk with a large microfinance institution, and complies with local Islamic financial norms.

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Farmers in Burkina Faso are selling more of their crops and taking on non-agricultural work

The agricultural sector in Sub-Saharan Africa has been changing in recent years, with more farmers living near urban areas, selling more of their crops for income, and also engaging in more off-farm work and non-agricultural activities to supplement farm revenue. However, little evidence exists thus far on how these trends are affecting nutrition, especially that of the most vulnerable members of farming families—women and children.

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Close to 450,000 people in the U.S. die prematurely each year from smoking-related causes and annual losses in productivity due to smoking-related morbidity top US$96 billion. While many programs exist to help people quit smoking, many have only been effective in the short term. This study will examine whether a combination of positive and negative commitment devices can induce long-term smoking cessation in smokers from a low-to-moderate income background in Connecticut.

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In theory, local government meetings provide important opportunities for citizens to be directly involved in decisions about important services that affect their daily lives. In practice, citizens can be disengaged from local governments, either because they are uninformed or because they do not believe their involvement is welcome or effective.

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SME manufacturing

Startups in developing countries grow more slowly over their life cycle than those in high-income countries, but the reason why is not understood. Slow growth could be due to difficulties for firms’ increasing productivity or because of difficulties boosting demand for their products.

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