Can a subtle form of social influence get more parents to fully vaccinate their children? In Sierra Leone, where immunization is valued, but not fully adhered to, researchers worked with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and IPA to test the impact on immunization rates of highly visible bracelets for children, signaling whether and to what extent children had completed their immunization schedules.

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Agricultural yields for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa tend to be lower than the rest of the world, and African farmers tend to use fewer productivity-enhancing agricultural technologies like fertilizer. This may be because of poor access to markets for farmers in remote rural areas, leading to higher delivered prices for inputs, lower net prices for output, and therefore, lower profitability of yield-enhancing technologies.

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Access to banking services can help households better manage financial decisions. Yet households may not use the services if they do not trust the institutions, if service quality is poor, or if the services disrupt local financial relationships. Researchers examined the impact of access to banking services for the first time on households in rural Kenya.

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Do low levels of trust limit the spread of ideas and knowledge among small-scale firms in African cities? A new study provides micro-level descriptive evidence on the spatial patterns of economic activity among small business owners in one of the fastest-developing cities in southern Africa: Lusaka, Zambia. Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to collect new survey data to investigate the relation between knowledge sharing, trust, and business agglomeration within the city.

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Scholars going back to Adam Smith and Max Weber have hypothesized that religiosity promotes economic success. In the Philippines, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of an evangelical Protestant religious values and theology education program on individuals’ economic and subjective wellbeing. Results show that the program increased religiosity and incomes, but decreased self-perception of relative economic wellbeing.

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

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In sub-Saharan Africa, young girls drop out of school at higher rates than boys. A large portion of drop outs occur between primary and secondary school, when families in most countries have to start paying fees for their children to continue attending school. In Zambia, researchers designed and evaluated the impact of a training that taught adolescent girls non-cognitive skills to negotiate health and educational decisions with authority figures in their lives.

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Public training sessions on democratic processes and ideals are a popular tool that aims to improve the performance of governments with “bottom-up” accountability via increased political knowledge and public participation. Researchers evaluated an accountability workshop program, which educated citizens on the distribution of extractive industry tax revenues and the formal means of local political participation.

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Millions of people in developing countries work in the informal sector, due in part to significant barriers to registering one’s business and entering the formal sector. In this study, researchers carried out a randomized evaluation in Malawi, within the context of the World Bank Business Environment Strengthening Technical Assistance Project (BESTAP), to measure the impact of formalization on the business performance of micro-, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

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

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Rainfall insurance is a potentially cost-effective way to protect farmers in low-income countries from adverse weather events, but its adoption has been low. Marketing rainfall insurance to farmers’ urban relatives, who often help support their rural family members, may increase its use. Researchers partnered with micro-insurance organization Planet Guarantee to study the demand for a rainfall insurance product marketed to urban relatives of farmers in Burkina Faso.

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Democratic elections are seen as a way of improving government accountability, but the means through which elections affect officials’ behavior is poorly understood, particularly in local elections where inter-party competition is rare. Researchers in Burkina Faso staged a community decision-making scenario with real financial stakes to understand how elections effect public embezzlement, social norms and trust in officials.

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Many pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to high-quality health care. Researchers evaluated whether cash transfers and decision-making nudges could help low-income pregnant women in Nairobi, Kenya deliver where they wanted and in a high-quality facility. They found that cash transfers, conditioned on precommitment to a delivery facility, led to more effective birth planning and increased the likelihood that women delivered at higher-quality facilities.

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

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Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, and cancer have become increasingly prevalent in low- and middle-income countries in recent years, but health systems in most of these countries have been geared towards treatment of acute rather than chronic diseases. In Kenya, researchers are evaluating the impact of Novartis Access, an initiative that offers a basket of NCD medicines at a reduced wholesale price, on the availability and purchase price of medicines.

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Compared to their counterparts in high-income countries, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in low-and-middle-income countries, are often less productive, grow slower, and hire fewer workers. In Mexico, Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to test if this lagging productivity could owe to lower managerial capacity. They found that providing subsidized managerial consulting to Mexican SMEs boosted their productivity and hiring.

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FTTT classroom

Although enrollment and access to education has increased across sub-Saharan Africa, student learning remains low. Educators and policymakers want to strengthen teacher training in order to improve student learning, but evidence is lacking about what makes teacher training most effective, especially in early childhood education.

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Inadequate nutrition during the earliest years of life can cause stunting and contribute to long-term developmental consequences that can affect future productivity and well-being. In Zambia, an IPA research team found that providing parents with full-sized growth charts, which included information about nutrition and were placed on the walls inside homes, reduced stunting rates among malnourished children by 22 percentage points.

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Credit: Erik Charlton / Flickr
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are thought to be an important source of innovation and employment. While there is a lot of research on the barriers to SME growth at the individual firm level, there is little evidence on the role of business networks in firm growth.
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Entrepreneurs in developing countries face a number of constraints that limit their growth and therefore their contribution to employment and long-term economic development.

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