Community-based development is an idea that has gained popularity among governments, practitioners, and funders, but evidence on its effectiveness outside of post-conflict contexts is limited. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to test the impact of community-based development on political participation, public goods provision, and individual well-being in Ghana.

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Little research has explored the potential for mobile technology, and mobile money specifically, to improve the lives of the poor. In Kenya, where a widely-used mobile–based money transfer service, M-PESA, has dramatically reduced the cost of sending money across large distances, researchers evaluated the impact of the service on households’ ability to weather negative income shocks, such as illness or agricultural losses.
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Child marriage is correlated with negative health and education outcomes around the world. Researchers evaluated the impacts of a conditional incentive program and an adolescent empowerment program on adolescent marriage, teenage childbearing, and education in rural Bangladesh. They found that offering incentives conditional on delayed marriage was an effective way to reduce child marriage, reduce teenage childbearing, and increase education.

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Recent efforts to increase primary school education enrollment in developing countries have been extremely successful, yet major challenges persist in improving educational outcomes. In rural areas, this challenge is even more severe, as remote communities struggle to attract and retain professionally trained teachers. This study assesses the impact of a program that aims to improve student learning for marginalized pupils in rural Ghana through an interactive distance learning model.

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An arial map of electrical power supply in Kenya

Over the past century, rural electrification has served as a key benchmark for economic development and social progress. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of offering subsidies to connect to the power grid on the demand for rural electrification in Kenya.

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As education subsidies become more common, policymakers are looking for alternative sources of funding to cover the costs for such programs. One potential source is remittances from family members who have emigrated, which are one of the largest types of international financial flows to developing countries.

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Differences in productivity between firms, which are especially large in developing countries, are often attributed to the quality of their management practices. Researchers tested the effect of management practices by randomly assigning some Indian textile firms to receive free consulting advice. Firms that received this advice significantly raised their productivity within a year, resulting in an estimated increase in annual profits of US$325,000.

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Many financial products such as 401k plans have been designed to help U.S. consumers overcome limited self-control and limited attention in order to reach their savings goals.

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There are an estimated 411 million mobile money accounts worldwide, allowing even the poor in remote areas to send and receive money at low cost. How access to this financial tool affects long-term financial well-being, however, is not well understood. In Kenya, IPA worked with researchers to track the economic progress of households as the M-PESA mobile money service expanded over six years.

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Despite a substantial decline in child mortality in recent years, millions of children still die from preventable diseases every year. In this study in rural Uganda, researchers evaluated the impact of a micro-franchise model, which incentivizes door-to-door community health workers. The program reduced mortality among infants and children, improved knowledge about health among clients, and increased the visits that households received from health workers. 

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Numerous governments in low- and middle-income countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, have adopted conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs as a social safety net, but most recipients of these transfers have little or no experience with formal financial products.

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Many microentrepreneurs in developing countries may lack the training or skills to make the most effective financial and business management decisions. In India, researchers tested a  low-cost and easy-to-scale financial capability intervention that delivered easy-to-remember and easy-to-adopt rules of thumb via voice-based mobile phone messages.

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An IPA surveyor interviews a microfinance borrower in the Philippines

Although the success of microcredit was originally attributed to the group loan model, there is little evidence on the relative impacts of individual lending versus group lending on household consumption, income, and enterprise creation. In this study, researchers randomly selected existing group-lending centers to convert to an individual liability model.

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An industrial cotton processing factory in Ethiopia

Industrial sector development is seen as an important poverty alleviation strategy for reducing un- and underemployment in low-income countries. But how those jobs affect workers, particularly in early stages of industrial sector development, and the extent to which workers prefer these jobs over others is less well-understood.

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Incentive (or performance-based) pay has been shown to increase worker productivity in high-income countries, yet it is uncommon in developing countries and little evidence exists on the impacts of individual- and group-level incentives in these contexts. Cultural norms, such as the desire to stand out or get ahead, may influence how people respond to incentives.

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Female entrepreneurs in developing countries often face significant stress from the combination of long working hours, family responsibilities and barriers to work that requires being away from home1,2. This randomized evaluation studied whether targeting women’s ability to cope with such daily stresses could help improve well-being and business outcomes.

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A sugar cane farm in Kenya

Farming is risky: a drought, bad harvest, or dip in crop prices can leave small farmers in developing countries without much-needed income. Attempts to mitigate these risks with agricultural insurance have typically been unsuccessful because farmers have chosen not to buy insurance. Researchers partnered with a large sugar cane company to see if delaying the premium payment until after the harvest would increase farmers’ demand for insurance.

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For new democracies and societies emerging from conflict, effective systems of dispute resolution are essential to maintaining a lasting peace and preventing violence. In Liberia, researchers examined the impact of introducing alternative dispute resolution (ADR) trainings on the rate at which community members resolved property disputes, the level of satisfaction with the resolution, and the incidence of violence related to the disputes.

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Uganda land

Curbing deforestation in developing countries may be a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of a payments for ecosystem services (PES) program, in which Ugandan landowners were paid not to cut forest trees on their property.

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Seasonal hunger affects 300 million of the world’s rural poor. Seasonal migration can help some people find temporary employment, but many of those who could potentially benefit from migration face financial constraints that prevent them from traveling during the lean season. Researchers investigated whether providing low-cost travel incentives increases migration, and whether migrants experience better food security as a result of their travel.

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