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 the lives of the world’s poor.
In recent decades, trillions of dollars have been spent on programs designed to reduce global poverty, but clear evidence on which programs succeed is rare, and when evidence does exist, decision-makers often do not know about it. IPA exists to bring together leading researchers and these decision-makers to ensure that the evidence they create leads to tangible impact on the world. Since their founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 400 leading academics
to conduct over 600 evaluations
in 51 countries. This research has informed hundreds of successful programs that now impact millions of individuals worldwide.
WHAT THEY DO
Their theory of change addresses two problems they see in the world, that there is limited evidence on what works to help the poor, and that the evidence that does exist is often unused by those who create and run programs for the poor. This leads to programs that are either ineffective or not as effective as they could be, and often, to wasted money and enduring poverty. Imagine if the trillions of dollars spent on aid in the past fifty years went to programs that had a tangible, cost-effective impact. IPA exists to make this vision a reality. By designing and evaluating potential solutions to global poverty problems and supporting decision-makers to use this evidence, IPA is helping to create better programs and policies, and ultimately, is building a world with more evidence and less poverty.
Creating high quality evidence
In partnership with top researchers in the field, they design and implement randomized evaluations to measure the effectiveness of programs and policies aimed at helping the poor. They specialize in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) because this rigorous methodology, considered the gold standard of impact evaluation design, allows them to isolate the effects of a program from other factors. Like in medical trials, researchers assign participants at random to different study groups. One or more groups receive a program (the “treatment groups”) and another group serves as the comparison (or “control”) group.
IPA evaluations do not simply give a passing or failing grade to programs, but rather seek to uncover and disentangle causal mechanisms and determine which adjustments will make a program more effective.
Their well-established partnerships in the countries where they work, and a strong understanding of local contexts, help make their research projects successful. Their teams operating in 20 countries work on the ground to develop new studies with NGOs and government institutions interested in conducting rigorous evaluations of their programs and in testing new ideas. IPA has more than 1,000 research staff who implement the research on the ground. Studies range in time from months, to years, to decades.
Once an intervention has proven effective in one context, they work to test it in other contexts. This replication process is an essential step on the path to scaling up effective programs.
IPA has an extensive network of more than 400 researchers from among the top universities in the world who collaborate with them in designing and conducting the evaluations. Many of these academics are pioneers in their fields of research, particularly in development economics.
Turning evidence into better programs and policies for the poor
IPA also works to ensure that decision-makers use and apply evidence by making it useful and accessible. Their approach to ensuring evidence is used to inform decision-making includes three key components:
Creating high quality, policy-relevant evidence together with decision-makers.
Proactive sharing of results.
Technical assistance to apply solutions at scale.
At the study level, their teams work closely with their implementing partners from government, NGOs, for-profits, and civil society to ensure that they are involved in crafting the research questions, understand the data they are collecting, and will be able to use it. Their teams also write plain language summaries of each study, both before there are results, and an update after, for their website and to share locally.
At the sectoral level, they synthesize evidence, often in collaboration with their partners at J-PAL. They also produce media releases, op-eds, and events that highlight and summarize evidence across a particular sector.