WHO IS ANNIE DUFLO?
“We see ourselves as the R&D of the development sector.“
So often these days we hear about the need for real time monitoring, fail fast, quick results and projects that make an immediate difference in the lives of those we are serving. While these are often excellent goals to have, the cost, complications and ability to implement and simply deliver on these demands can be overwhelming to the average development worker or aid provider.
At the same time, our community has often acknowledged the need for a deeper, more rigorous approach to understanding how the programming we implement ultimately creates short and medium term outcomes, and ultimately produces longer term results. This is where the work of Annie Duflo and the people of Innovations for Poverty Action excel and I’m happy to have her on the show for our 105th episode.
As the Executive Director of IPA, Annie is responsible for leading the organization to implement its strategic plan and day to day operations. Previously, Annie served as IPA’s Research Director where she managed its research network, staff capacity-building, and new project development. She also played a key role in the scaling up of successful programs with particular focus on education. Annie has a wealth of experience implementing and managing randomized evaluations in the field. Prior to joining IPA, Annie was the Executive Director of the Centre for Microfinance (CMF) at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in Chennai, India, which she joined at its creation.
You can connect with Annie here:
IN TOR 105 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Evidence-based approaches to development and aid.
- How Annie has managed to develop a long term research methodology that organizations of all sizes are ready to embrace.
- How Annie has leveraged their partnerships to gain insights for the development community as a whole, keeping evidence at the center.
- Annie’s ideas on how to optimize budget allocation for innovation and R&D activities inside development organizations, and why “impact evaluations are not always the answer.”
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Innovations for Poverty Action
- London School of Economics (LSE)
- MIT’s Poverty Action Labs
- World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)
- USAID’s Global Innovation Fund
- American Economic Association
- Evidence Action
- MIT’s YoungLab
- UK Government’s Behavioral Insights Team
- Harvard University
- University of California, Berkeley
- Open Data Kit (ODK)
- Evidence-Based Development
- Long Term Research
- Graduation Approach
- Data Collection
- Open Data
- Research & Development (R&D)
- New York
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
A 2002 non-profit founded by a microfinance economist in Latin America.
More evidence-based efforts, more effective solutions.
IPA works with agencies, develops studies around the world.
Academics and practitioners find common questions and ground to ask questions and collect data.
They find or develop solutions and evaluate them in practice.
Zambia, an LSE professor worked with the Ministry of Health. The incidence of disease in doctors working on the ground is problematic.
IPA helped design an experiment involving community service.
Interfacing programs and agencies
Academics come to IPA, wants their expertise and platform.
IPA does a lot of data collection.
Funders and program manages request evaluations, as did Ghana’s Education Minister.
They also help in the adoption of processes, including evaluation processes.
Long time work methodology
Terms are often met with pushback.
Studies come continuously, learning is ongoing.
They study simultaneous efforts on a given subject and compile ideas and answers.
Often they provide partial results, including ongoing projects.
This allows for isolation of results due to the program from other factors.
Graduation approach is pioneered in Bangladesh. It combines a number of interventions, “bundled programs” over three years.
World Bank’s CGAP helps in scaling reach and conducting long term impact studies.
Researchers at Harvard and Berkeley conducted a study on children’s school enrollment and attendance because of intestinal worms. It involved a long term follow-up, 10 to 12 years after the intervention. People dewormed as children hold better wages compared to adults.
Things that have changed IPA’s work and disrupted evidence making
Data collection used to be in paper. Now it’s on tablets or cellphones through proprietary software (ODK).
Increase of awareness for evidence, and thus funding, has increased.
The recent Global Innovation Fund brought additional funding for evidence-based ideas.
USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures has also played a role in the funding landscape.
Evidence is at the center. Open Data initiatives have also leveled up transparency.
American Economic Association has been involved.
Study replication is important, still not prominent.
Real time data is still budding.
There is ongoing collaboration, agencies tend to be aware of what the others are doing.
Funding allocation is still complicated. For parallel studies many funders and coordinating agencies are needed.
IPA is focused on ideas, “We see ourselves as the R&D of the development sector.“
They are currently developing case studies about the right amount of data (and corresponding effort): the “Goldilocks’ case.“
Organizations decide to do internal impact evaluation. “Maybe you don’t need to,” it’s too much effort for small organizations. They are better off doing monitoring and post project follow up.
A set of organizations that scale evidence based ideas. Social ventures: Evidence Action. Many of the results mentioned have been turned into far-reaching programs.
Game changing tools
“There are no silver bullets.” There are no all encompassing poverty alleviation tools.
A set of interventions based on behavioral insight (Kahneman, Ariely). It has caused people to save more using SMS, among other simple ideas with big impact.
There is a behavioral unit in the UK Government.
Please share, participate and leave feedback below!
If you have any feedback you’d like to share for me or Annie, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I read all of them and will definitely take part in the conversation.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask me directly, head on over to the Ask Stephen section. Don’t be shy! Every question is important and I answer every single one.
And, if you truly enjoyed this episode and want to make sure others know about it, please share it now:
Also, ratings and reviews on iTunes are very helpful. Please take a moment to leave an honest review for The TOR Podcast!