The problem: lack of evidence driving global poverty solutions
In recent decades, trillions of dollars have been spent on programs designed to reduce global poverty. Unfortunately, clear evidence on which programs succeed is rare — even when evidence does exist, decision-makers often do not know about it. This leads to programs that are either ineffective or not as effective as they could be, and often to wasted money and enduring poverty.
The solution: rigorous, randomized evaluations
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are considered the gold standard of impact evaluation design, allowing researchers to isolate the effects of a program from other factors. Once an intervention has proven effective in one context through an RCT, it’s replicated in others — an essential step on the path to scaling up impactful programs.
How Innovations for Poverty Action works
Imagine if the trillions of dollars spent on aid in the past 50 years went to programs that had a tangible, cost-effective impact. IPA exists to make this vision a reality.
In partnership with top researchers in the field, IPA designs and implements RCTs to measure the effectiveness of programs and policies aimed at alleviating poverty. IPA’s evaluations do not simply give these programs a passing or failing grade, but rather seek to uncover and disentangle causal mechanisms and determine which adjustments will make a program more effective. Studies range in time from months to years — even decades. IPA then works to scale successful initiatives.
As an organization, IPA’s comparative advantage is its local presence in the countries where they have established offices. They work with local governments, NGOs, for-profits, and civil society to ensure that the right people are involved in crafting research questions, understanding the data they are collecting, and using it effectively. This allows IPA to develop strong relationships with decision-makers, a deep understanding of local contexts, and a long-term view for evidence-based policy. IPA has more than 1,000 research staff across 21 countries.
To date, IPA has designed and evaluated more than 550 potential solutions to poverty problems, and has over 315 additional evaluations in progress.  The results of their research, such as those on chlorine dispensers, insecticide-treated bednets, deworming, and community health promoters, have been used by governments and NGOs to develop or scale-up programs that are reaching millions of people. Other impacts are smaller, such as the scale-up of a government campaign in Zambia to attract better health workers, and the scale-up of text message reminders to take malaria medication in Sierra Leone.
IPA’s research is behind the work of seven of The Life You Can Save’s recommended charities, including Evidence Action’s deworming and safe water programs, which were both incubated by IPA.