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Evidence Action
Make a Difference TodayDonate to
Evidence Action

Evidence Action

Evidence Action operates three main initiatives: Dispensers for Safe Water installs and maintains chlorine dispensers directly next to rural water sources, ensuring access to safe drinking water for approximately 4 million people in rural Kenya, Uganda, and Malawi. Another Evidence Action program, Deworm the World Initiative, partners with governments to initiate and sustain large-scale school-based deworming programs that treat more than 280 million children for parasitic worm infections annually in India, Kenya, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan. Evidence Action Beta tests and develops new, rigorously evaluated interventions to determine whether they are suitable for scaling.

The Problem

In order to tackle extreme poverty at the level it exists, how do we bridge the gap between identifying evidence-based, cost-effective interventions that work and successfully scaling them up to improve the lives of millions?

The Solution: Scaling Effective Interventions

Evidence Action’s mission is to be a world leader in scaling evidence-based and cost-effective programs to reduce the burden of poverty. Evidence Action was incubated by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), a highly respected poverty research network, and launched in 2013. (IPA is another of The Life You Can Save’s recommended organizations). Their current initiatives include:

Dispensers for Safe Water

Every year, over 829,000 people die from diarrhea caused by unsafe drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene, with 297,000 of those deaths being children under five. Dispensers for Safe Water solves the problem of unsafe water in rural communities through a three-part approach: (1) Installation of chlorine dispensers directly at local water sources; (2) Working with local community promoters who market, maintain, and refill the dispensers; and (3) Overseeing a locally-staffed delivery and repair supply chain.

Dispensers for Safe Water provides free access to containers and chlorine—a proven, low-cost water treatment solution—and maintains sustainable service delivery, not a one-time hardware installation. Dispensers for Safe Water's focus on behavioral change yields chlorine adoption rates that are much higher than other water treatment solutions, and are sustained over time. To ensure financial sustainability for the program, Dispensers for Safe Water partners to develop, monitor, audit, issue and sell dispenser carbon credits, then reinvests revenues from carbon sales in the program. Dispensers for Safe Water was named a Standout Charity in 2017 and 2018 by GiveWell.

Evidence Action Beta

Evidence Action Beta pressure tests promising interventions that have been rigorously evaluated to determine whether they can be cost-effectively scaled up to improve the lives of millions of people. Currently, the initiative is exploring the potential of several promising programs, including Winning Start, a promising, simple, cost-effective intervention which equips children with the basic literacy and numeracy skills they need to learn by connecting local, lightly-trained youth volunteers to primary schools where they can offer specialized attention to struggling students.

Deworm the World Initiative

There are more than 868 million children at risk for parasitic worms worldwide. These worms interfere with nutrient absorption and cause malnourishment, anemia, and impaired mental and physical development; they also prevent children from attending school, impacting their success in life and ultimately harming developing economies. The Deworm the World Initiative works with governments to implement large-scale school-based deworming programs. GiveWell named the program a Top Charity for the sixth time in 2018Read how recent deworming studies affect our recommendation of Deworm the World.

Why Evidence Action is Effective

Broad reach and potential for scale

Dispensers for Safe Water currently provides 4 million people access to clean water. Deworm the World treated 160 million children in 2015 and has since scaled up to reach 280 million children in 2017.


Dispensers for Safe Water’s current cost is US$1.28 per person per year, while Deworm the World provides deworming pills at an average cost of less than US$0.50 per treatment.

Proven results

Dispensers for Safe Water shows extremely high adoption rates of water chlorination that persist over time--much higher than for other water purification systems. In areas where Dispensers for Safe Water works, use rates for chlorine have been extremely robust--ranging from over 50 percent to an astounding 100 percent in areas in Malawi. This is unheard of in the world of water and sanitation for point-of-collection products, and is a testament to the great work of the Dispensers teams.

Deworm the World has seen significant declines in worm prevalence (the percentage of children infected with worms) in Kenya, to the point where transmission breakpoints are possible. A randomized deworming trial in Kenya found school-based deworming reduced school absenteeism by 25 percent, increased hours worked as adults by 12 percent, and increased future wage earnings by 23 percent. Those who remain persistently infected are 13 percent less likely to be literate. Deworming has very high social returns, with conservative benefit-cost ratio estimates ranging from 24.7 to 41.6.

High Impact

Evidence Action’s accountability and sustainability

Evidence Action's Deworm the World and Dispensers for Safe Water Initiatives are recommended by rigorous evaluator GiveWell. The Jameel Poverty Action Lab lists school-based deworming as a “best buy” in terms of education and health. 

In July 2018, GiveWell awarded a Good Ventures-funded incubation grant of $5.1 million grant to Evidence Action Beta "to create a program dedicated to developing potential GiveWell top charities by prototyping, testing, and scaling programs which have the potential to be highly impactful and cost-effective."

Evidence Action is a model of non-profit transparency. The organization makes its documents publicly available and publishes its reports and data. Notably, when programs prove to not be effective, Evidence Action recognizes and shares outcomes, and alters its programs accordingly. One such example was No Lean Season, which received acclaim and support after initial promising results. In its dedication to ongoing proof and accountability, Evidence Action continued to pressure-test the program for scaleable robustness, and when the evidence proved to be disappointing, the organization publicized the new findings and halted funding for at least the time being. As Vox observed, "We’d benefit enormously from a nonprofit sector in which every charity was as careful and honest as Evidence Action."

Frequently Asked Questions

How will donations to Evidence Action be used?

Donations to Deworm the World will increase outreach to additional high-worm-burden countries to expand national school-based deworming programs. Dispensers for Safe Water is growing its sustainable safe water service rapidly in several countries and donations are needed to finance the capital costs of installing the hardware until sustainable carbon credit revenue is earned for ongoing maintenance services. Most Evidence Action Beta projects are currently supported by Evidence Action’s general support funds, so it welcomes donors to take a close look at Beta projects to support directly.

Can I specify which program receives my donation?

Evidence Action prefers donations not be restricted to a specific intervention, so that they can direct funding wherever the need is greatest. For example, a particular program may be undertaking expansion due to new opportunities, or have a critical funding need that unrestricted funds can be used to fill. Donations made to Evidence Action via The Life You Can Save are unrestricted. If you're interested in making a restricted donation to a specific Evidence Action program please contact us.

How much confidence do you have in Evidence Action's Deworm the World program, given recent debate over the benefits of deworming?

In July of 2015, a re-analysis of an influential study on deworming was released, kicking off an ongoing debate about the benefits of mass deworming (a partial timeline of this debate is available here). Generally speaking, there appears to be a division between the health community (which is more skeptical about the benefits of mass deworming) and the development economics community (which is more enthusiastic). Each community has its own standard analytical methodology, and these different methodologies lead to different interpretations of the data.

In addition to following the public discussion, The Life You Can Save has had conversations with various experts on deworming to improve our understanding of this issue. After hearing these diverse perspectives, our confidence has been weakened that Deworm the World's work meets the high standards we set for our recommendations. As a result, we suggest that donors consider earmarking their gifts to Evidence Action's Dispensers for Safe Water or Beta programs, or indicate a preference that Evidence Action not use unrestricted gifts for deworming work.

We do encourage people to learn more about this complicated issue. Evidence Action still argues that preventative school-based treatment is the cheapest and most-cost effective way of treating parasitic worms in children. Charity evaluator GiveWell also continues to recommend Deworm the World, and has written a blog post providing their balanced view on the debate. For those who wish to learn more about the views of deworming skeptics, this piece offers an accessible introduction while a more thorough (and highly technical) analysis can be found here.

From a big picture perspective, we think the deworming debate has emphasized the need for applying rigorous scientific standards and sharing data when evaluating interventions to allow us to refine and update our collective understanding. Efforts such as Evidence Action Beta, which assesses whether promising interventions are suitable for mass scale or not, are critical in this regard.

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Evidence Action?

We recommend Evidence Action because GiveWell, a highly respected charity evaluator, has name their Deworm the World program a Top Charity, and their Dispensers for Safe Water Program a Standout Charity.

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