History 

 

This is a history of J-PAL. For a brief history of randomized evaluations, see “When did randomized evaluations begin?”

2003

Poverty Action Lab is founded at MIT by professors Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Sendhil Mullainathan, with the support of MIT’s Department of Economics. The concept behind the Lab is not only to facilitate the launch of a larger number of evaluations by affiliated professors and partners, but to also exponentially increase their impact by promoting the sharing of methods and results. The Lab is intended to become a repository of the best research being done world-wide using randomized evaluations, to begin training others in more rigorous scientific evaluation methods, and to build efforts to encourage real policy changes based on results.

NGO Development Innovations, run by affiliate Dean Karlan, changes its name to Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), and begins an ongoing partnership with the Poverty Action Lab.

4 affiliated professors. 33 ongoing or completed evaluations.

2004

Rachel Glennerster joins as Executive Director.

8 affiliated professors. 46 ongoing or completed evaluations.

2005

MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel backs the Poverty Action Lab with three major endowments, and the Lab is re-named in honor of his late father, Abdul Latif Jameel. Thanks to his support, J-PAL is able to grow significantly in the following years.

J-PAL training programs begin, starting with executive education courses in Cambridge (USA) and Chennai (India). 61 people are trained. Since 2005 J-PAL has held courses at these two sites nearly every year, and has also added additional sites.

11 affiliated professors. 48 ongoing or completed evaluations in 10 countries. 59 people trained. 

2006

In addition to Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, J-PAL receives core budget support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Nike Foundation, Russ Siegelman, and the Doug B. Marshall Jr. Foundation.

13 affiliated professors. 75 ongoing or completed evaluations in 15 countries. 143 people trained.

2007

The J-PAL South Asia regional office is established at the Institute for Financial Management and Research in Chennai, with the support of the Mulago Foundation.

In addition to the earlier Cambridge and Chennai sites, training courses are also held in Abuja (Nigeria) in conjunction with the launch of the World Banks’ Africa Program for Education Impact Evaluation, and in Washington D.C. at the request of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  Since then J-PAL has continued to occasionally provide custom-designed training courses.

J-PAL partners with the Young Global Leaders group to launch a scale-up initiative, Deworm the World, at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

18 affiliated professors. 98 ongoing or completed evaluations in 15 countries. 278 people trained. 

2008

The J-PAL Europe regional office is formally launched at the Paris School of Economics in conjunction with a two-day conference organized by France’s Ministry of Labor and opened by Martin Hirsch, the High commissioner of the “Haut Commissariat aux Solidarités actives contre la pauvreté.” This commission was established by the French Government in 2008 to fund anti-poverty programs in France, as well as rigorous evaluations of these programs.

J-PAL receives the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for Development Cooperation. The awards seek to recognize and encourage world-class research and artistic creation, prizing contributions of lasting impact for their originality, theoretical significance and ability to push the frontiers of the world.

The first French-language version of the training course is held in Paris (France). 

30 affiliated professors. 181 ongoing or completed evaluations in 21 countries. 440 people trained.

2009

J-PAL creates a dedicated policy group, funded in part by an additional substantial gift of endowment support from MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel. The group works to create new policy content, disseminate knowledge about “what works” to foundations, NGOs, international development organizations and governments, and works with these organizations to scale up programs that have been found to be effective by J-PAL research.

The J-PAL Latin America regional office is opened at the Pontifícia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile. Core support for the office is provided by local donors, and Chile’s Finance Minister speaks at the launch. The first Spanish-language version of the training course is held.

The Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative (ATAI) is launched with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ATAI will stimulate research to help identify the barriers hindering poor farmers from investing in profitable agricultural technologies, as well as possible solutions to overcome those barriers.

The executive education curriculum is made available for free online via MIT’s open courseware.

44 affiliated professors. 214 ongoing or completed evaluations in 30 countries. 616 people trained. 

2010

J-PAL organizes the first Bihar Development Conference in association with the Government of Bihar where J-PAL affiliated professors and their field partners jointly present the results of randomized evaluations. The Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of Bihar extend support for J-PAL's evaluations and scale-ups in the state.

J-PAL's new website is launched with an added emphasis on disseminating the results of field evaluations and lessons from cost-effectiveness studies to policy makers to enable better decisions based on scientific evidence.

The J-PAL Africa regional office is established at the University of Cape Town in South Africa at SALDRU (Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit).

J-PAL creates a Board of Directors to provide overall strategic guidance to J-PAL and also help expand activities in research, capacity building and policy outreach. The first Board of Directors meeting takes place. Bruno Crepon from J-PAL Europe, Ben Olken from J-PAL Global, and Sebastian Galiani from J-PAL Latin America are elected to form the Executive Committee along with the J-PAL Global Directors, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Rachel Glennerster, and J-PAL's Global Director of Policy, Iqbal Dhaliwal.

55 affiliated professors. 235 ongoing or completed evaluations in 40 countries. 857 people trained.

2011

A conference organized by J-PAL in Cape Town, South Africa brings together more than 120 researchers, policy maker and development practitioners from 23 African countries to present and discuss findings from evaluations of social programs, and their applications to pressing social problems in Africa.

The Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative (ATAI) conducts a matchmaking conference in Washington D.C. in partnership with the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) and USAID to foster collaborations between researchers, policy makers and field implementers. 

The Center for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR) is established at J-PAL South Asia. The Center is supported by the World Bank and other donors to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation capacity of government and civil society.

On request of the Chilean Ministry of Planning, J-PAL assembles the Compass Commission, a group of international and local academics, to identify the major social policy challenges in Chile, and propose innovative programs that could be evaluated using randomized impact evaluations.

The Governance Initiative (GI) is launched with the support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). GI will fund randomized impact evaluations of programs designed to improve participation in the political and policy process, and reduce leakages in public programs.

A dissemination conference in Brussels, Belgium organized by J-PAL, in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee, presents the general principles and practicalities of running a randomized evaluation and discusses the various challenges.

J-PAL organizes an evidence workshop on education in Washington, D.C. in partnership with USAID to share research findings from projects worldwide with policy makers.

J-PAL conducts evidence workshops and training sessions on impact evaluations for 300+ senior civil servants belonging to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) at the National Academy of Administration.

The Urban Services Initiative (USI) is launched with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. USI will identify and evaluate innovative solutions to the problems of inadequate access to urban water, sanitation and hygiene services in cities in Asia and Africa.

J-PAL conducts evidence workshop and training on governance evaluations in Malawi in partnership with the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

64 affiliated professors 302 ongoing or completed evaluations in 50 countries. 1173 people trained.

2012

At the request of the Government of Peru, J-PAL, together with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), Enterprise Solutions to Poverty (SEP), the Ministry of Social Development and Inclusion of Peru (MIDIS), and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), assembles the Quipu Commission to generate evidence that the government can use to design and implement better social policies for its citizens.

Ben Olken appointed as the fourth Director of J-PAL.

J-PAL, together with IPA and the Ghana Education Service (GES), brings together more than 150 researchers and policymakers from 22 countries for a conference on evidence-based policymaking and reform in Africa.
The Youth Initiative (YI) is launched with support from the Nike Foundation to develop and test innovative theories and solutions to the challenges faced by youth, including the transition to work, risky behavior, and well-being and integration.
The Urban Services Initiative (USI) conducts a matchmaking conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka to facilitate partnerships between researchers and policymakers. The conference brought together 13 researchers and 41 practitioners from 25 organizations—including multilateral organizations, governments, and NGOs from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
The Post-Primary Education (PPE) Initiative is launched with support from the Marshall Family Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. PPE aims to generate rigorous evidence on policies to increase access to, and improve the quality and relevance of, secondary, tertiary, and vocational education in developing countries.
The J-PAL South Asia regional office organizes a workshop to explore existing evidence in early grade reading, which will serve as the foundation for a new USAID India initiative.
A policy conference in Bangkok, Thailand sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and organized by J-PAL and IPA, presents findings from rigorous research in financial inclusion, governance and post-conflict recovery, and small and medium enterprise development.

70 affiliated professors. 356 ongoing or completed evaluations in 52 countries. 1474 people trained.

2013

The Urban Services Initiative (USI) conducts a second matchmaking conference to facilitate partnerships between researchers and policymakers, this time in Cape Town, South Africa. 

J-PAL Southeast Asia is established at the Institute for Economic and Social Research at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia. The President of the Republic of Indonesia delivers the keynote address at the launch event. J-PAL Southeast Asia hosts its first policy workshop following the launch. 

J-PAL North America opens at the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. 

J-PAL joins its partner organization, the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), at UC Berkeley in co-hosting an environment and energy symposium highlighting new research on the impact of innovative climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in developing countries. 

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda, in collaboration with J-PAL, hosts a Decision Science Symposium in Kigali to discuss the development priorities of the Government of Rwanda and how these can be informed by impact evaluations. Over 80 government officials attend the two-day event, which includes high level panel discussions of evidence-based policy in the areas of Agriculture, Education and Heath. 

J-PAL organizes a five-day training in Jeddah on impact evaluation and policy lessons for the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and discusses with IDB senior officials opportunities to collaborate. 

In collaboration with the Kenya Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and partner organization Innovations for Poverty Actions (IPA), J-PAL hosts a policy roundtable to discuss Kenya’s goals in the education sector and how these can be informed by rigorous impact evaluations. Opening remarks are delivered by the Acting Education Secretary of the Kenya Ministry of Education. 

J-PAL Europe is selected by the European Commission to help promote rigorous evaluation of social policies throughout the European Union (EU) over the next three years. 

J-PAL launches a research webinar series featuring presentations by affiliates on their ongoing and completed research. Webinars are open to the public and each ends with a live Q&A session. 

J-PAL celebrates its tenth anniversary on December 7 at MIT. The day-long event, which features talks, videos, and panel discussions with researchers, policymakers, staff and partners, draws more than seven hundred attendees from across the world. Speakers include Abhijit Banerjee, Rukmini Banerji, Esther Duflo, Amy Finkelstein, Michael Greenstone, Martin Hirsch, Dean Karlan, Felipe Kast, Michael Kremer, Alan Krueger, Benjamin Olken, Rafael Reif, and many others.  

Click here to view J-PAL's first decade.

92 affiliated professors. 439 ongoing or completed evaluations in 54 countries. 1620 people trained.

2014

108 affiliated professors. 562 ongoing or completed evaluations in 56 countries.