Social Protection Initiative (SPI)

In collaboration with Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Social Protection Initiative (SPI) funds randomized evaluations of social protection programs in low- and middle-income countries and supports policy engagement to share insights from completed research. Through a competitive research fund, SPI brings together leading researchers and their government or NGO collaborators to identify innovations in social protection and to evaluate the effectiveness of those innovations using randomized evaluations.

Collaborators
 

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About the Initiative

Worldwide, social protection programs are growing in scope to help combat poverty and reduce inequality in low- and middle-income economies. Social protection refers to the wide variety of programs that aim to provide financial assistance to low-income families, insure against shocks, and break poverty traps. Designing social protection programs for low- and middle-income country contexts, however, entails challenges that differ from those faced in high-income economies. For example, governments in these contexts may not have data on people’s employment status and incomes, which makes it difficult to effectively target benefit programs to those most in need. 

As social protection programs continue to grow in scope, it is critical that governments build robust systems that can both address long-term poverty and help vulnerable households adapt to economic, health, climatic, or other shocks. The Covid-19 crisis highlighted just how important these programs are in providing a safety net and sustaining livelihoods given challenging economic conditions, as these programs were scaled up quickly to address the health and economic crisis.

While the body of evidence has been growing on social protection, key evidence gaps remain. To spur a new body of rigorous impact evaluations on social protection, J-PAL and EPoD established SPI to fund policy-relevant research on social protection programs in low- and middle-income countries. SPI takes the following approach to designing and evaluating innovations in social protection:

  1. Producing an evidence review on social protection: J-PAL and EPoD will produce an evidence review on social protection in low- and middle-income countries, both synthesizing the existing research but also identifying important evidence gaps. 
  2. Rigorously evaluating innovative policies and programs to improve social safety nets: J-PAL and EPoD will host funding competitions open to the combined network of over 260 J-PAL and EPoD affiliated researchers and their collaborators to spur a new body of rigorous impact evaluations on social protection. 
  3. Supporting policymakers in using rigorous research results to inform investments in social protection: J-PAL and EPoD’s dedicated policy and research teams seek to work with governments, multilaterals, companies, and funders to ensure that effective approaches are promoted and scaled.

SPI is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

 

Key Facts

Office:
J-PAL Global
Status:
  • Research RFP: Closed
Eligibility:
J-PAL affiliates, EPoD faculty affiliates, J-PAL postdocs, and SPI invited researchers are eligible to apply. PhD students, with support from an advisor who is a J-PAL affiliate, EPoD faculty affiliate, or SPI invited researcher, are also eligible to apply for certain grants (see RFP for more details).

Funders

For Researchers

Requests for Proposals

The Social Protection Initiative (SPI) funds randomized evaluations of social protection programs in low- and middle-income countries. SPI has one regular funding cycle per year calling for proposals from J-PAL affiliates, EPoD faculty affiliates, J-PAL postdocs, and SPI invited researchers. PhD students, with support from an advisor who is a J-PAL affiliate, EPoD faculty affiliate, or SPI invited researcher, are also eligible to apply. Please note that all funding competitions will be managed by, and funded through, J-PAL Global. SPI’s first RFP in 2022 accepted applications for travel/proposal development grants and pilot studies. Short expressions of interest (EOIs) were due on March 4, 2022 and full proposals were due on March 18, 2022. For more details on the RFP, please click the “Learn more” button below.

Initiative Staff

Emily Romano, Policy Manager
Beatriz Velho, Senior Policy Associate

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