Innovation in Government Initiative (IGI)

Government workers look at a tablet.

J-PAL’s Innovation in Government Initiative (IGI) works with governments to adapt, pilot, and scale evidence-informed innovations with the potential to improve the lives of millions of people living in poverty in developing countries.

Many governments around the world are eager to use evidence to improve the effectiveness of their social policies, especially when it comes to essential services like education, health, and social assistance. Meanwhile, universities and research organizations are producing and synthesizing evidence from rigorous impact evaluations that can be used to design and improve these programs. However, demand from governments and good research is not enough to change lives. Using evidence to inform change at scale also requires a deep understanding of context and systems, coupled with political will, a policy window, and institutional and implementation capacity. Identifying these opportunities and building strong partnerships to apply evidence takes time.

For more than a decade, J-PAL has built long-term partnerships with governments around the world to increase the use of evidence in policy, and adapt and scale programs informed by evidence. We work with government partners on policy priorities they have identified, helping to determine whether and how evidence is relevant to their context, supporting them in piloting programs leveraging this evidence, and building systems for data-enabled program delivery and monitoring. We believe this middle phase is vital to bridge the gap between the generation of promising evidence and the scale-up of effective programs.

IGI builds on the success of its predecessor initiative, the Government Partnership Initiative (GPI).

Scale Up Innovation Competitions

Starting in 2019, IGI will host scale-up innovation competitions open to teams of governments, J-PAL regional offices, and/or J-PAL affiliated professors in low- or middle-income countries working on priority problems or opportunities the government partner has identified. Funding can be used to support technical assistance to adapt, pilot, and scale evidence-informed innovations that have been previously evaluated with a randomized evaluation(s) and that have the potential to improve the lives of people living in poverty. Innovations can be programs or changes to existing programs, processes, or delivery systems. Technical assistance can include support to governments to collect data about the nature and extent of a problem; determine whether evidence about potential solutions is relevant to their context and systems; adapt, pilot, and monitor evidence-informed programs; evaluate scalable versions of these programs when the government commits to using the results to inform their scale-up decisions; and improve government monitoring and evaluation systems for scaled-up programs, among other forms of scale-up support.

IGI will initially focus on three sectors where there are large bodies of evidence about designing effective programs and high government demand for collaboration: education, health, and social assistance. We are always open to expanding to other sectors when there is demand.

IGI will also prioritize partnerships that explore one or more crosscutting themes that we believe are important for effectively implementing programs at scale and drawing general lessons for others working to scale up evidence-informed social programs with governments: 

  • Technology- and data-enabled program delivery and monitoring: Phones, tablets, digital transfers, and other technologies have the potential to improve and reduce the costs of program delivery and monitoring.
  • Implementation science: Piloting and pressure-testing different implementation models before selecting one for scale-up can help identify models that are both feasible to implement well and lead to sufficient take-up and use among program participants.
  • Cost analysis: The costs of various program options are critical inputs for policy decisions, so collecting cost data early and systematically is critical.

The IGI co-chairs are Abhijit Banerjee (MIT) and Iqbal Dhaliwal (J-PAL). The Initiative Manager is Claire Walsh and the Initiative Staff are Samantha Carter and Samantha Friedlander

IGI is funded through generous support from a GiveWell-recommended grant from the Effective Altruism Global Health and Development Fund.

Request for Proposals:

IGI will release the RFP for its first scale-up innovation competition in the spring of 2019. Stay tuned for more details.