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 low- and middle-income countries. IGI's Spring 2020 scale-up innovation competition is now open, with a proposal deadline of 5:00pm ET on Friday, March 27, 2020. Funding decisions will be announced by May 15.

Many governments around the world are eager to use evidence to improve the effectiveness of their social programs and 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 are 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 implementation capacity. Identifying these opportunities and building strong partnerships to apply evidence takes time and resources.

For more than a decade, the J-PAL network and our partners have 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. Together we work with government partners on their policy priorities, 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 supporting governments during this middle phase is critical to bridge the gap between the generation of promising evidence and the effective delivery of evidence-informed programs at scale.

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

Scale-Up Innovation Competitions

IGI hosts scale-up innovation competitions that fund technical assistance to governments to adapt, pilot, and scale evidence-informed innovations that have been previously evaluated with a randomized evaluation(s) and found to improve the lives of people living in poverty. J-PAL affiliated and IGI invited researchers can submit applications in collaboration with government partners, J-PAL regional offices, and other collaborators. 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 prioritize 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 also accept proposals from other sectors. 

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.

IGI has a strong preference to fund partnerships in low- and middle-income countries.


The IGI co-chairs are Abhijit Banerjee (MIT) and Iqbal Dhaliwal (J-PAL). The IGI Advisory Board is composed of the two Initiative co-chairs along with Sule Alan (University of Essex), Eliana La Ferrara (Bocconi University), Paul Niehaus (University of California, San Diego), Carolina Trivelli (Institute for Peruvian Studies), and Dean Yang (University of Michigan). The Initiative Manager is Claire Walsh and the Initiative Staff is Gaëlle Conille.

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

Request for Proposals:

IGI's Spring 2020 scale-up innovation competition is now open, with a proposal deadline of 5:00pm ET on Friday, March 27, 2020. Funding decisions will be announced by May 15.

Application Documents


All J-PAL affiliated researchers, IGI invited researchers, and J-PAL offices are eligible to apply in collaboration with their government partners. All applicants are required to have a J-PAL affiliated or IGI invited researcher involved in the project to apply. All proposals may include collaborators outside of this network including other researchers and NGO partners. IGI invited researchers are eligible to apply for projects to adapt, pilot, and/or scale findings from evaluations in the J-PAL network, which includes any randomized evaluation funded by a J-PAL initiative, implemented by a J-PAL office, and/or that had a J-PAL affiliated researcher as a co-PI.

Only projects with a specific government partner(s) will be considered. IGI has a strong preference to fund projects in low- and middle-income countries. For all IGI projects, the implementing partner has to be a government body or a non-governmental partner delivering services through government infrastructure (e.g. government schools, clinics, etc.) with the government actively involved in the partnership. Government partners can be national, state, regional, provincial, city, etc., including individual ministries or agencies. Governments must be the main recipients of technical assistance, but governments cannot be the receiving institutions of funds. Receiving institutions can include J-PAL offices, IPA offices, and other non-governmental partners working with J-PAL affiliated and IGI invited researchers.

If you are uncertain about whether your team is eligible, please email [email protected].

Off-Cycle Funding

IGI will allow off-cycle proposals for projects that face a significant time constraint and need to receive funding before the end of the next innovation competition to make use of an unanticipated opportunity (e.g. a newly announced policy change that will go into effect soon creating a great opportunity for a potential scale-up). The amount allocated will not exceed US$75,000, and proposals must clearly justify the need to receive a decision on an expedited schedule.

Funded Projects (Fall 2019):

Boosting immunization demand in Haryana
Researchers/Office: Esther Duflo, J-PAL South Asia
Government Partner: National Health Mission, Government of Haryana
Location: India

Immunization is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve child health in developing countries. However, in 2017, an estimated 19.9 million infants worldwide were not reached with routine immunization services. Approximately 10.3 million of these children were in India, where only 62% of children between 12 – 23 months are fully vaccinated (NHFS-4). In the Indian state of Haryana, the full immunization rates fell from 65% in 2004-05 to 62% in 2015-16. This proposal aims to respond to an exciting window of opportunity in Haryana, where J-PAL South Asia is partnering with the Government to scale-up a robust, cost-effective program that leverages Government’s existing mHealth technological infrastructure, to boost the demand for immunization. The program known as the Boosting immunization demand program (BID) deploys a set of interventions that include SMS reminders, social networks, and small incentives. The BID program complements current supply-side interventions by the Government and leverages administrative data from a mHealth platform to identify cost-effective implementation strategies within the state.

Every Child Counts! Scale-Up Pilot in Tamil Nadu
Researchers/Office: Esther Duflo, Elizabeth Spelke, J-PAL South Asia
Government Partner: Department of Education, Government of Tamil Nadu
Location: India

Around 50 percent of children completing primary education in India can barely read or do arithmetic pitched at Grade 2 competencies. Though there are successful remedial programs focusing on children in Grades 3 to 5, intervening with children who are poised to begin their formal school journey could be a potentially more impactful and cost-effective way to ensure they don’t fall behind in later years. Math Games is an innovative math curriculum with an aim to develop children's intuitive concepts of number and geometry, informed by decades of cognitive development research, and rigorously evaluated through three randomized evaluations in Delhi. This proposal aims to respond to an exciting window of opportunity in Tamil Nadu where pre- primary classes are being introduced in Anganwadi centers and there is a demand for a robust, validated, low cost and ready to be scaled early childhood math curriculum. With the assistance of the IGI grant, we will do the knowledge transfer of the Math Games curriculum and conduct a process evaluation to inform the scale-up of the program.