Innovations for Poverty Action

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Innovations for Poverty Action
Innovations for Poverty Action Logo.png
Founded 2002
Founder Dean Karlan
Type Research into poverty alleviation and development programs
Focus Program Evaluation in areas such as Microfinance
Public Health
Area served
Key people
Dean Karlan, Delia Welsh, Annie Duflo

Innovations for Poverty Action is an American non-profit organization founded in 2002 by Yale economist Dean Karlan. IPA conducts randomized controlled trials (RCTs), along with other types of quantitative research, to measure the impacts of development programs in sectors including microfinance, education, health, governance, agriculture, charitable giving and community development.

History and Mission[edit]

IPA was founded in 2002 by Dean Karlan, an economist at Yale University.[1][2] originally under the name Development Innovations. It is currently headquartered in New Haven, CT and has 600 employees working on projects in 48 countries.[3]

IPA's website states its mission as follows: Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a nonprofit organization that creates and evaluates solutions to social and development problems, and works to scale up successful ideas through implementation and dissemination to policymakers, practitioners, investors, and donors.[4]


IPA's principal activities center on conducting impact evaluations of development interventions using a randomized controlled methodology. These evaluations, designed by academics at universities such as Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, London School of Economics, MIT, Northwestern University, University of California system, University of Michigan, and Yale, evaluate interventions in the areas of microfinance and enterprise, health, education, agriculture, community development, and charitable giving.[4][5] The organization also undertakes activities to communicate its research findings in order to influence policymaker and donor decisions. Additionally, IPA participates in efforts to scale up interventions that its research has proven effective.


IPA works with other research organizations, for-profit businesses, and nonprofit institutions to design programs and run evaluations.

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab[edit]

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a close partner of IPA.[6][7] The two organizations share a common mission and take similar methodological approaches to development policy evaluation. Both organizations have pioneered the use of randomized evaluations to study the effectiveness of development interventions worldwide and have collaborated extensively on field studies involving randomized evaluations. A number of J-PAL Affiliates are also IPA Research Affiliates or IPA Research Network Members. Innovations for Poverty Action and J-PAL attempt to bridge the gap between research and the policy world by creating and disseminating knowledge about what works to policymakers and practitioners around the world.

Other partners[edit]

IPA has a number of other partners including Acumen Fund, the World Bank, various agencies of the United Nations, a number of national and regional governments such as the government of Sierra Leone, and a number of charities that are cooperating with IPA in the evaluation of their programs, such as Save the Children, Population Services International, and Pratham.[8]


IPA seeks funding from both individuals and foundations. It seeks funding for two separate funds: the IPA General Fund that is used for all activities including research and scaling-up, and the Proven Impact Fund, which is for funding the scaling-up of those programs that have been proven successful in initial studies.[9]

Foundation and organization funding[edit]

The IPA has been funded by a number of foundations and other non-profits. These include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,[10][11][12] Omidyar Network, Mulago Foundation,[13] Good Ventures,[14] Ford Foundation, John Templeton Foundation,[15] and many others. A number of universities and think tanks have also funded IPA and its projects, including Harvard University, Imperial College London, Case Western Reserve University, London School of Economics, and the Brookings Institution. Other funders include Google Inc. and the World Bank.[16]


IPA's research spans six sectors: microfinance, health, agriculture, education, charitable giving and community development. The results of IPA studies have been published by IPA Research Affiliates in peer-reviewed academic journals such as Econometrica, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, World Development, American Economic Review, Journal of Economics Perspectives, Review of Economics and Statistics, and the Review of Financial Studies, among others.[citation needed]


IPA uses randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in its approach to anti-poverty research. RCTs are primarily known for their application in medical research to isolate the impact of a particular pharmaceutical or treatment from other factors. Though there are critiques to the randomized approach, its use in the social sciences is growing. Critics have included notable development economists such as Angus Deaton and Daron Acemoglu.[17]


IPA performs many evaluations of microfinance programs and products, including microcredit, microsavings, and microinsurance. IPA is part of the Financial Access Initiative (FAI), a consortium launched with the support of a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the goal of increasing knowledge about microfinance and communicating research lessons to a broad spectrum of policy makers, microfinance institutions, and the public at large.

Some examples of IPA's research on microfinance include examinations of the impact of group liability and commitment savings. Many microcredit programs are offered to groups of women who share "group liability," meaning that all members of the group are responsible for repaying the loans if one of the members defaults. Group liability has been promoted by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus as the best way to ensure high repayment rates.[18] IPA studies conducted in a variety of countries show that switching existing clients to individual liability does not increase default rates, however. Other studies addressing effective ways to promote savings among the poor show promise for commitment savings accounts that limit the owner's access to the funds.[19]


A majority of poor people in the global south rely on agriculture for income. IPA's agriculture research evaluates whether interventions aimed at increasing or protecting farm income are effective. This research has included projects that examine the impact of crop price[20][21] and rainfall insurance, fertilizer use,[22] and access to export markets.[23][24]

External reviews[edit]

GiveWell review[edit]

In November 2011, charity evaluator GiveWell published a review of IPA[25] and listed it among six standout organizations[26] along with GiveDirectly, KIPP (Houston branch), Nyaya Health, Pratham, and Small Enterprise Foundation but below the two top-rated charities Against Malaria Foundation and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Story". Innovations for Poverty Action. Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  2. ^ "The devil's in the data: Innovations for Poverty Action of New Haven evaluates programs around the globe". New Haven Register. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "About IPA". Innovations for Poverty Action. Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  5. ^ "Sectors". Innovations for Poverty Action. 
  6. ^ "Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) (partner page with list of joint projects)". Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. 
  7. ^ "Abudl Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (partner page with list of joint projects)". Innovations for Poverty Action. 
  8. ^ "Partners (multiple page navigation)". Innovations for Poverty Action. 
  9. ^ "Donate to IPA". Innovations for Poverty Action. 
  10. ^ "Innovations for Poverty Action (2011 grant)". Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 
  11. ^ "Innovations for Poverty Action (2010 grant)". Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 
  12. ^ "Innovations for Poverty Action (2009 grant)". Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 
  13. ^ "Innovations for Poverty Action (profile page)". Mulago Foundation. 
  14. ^ "Grants to "standout charities"". Good Ventures. 
  15. ^ "Grant Search for "innovations for poverty action" on the John Templeton Foundation website". John Templeton Foundation. 
  16. ^ "Funders". Innovations for Poverty Action. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Group vs. Individual Liability in the Philippines
  19. ^ SEED: A Commitment Savings Product
  20. ^ Dean Karlan, Ed Kutsoati, Margaret McMillan, Chris Udry. "Crop Price Indemnified Loans for Farmers:A Pilot Experiment in Rural Ghana" (pdf). 
  21. ^ "Project page: Examining Effects of Crop Price Insurance for Farmers in Ghana". Innovations for Poverty Action. 
  22. ^ Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer, Jonathan Robinson. "Nudging Farmers to Use Fertilizer: Theory and Experimental Evidence from Kenya" (pdf). 
  23. ^ Nava Ashraf, Xavier Giné, Dean Karlan. "Finding Missing Markets (and a disturbing epilogue): Evidence from an Export Crop Adoption and Marketing Intervention in Kenya" (PDF). Innovations for Poverty Action, Financial Access Initiative. 
  24. ^ Finding Missing Markets "Project page: Finding Missing Markets: An Agricultural Brokerage Intervention in Kenya" Check |url= value (help). Innovations for Poverty Action. 
  25. ^ GiveWell official review of IPA
  26. ^ GiveWell list of top-rated charities

External links[edit]