Resources to base impact-oriented decision-making on.
A week ago, I wrote about different strategies to embed impact measurement into organisations’ practices. When evaluations aren’t feasible, it may be useful to use existing evidence to support decision making. Actually, evidence is insightful even when you have capacity to conduct experiments and more rigorous evaluation; it provides context on social problems, and may guide you to focus on interventions that have higher chances of being successful.
In this article, I list research sources on social interventions’ effectiveness in tackling different kinds of social problems.
Written by Nobel Prize winners Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, Poor Economics reviews what the Economics literature has to say about poverty drivers in developing countries. In each chapter, the book explores how problems within specific social areas (e.g. education, health, entrepreneurship, nutrition, savings) could be leading to poverty traps in developing countries; and the kinds of interventions that have been shown to be most effective in solving these problems. It is a good option for those who want to have a broader perspective of social development, with a special focus on poverty. It is worth checking if one of the chapters focuses on the problem you are working on.
Co-founded by the authors of Poor Economics, the Abdul Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a research center based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which supports impact evaluations of interventions aimed at reducing poverty. Through a network of 194 affiliated professors from universities around the world, J-PAL has conducted over 1,000 impact evaluations in 88 countries. The studies focus on the intersection of poverty and different social areas, such as education, health, labor markets, agriculture, gender, and violence. Despite the focus on poverty, J-PAL’s findings provide useful insights to all these areas. They are well summarized and explained on the lab’s website.
Harvard Kennedy School’s Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) initiative is, in their own words, a “hub of innovative pedagogy” for students, policymakers and practitioners. Through large-scale field experiments, analytical tools and digital learning methods, EPoD provides future leaders with insights for incorporation of evidence into policy design and implementation. EPoD’s website also contains relevant information on their projects, which also study various social development issues. Access it here to find material on each of these areas, in the “Our Work” tab.
World Bank reports
You can also find relevant information in the reports produced by the World Bank (WB), which are numerous and explore a myriad of development topics under different contexts. It may be useful to check the broader publications, such as the World Bank Development Reports, to get a better sense of how certain problems are affecting countries around the world. But the WB also produces multiple reports on countries’ specific issues. With some luck you will find, in their vast library, analyses that focus exactly on the context your organisation is working on.
The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) creates evidence gap maps for various development areas. The maps illustrate the different aspects of a given social problem that have been studied previously and identify the gaps in research that still need to be filled. It is worth exploring the maps and going through the abstracts of the articles they indicate.