Make a Difference TodayDonate to IPA
Make a Difference TodayDonate to IPA

Innovations for Poverty Action

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy nonprofit that evaluates and promotes solutions to global poverty, generating research that has informed hundreds of successful programs that now impact millions of individuals worldwide. IPA works with governments, businesses and NGOs to design, rigorously evaluate and refine interventions spanning agriculture, education, health, finance, governance, social protection and post-conflict recovery. Their goal is to see that the rigorous evidence they create leads to tangible real-world impact. IPA’s research has played a key role in the work of seven of The Life You Can Save’s recommended charities, including Evidence Action’s deworming and safe water programs, which were incubated by IPA.

IPA has over 1,000 colleagues based in 20 country programs, supported by 12 offices across Africa, Asia and South America. Since its founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 575 leading academics to conduct over 650 evaluations in 51 countries.

The Problem

Limited evidence, and limited use of it. In recent decades, trillions of dollars have been spent on programs designed to reduce global poverty, but clear evidence on which programs succeed is rare, and when evidence does exist, decision-makers often do not know about it. This leads to programs that are either ineffective or not as effective as they could be, and often, to wasted money and enduring poverty.

The Solution

More evidence, better programs and policies. Imagine if the trillions of dollars spent on aid in the past fifty years went to programs that had a tangible, cost-effective impact. IPA exists to make this vision a reality,

In partnership with top researchers in the field, IPA designs and implements randomized evaluations to measure the effectiveness of programs and policies aimed at alleviating poverty. IPA specializes in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) because this rigorous methodology, considered the gold standard of impact evaluation design, allows researchers to isolate the effects of a program from other factors.

Once an intervention has proven effective in one context, IPA works to test it in other contexts. This replication process is an essential step on the path to scaling up effective programs. Many of the world’s leading poverty-focused organizations use IPA evidence to inform their work and initiatives.

How IPA is different from other charities

IPA has experienced international and local staff, with teams operating in 20 countries with more than 1,000 research staff who implement the research on the ground. This allows IPA to develop strong long-term relationships with decision-makers, a deep understanding of local contexts, and a long-term view for evidence-based policy. 

IPA evaluations do not simply give a passing or failing grade to programs, but seek to uncover and disentangle causal mechanisms and determine which adjustments will make a program more effective. To date, IPA has designed and evaluated more than 350 potential solutions to poverty problems and have over 325 more evaluations in progress. With this experience, IPA  is helping to create better programs and policies, from the initial concept stage to the sharing of results, thus building a world with more evidence and less poverty.

Why IPA is effective

Designed for global scale

IPA has worked in 51 countries, in collaboration with an extensive network of more than 575 researchers from among the top universities in the world. Many of these academics are pioneers in their fields of research, particularly in development economics. 

IPA recognizes that achieving a large impact requires bringing effective solutions to scale. Before recommending the scale-up of a program or policy, IPA figures out if the intervention works in multiple places, how it works, and why it works. When IPA finds that something works well in more than one context, they start advocating for it more broadly, while still working to answer questions that are outstanding on how to make it the most cost-effective solution at scale.

Wide-reaching impact

IPA's impact can be seen in the real-world projects and results its evidence is used to create. The results of IPA evaluations, such as those on chlorine dispensers, insecticide-treated bednets, deworming, and community health promoters, have been used by governments and NGOs to develop or scale-up programs reaching millions of people. IPA estimates that its research has positively impacted over 144 million people worldwide with improved health, education, and other benefits, including 96 million children dewormed, 47 million children reached by targeted instruction and 1.3 million people reached by chlorine dispensers. Seven of The Life You Can Save's recommended organizations use IPA research or were actually incubated by IPA.

Other impacts are smaller, such as the scale-up of a government campaign in Zambia that attracts better health workers, or the scale-up of text message reminders to take malaria medication in Sierra Leone. IPA’s work has also been used to influence international development debates on crucial investments, as in the cases of microcredit and cash transfers.

Global partnerships & Information desemination

IPA partners with other highly respected research and poverty action organizations to incubate and scale effective poverty alleviation initiatives.

At the study level, IPA’s teams work closely with implementing partners from government, NGOs, for-profits, and civil society to ensure that the right people are involved in crafting research questions, understanding the data they are collecting, and using it effectively. IPA also produces policy publications, including plain language web summaries of individual studies and briefs that synthesize evidence from multiple studies. IPA also works with reputable media outlets to share findings with the public, and hosts dozens of events every year with key partners across the world.

IPA partners gain important insights into which of their interventions work or don’t work, and why, and also have the opportunity to adopt lessons from other programs. They also gain valuable experience with rigorous evaluation methodologies that they can apply to future research. At the sectoral level, IPA funds research on critical questions in order to build evidence in the sectors of Intimate Partner Violence, Financial Inclusion, and Small & Medium Enterprises, and synthesizes and disseminates evidence to partners and policymakers on evidence in these sectors.

High Impact

IPA’s accountability and sustainability

IPA excels at transparency, and publishes its financial and operational disclosures for public viewing. Financial information and annual reports are available on IPA’s website.

IPA partners with local governments, businesses and charities to help them implement the best possible anti-poverty programs, which will last long after IPA’s work in a country is completed. IPA’s research is robust, thorough, and well-publicized, allowing organizations across the world to benefit from IPA’s innovative research and improve their operations and programming.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are IPA’s areas of focus? What is an example of their work?

IPA researches effective solutions to problems in the areas of agriculture, education, financial inclusion, governance, health, peace and recovery, small and medium enterprises, and social protection.

An example of the scope of IPA's work is their work with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education to create a targeted instruction program, based on evidence from India- and Kenya-based programs. IPA helps facilitate partnerships and communication between the Ghanaian ministry, the teacher's union, and other key participants. See more examples above.

Where does IPA work?

IPA’s work is focused on its 20 country programs in Asia (Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines), Latin America (Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, and Peru), West Africa (Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone), and East Africa (Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia).

How will my donation be used?

All unrestricted donations to IPA go towards where it is needed most, such as growing its policy impact reach, developing cutting-edge research proposals, and providing rigorous training to researchers and affiliates. Just as with research grants, a portion of unrestricted gifts are put towards operating expenses, to ensure that our staff across the globe have the necessary resources to accomplish their groundbreaking work.

IPA's 2016 audited expenditures were US$45M, nearly 80 percent of which was  allocated to direct funding for research projects. The remainder was put towards bolstering IPA’s policy outreach program (4 percent), new project development and fundraising (2.5 percent), research support and training (1 percent), and operations and financial management (13 percent).

Why should I donate to IPA?

When you donate to IPA, your money will have an impact many times over. Many of the world’s top poverty-alleviation organizations and non-profits have scale-up programs that were discovered to work by IPA research teams. Investing in IPA means investing in the next innovative solution.

As Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post puts it, "If one of the essential features of good charities is their use of good, randomized experiments to back up their methods, then it follows that groups like IPA are needed to conduct those experiments, either in conjunction with charities or on their own. So giving to IPA is a good way to indirectly promote effective charitable work by other organizations."

Why randomized controlled trials?

IPA uses randomized evaluations to measure impact because they provide the most credible and reliable way to learn what works and what does not. Randomized evaluations use the same methods frequently used in high quality medical research and rely on the random assignment of a program or policy to measure its impact on those that received the program compared to those who did not.

Who funds IPA research projects?

Funding for IPA’s research projects typically come either from an organization’s evaluation budget or from donors (large and small) who are particularly interested in learning the impact of their dollars invested. On occasion, IPA will secure direct funding for research and evaluation and then search for partners to evaluate specific innovations or programs. Generally, IPA works with its partners to identify potential funding sources and submit joint proposals. Studies have been funded either directly or indirectly by a variety of foundations in the academic, development, and policy research communities, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation, The World Bank, USAID, the Asian Development Bank, CGAP, DFID, 3IE, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Ford Foundation.

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Innovations for Poverty Action?

IPA has been one of our recommended charities since before our current charity selection process was adopted in November 2016. We recommend them because there is broad consensus in the nonprofit world that IPA is a leader in using Randomised Controlled Trials to test programs and influence policies. IPA research has helped identify numerous effective programs, including many that are run by our recommended charities. 

Is my donation to IPA tax-deductible?

Donations are tax-deductible in the United States. Eligible UK donors can claim Gift Aid by donating through The Life You Can Save UK here. Canadian donors can make tax-advantaged gifts through Rethink Charity Forward. IPA is always seeking ways to provide its donors with best options for giving, and is working with international organizations to establish channels for non-US donors from some countries to receive tax benefits. Please send inquiries to [email protected] should you have questions about tax deductible benefits in your country.

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