Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer recently won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics for their “experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” But while attention has focused on their experimental methodologies, the policy action resulting from their research is equally significant. In fact, the award specifically mentions their work to fight poverty in practice, stating that “as a direct result of one of their studies, more than five million Indian children have benefited from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in schools. Another example is the heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare that have been introduced in many countries.”

The work of a generation of development economists in designing field experiments has cemented the role of randomized evaluations, or RCTs, as an incredibly important tool to understand which poverty alleviation programs work or not, and why. But what has set Banerjee and Duflo apart has been their recognition that the research they and their colleagues were producing would not by itself be sufficient to actually make a difference in the lives of millions. They recognized that concerted efforts would need to be made to turn the research into action.

This line of thinking sparked their founding of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), where we work, as an evidence-to-policy catalyst in 2003. Since the Nobel announcement in October, we and our colleagues at J-PAL keep getting asked about the key strategies that have played a major role in this movement. For philanthropists seeking to support and grow the practice of evidence-driven decision-making, here are three key lessons we’ve drawn from our work:

  1. Provide core support for evidence-to-policy catalysts.
  2. Ensure funds are easily accessible and predictable to attract interest in your priority areas.
  3. Invest in cross-cutting initiatives with governments that go beyond sector boundaries.

Philanthropists are in a unique position to leverage their networks and resources to create partnerships with evidence-to-policy catalysts and governments. With relatively small investments, these partnerships can have an outsized influence on development outcomes due to the reach of governments and the size of their budgets.

Read the full article about lessons for philanthropy by Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal and Samantha Friedlander at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.