International development work is well meant. But whether it actually has a positive impact is a question the researchers at the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT try to answer as scientifically as possible. They travel the world in order to conduct statistical comparisons on the ground, rather than making assumptions based on hunches and theories. J-PAL have pioneered the use of randomised controlled trials in the international development sector to compare the effectiveness of different development measures. Their findings and experiences were compiled into an excellent book “Poor Economics”, which became a bestseller and won several awards.
Project scaling and expansion to different regions or countries are important topics in the Poverty Action Lab. As well as evaluation, J-PAL also offers capability building workshops and training in self-evaluation, as well as cost-benefit analysis of political strategies and strategy consultancy on development issues. Organisations which are J-PAL supports with evaluations include Innovations for Poverty and Ideas 42.