Skip to content

Meeting the challenges of scarcity with the abundance of knowledge

Ruth Levine 7 December 2022

©Jon Tyson/Unsplash

Dear Friends,

IDinsight exists to help leaders make difficult decisions with the confidence that data and evidence can bring. For our partners in government agencies, global institutions, civic organizations, and philanthropies, lives are often on the line when they’re at a crossroads and need to set priorities, allocate resources, and implement programs. Every choice is made more difficult by larger trends in the world: economic distress, environmental disruptions, and threats to democracy.

Looking back on 2022, we supported our partners to make tough calls and laid the groundwork to prepare for challenges ahead in 2023. ‘Returning to normal’ after lockdowns and restrictions, in many countries, meant facing a disquieting aftermath. Leaders were confronted with economic challenges due to strains on industry, staggering rates of learning losses amongst children, and difficulties understanding the new needs of vulnerable communities.

At IDinsight, we sought to support partners to adapt and respond as effectively as possible. Below, I share a few reflections on what this has looked like.

Our partners needed to know who is most affected and how to best reach them. In some cases, this meant gaining a deeper understanding of communities, occupational segments, or age groups likely to be most negatively affected by trends in the economy and environment. For example, in the past two years, our team worked with the Philippine Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Promotion to help deepen their understanding of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among rural indigent adults, a community that is particularly vulnerable. Our study provided government counterparts with intel about which interventions and messages will most likely increase their vaccine coverage. Targeted studies like these will be even more important in the coming year as governments look to more deeply understand at-risk populations for whom they have little data.

Our partners needed to know what we’ve learned about protecting the most vulnerable people. They needed access to the body of knowledge about everything – from targeted income support to key public health interventions, from measures to increase women’s equity to strategies to remediate learning loss. For example, this year we supported partners to compile evidence on approaches and best practices to support women’s economic empowerment. We also conducted a randomized controlled trial to learn whether cash transfers can help refugees in Uganda build sustainable livelihoods. In India, we are working with non-profit partners to understand what works to incorporate social and emotional learning into the public education system across 100+ government-run schools. Gathering this knowledge, and applying it, will also be increasingly important as new challenges arise in the coming year.

Our partners needed to know whether programs were working as they should. We have seen that budget outlays, even when they fund programs designed to serve the right communities, don’t always translate into outcomes like greater food security or better maternal health. Serious, ongoing program evaluations provide the feedback decision-makers need to know whether to sustain, tweak, or terminate well-intentioned public sector or NGO initiatives. To that end, this year we supported partners in Morocco and India to build dashboards that enable them to monitor outcomes against their policy priorities. These partnerships have resulted in extended engagements in which IDinsight is providing ongoing support and training to civil servants so leaders have accurate insights on progress against their goals.

This work takes on greater urgency every day. As we look ahead to what 2023 is likely to bring, we see the economic, environmental, and social storm clouds around the world and their effects in the countries in Asia and Africa where we work. It is within this context that we’re thinking about the value of each and every country, and each and every organization, focusing attention on meeting the challenges of scarcity with the abundance of knowledge.

A huge thank you to our team, partners, supporters, and advocates for enabling such meaningful work in 2022.