The ideas catalyzing evidence-based decisions across the world

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The IDinsight Evidence-Based Decision-Making Primer:

Evaluations with Impact: Decision-Focused Impact Evaluations as a Practical Policymaking Tool

Partnerships with government ministries in Zambia and Malawi to evaluate and improve social cash transfer programs


In April, IDinsight’s Southern Africa Regional Director, Chris Chibwana, attended the Transfer Project’s 2019 Workshop in Arusha, Tanzania. This workshop brought together over 100 researchers, policy-makers, academics, and development partners from 20 different countries in sub-Saharan Africa to promote cross-learning on cash transfers.

At the conference, Chris highlighted our partnerships with governments in Africa to help them use data and evidence to maximize the social impact of their program. In Zambia, we're working with the Zambia Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS) to improve the social cash transfer program (SCTP) using data and evidence. Learn more about this engagement here.

IDinsight is also working with the Malawi Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare (MoGCD&SW) to conduct an in-depth analysis of existing SCTP data with the goal of helping the ministry understand where they can improve and scale their Social Cash Transfer Program. You can learn more about the data Chris shared at the Transfer Project Workshop here. Learn more about this learning partnership here.

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Tensions that arise between researchers and practitioners

Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness conference | March 2019

IDinsight Technical Team Director Marc moderated a panel titled “Results vs. Rigor: Balancing Tensions for Productive Evaluation Partnerships” at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) conference in Washington DC on March 7th.  The panel discussed the tensions that often arise between researchers and practitioners; specifically certainty, timing, and independence.

Do researchers/evaluators need a certain amount of independence to ensure they are not being pressured to (even if subconsciously) to produce results in a particular direction? On the other hand, will evaluators understand enough of the program details and nuances to ask the right questions if they are too independent? Will practitioners buy into the results if evaluators haven’t been engaging them all along throughout the process?

Read the full abstract here.

IDinsight conducts training for newest cohort of India's civil servants (IAS officers)

Engagement with the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) | March 2019

How can administrators in India improve nutrition outcomes at the state level? To answer this question, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD), the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) and the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) organized a three-day workshop for district-level functionaries from 11 different states. IDinsight, along with International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), acted as technical partners.

“This workshop has enabled us to get an easy understanding of nutritional data and link it to action for improvement.”

- A district-level official who participated in the workshop

Learn more about this workshop here.

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Can Machine Learning Double Your Social Impact?

Stanford social innovation review | February 2019

Can machine learning double your social impact? IDinsight's Ben Brockman, Andrew Fraker, Jeff McManus, and Buddy Shah discuss “what it takes to successfully deploy machine learning tools for social good,” citing IDinsight's and Educate Girls' work locating out-of-school girls.

We are excited about the potential for machine learning in the broader development sector, because there are many other prediction applications that will allow NGOs and governments to provide better healthcare, education, and other services. Where the data and operating environments allow it, machine learning applications can help organizations that face prevention and data-void problems drastically improve their efficiency today. And in the longer term—if the social sector answers the call to invest in better data collection in more places—we believe machine learning can live up to the hype and become an even more powerful tool to improve billions of lives.

Read more here.

Can Child-Focused Sanitation and Nutrition Programming improve Health Practices and Outcomes?

BMJ Global Health | January 2019

Can child-focused sanitation and nutrition programming improve health practices and outcomes? IDinsight’s Gerishom Gimaiyo, Jeff McManus, and Lilian Lehmann share the findings from IDinsight’s two-year embedded learning partnership with UNICEF in Kenya in Volume 4, Issue 1 of BMJ Global Health.

Driven by IDinsight findings and recommendations, UNICEF is scaling their integrated sanitation and nutrition program to a second focal county in Kenya, West Pokot, which has over 100,000 children under 5 and the highest child stunting rates in the country.

Access the full article here.

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2018 Year in Review

2018 year in Review | December 2018

2018 was an exciting year of impact, innovation, and growth at IDinsight. We were fortunate to work closely with inspiring partner and client organizations towards our vision of improving millions of lives by transforming how the social sector innovates, learns and improves. Together, we started new embedded learning partnerships with governments across Asia and Africa, continued conducting rigorous “decision-focused” impact evaluations for leaders, launched innovative data and evidence tools to help our partner organizations solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, and expanded into new geographies. To learn more, visit our 2018 Year in Review.

Using and Creating Large-Scale Surveys

India Policy Forum | December 2018

The Asian Venture Philanthropy Network organized the India Policy Forum on 'Transforming Aspirational Districts Program.' IDinsight's India Lead, Ronald Abraham, discussed the implications of applying a data-driven approach to impact, with Prof S.V. Subramanian (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) and Dr Shamika Ravi (Brookings India). Ron highlighted the challenges that decision-makers face when using data for purposes other than the originally intended use. He also discussed the long time lag inherent in national surveys and the biases of administrative data. He also explained IDinsight's approach to collecting high-quality, high-frequency data for the NITI Aayog from 27 of India's aspirational districts.



Collecting fast, inexpensive, and representative data for hard-to-reach populations

Data on Demand | November 2018

Data on Demand has the potential to transform how governments, practitioners, and researchers collect and use data in the development sector, enabling decision-makers to gain a deeper understanding of key populations they hope to reach.  

With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IDinsight received a $1 million grant to build on its Data on Demand initiatives, which will enable the team to rigorously test innovations and improve the model in India and beyond.

Traditionally, high-quality data collection approaches, such as in-person household surveys, are expensive and slow for policymakers and program implementers -- while more immediate data sources like MIS data are often highly unreliable. With DoD, IDinsight seeks to significantly reduce the time and cost of conducting high-quality household and facility surveys by building a permanent data collection infrastructure, leveraging new technology, and rigorously testing the application of both under a broad spectrum of conditions.

IDinsight is already deploying this platform at a large scale, currently reaching 160,000 people across Northern and Eastern India -- which is representative of approximately 60 million people. Through this grant, we will test the model under different conditions and with emerging technology to improve its output while further reducing cost and time investments

This new project focuses on:

  • Building robust targeting tools (sampling frames) by leveraging electoral databases and satellite imagery combined with custom machine learning models

  • Developing technology to hire and train remote surveyors

  • Testing incentives models for respondents participating in phone surveys

  • Using automated phone surveys, text messaging and random digit dialing combined with advanced weighting mechanisms to try to achieve representative samples

  • Developing software and sophisticated data quality control processes to significantly reduce field management and oversight costs

  • Experimenting with software and collection techniques developed by other Gates Foundation partners, for example using a device to estimate height, weight, etc

  • Testing novel survey modules to improve on difficult to measure issues with high potential for inclusion in existing large surveys

This grant gives IDinsight the funding and breadth to explore and develop new applications and techniques that have the potential to revolutionize data collection in the development context.

The Great DIB-ate: Measurement for Development Impact Bonds

Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) | November 2018

As the evaluator for the Educate Girls Development Impact Bond (EG DIB), the world’s first DIB, and the Village Enterprise DIB, IDinsight’s Kate Sturla, Buddy Shah, and Jeff McManus, share four things evaluations for impact bonds must do to “get it right”.

“If we can get the measurement piece right, we believe they [DIBs] have the potential to fundamentally shift the development sector’s focus from inputs to outcomes, and to bring new funding and solutions to challenging social problems. We have also seen firsthand how impact bonds can act as a laboratory for innovation.”

Read more here.

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An IDinsight officer surveys a community member about his experience with Aadhaar in Andhra Pradesh. (Dec 2017)

An IDinsight officer surveys a community member about his experience with Aadhaar in Andhra Pradesh. (Dec 2017)

World’s biggest ID scheme Aadhaar still poses risks

BBC World Op-ed | September 2018

India’s Aadhaar program, the world’s largest biometric digital identity initiative, is transforming how individuals interact with each other, the modern economy, and the government. IDinsight's State of Aadhaar initiative catalyzed data-driven discourse and inform decision-making in the Aadhaar ecosystem. Our State of Aadhaar Report 2017-18  included an evidence-based overview of the changes within the ecosystem over the last year and a three-state survey capturing individuals' experiences with Aadhaar. 

With the Indian Supreme Court’s verdict on the validity of Aadhaar as a mandatory form of identification, our Elizabeth Bennett (Senior Manager) and Ronald Abraham (Partner), wrote for the BBC on the importance of the dissenting opinion in the ruling and how the risks outlined in the dissent should be used to shape the future of Aadhaar in India.

Read the op-ed here.

Generating Evidence to Inform the Scale-up of the Zambian Social Cash Transfer Programme

African Development Perspectives | September 2018

How does an evidence-informed decision evolve? IDinsight Senior Associate, Alice Redfern, and Director, Dr. Alison Connor share the trajectory of the evidence-informed decision to scale the Zambian Ministry of Community Development & Social Service’s Social Cash Transfers Program in the September 2018 issue of African Development Perspectives.

Read the full article here


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Agricultural Innovations for Smallholder Farmers and Companies

African Green Revolution Forum | September 2018

IDinsight Founding Partner, Paul Wang, shared the stage with IDinsight partners, TechnoServe, JFS Mozambique, the Gulu Agriculture Development Company, and Kumwe Harvest and AIF, to discuss practical ways to serve both farmers and companies through innovations in smallholder sourcing operations. Paul specifically spoke about the mechanics of IDinsight’s work conducting rapid evaluations of innovations to improve the lives of farmers.

Lessons from development impact bonds to support innovations in education in India

Financing the Future of Education in India | August 2018

With the unequivocally successful results of the world's first Development Impact Bond, Educate Girls hosted a panel to integrate practical lessons from the DIB into future innovations in financing models to support education in India. Associate Director, Kate Sturla, joined the other discussants including representatives from Brookings India, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, Educate Girls, the Government of India, and USAID India. 

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Using Administrative Data for Monitoring and Evaluation Policy Implementation

Using Evidence to Improve Policy Implementation | July 2018

Results 4 Allthe African Institute for Development Policy, and IDinsight convened a workshop on the role of evidence in improving policy implementation in Nairobi, Kenya. Participants included policymakers from nine countries in Africa and Latin America including Chile, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Uganda. IDinsight’s Regional Director of Southern Africa, Chris Chibwana led a session for participants on Using Administrative Data For Monitoring and Evaluation Policy Implementation. The workshop was a unique opportunity for participants to learn from their shared experiences, challenges, and lessons of integrating evidence into their policymaking decisions. 

Learn more about the workshop here.

How to Unlock More Impact

EA Global 2018 | June 2018

IDinsight CEO, Neil Buddy Shah, shared insights on the Effective Altruism movement at the EA Global Summit in San Francisco. Buddy urged people within the movement to: consider riskier interventions, tailor interventions to the moral preferences of beneficiaries, and continue to be rigorous.

Watch the full talk here.

Fishers in Andhra pradesh discuss the latest round of the open-source fisheries experiment with Idinsight and tata trust staff. Photo credit: Rob sampson