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EXCLUSIVE: Veddis Foundation invests $6.3 mn in Abhijit Banerjee's J-PAL 

EXCLUSIVE: Veddis Foundation invests $6.3 mn in Abhijit Banerjee's J-PAL 

Titled ‘Alliance for Scaling Policy Impact through Research and Evidence’ (ASPIRE), the initiative will help governments overcome the policy challenges that hinder poverty eradication. 

The co-founders of J-PAL, Banerjee and Duflo, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2019 for their pioneering work done in using Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) in alleviating global poverty.  The co-founders of J-PAL, Banerjee and Duflo, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2019 for their pioneering work done in using Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) in alleviating global poverty. 

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a global research centre co-founded by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, has received a $6.3 million investment commitment from UK-based Veddis Foundation to launch a new initiative that aims to spur the adoption of anti-poverty policies rooted in scientific evidence and data.

Titled ‘Alliance for Scaling Policy Impact through Research and Evidence’ (ASPIRE), the initiative will help governments overcome the policy challenges that hinder poverty eradication. 

The investment comes from Veddis Foundation’s Rs 100 crore Social Impact Fund (SIF), announced last year to provide grants to non-profit organisations working to improve public service delivery and governance.  

Founded by Vikrant Bhargava, a tech entrepreneur and alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta, Veddis Foundation takes an evidence-based approach to supporting institutions doing radical work. It works with state governments and has supported over 100 organisations including incubating LetzChange.org, which is now the tech platform powering GiveIndia’s retail fundraising platform.  

“SIF is a part of our commitment to transformational initiatives. We are looking at bringing more analytical and intellectual rigor to philanthropy in India as well as a venture mindset to philanthropic investments. We hope that this is one of the many initiatives in that direction. We want to bring more philanthropy capital into innovative entrepreneurial ventures like ASPIRE,” Murugan Vasudevan, CEO of Veddis Foundation said in an interaction with Business Today.

With the investment, Veddis becomes a member of the governance committee at ASPIRE. J-PAL was launched at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003 and has seven regional offices around the world. J-PAL South Asia, hosted by the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR), Chennai, has formal partnerships with governments across 20 Indian states and union territories.

The co-founders of J-PAL, Banerjee and Duflo, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2019 for their pioneering work done in using Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) in alleviating global poverty. 

Shobhini Mukerji, Executive Director of J-PAL South Asia, said the grant will help the firm build a core team of policy researchers, data scientists and field staff for data gathering. 

“The funding gives us flexibility to build a core team for ASPIRE that will engage with governments to analyst administrative data, run pilots, evaluate solutions and scale their programs. ASPIRE is going to be the largest initiative for J-PAL in South Asia,” she said. 

J-PAL uses rigorous scientific evidence to help policy makers. It works with governments to make social spending much more effective, improve public services, transform government capacity to use data and evidence to design and implement more effective policies and programs. The organisation has been running poverty reduction programs in India for about 15 years and claims its programmes and policies have reached over 100 million people across 20 Indian states. Anchored by a network of 262 affiliated professors at universities around the world, J-PAL conducts randomised impact evaluations to answer critical questions in the fight against poverty.

With ASPIRE, J-PAL South Asia will enter into long-term partnerships with governments and do thorough examinations of the policy challenges hindering poverty eradication. The alliance also plans to run pilot studies on prospective solutions and to scale up the most promising ones. It collects data through surveys and administrative data, to give feedback on decision making to governments. 

“ASPIRE has been conceived to make scientific evidence and data the bedrock of policymaking in India. The commitment from Veddis will enable us to plan for the long haul. When we work with the government it is a long-term commitment. We want to build deeper partnerships where we see ourselves as an active knowledge partner to be able to transform the culture of evidence-based policymaking wherever we work. We also want to work with policy makers to improve the existing policies and programs as well,” Mukerji told BusinessToday.In.

As a first step under ASPIRE, J-PAL South Asia will roll out a gender equity programme named Taaron ki Toli across 23,000 state-run schools in Odisha. J-PAL South Asia will also assist the Government of Odisha in evaluating the efficacy of potential solutions to the biggest policy challenges in the areas of livelihoods and labour welfare, education, gender, distress migration, and early childhood development. These have been identified by the government as its top priority areas for poverty reduction.  

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