Improving Lives Through Evidence Adapting to a Changing World: 2020-21

Letter from the Global Executive Director:

Today, in the midst of a pandemic that has imposed untold suffering on millions worldwide, there are signs of hope on the horizon. Although the vaccine is rolling out worldwide in the coming months, the pandemic will still alter the course of the next decade, particularly for the world's poorest. J-PAL worked with many new and existing partners in creative ways in 2020 to meet the needs of a changing world.

About J-PAL: The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global research center working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. Anchored by a network of more than 500 affiliated researchers at universities around the world, J-PAL conducts randomized impact evaluations to answer critical questions in the fight against poverty.

The Year Ahead:

Developing new strategies for safe, cost-effective randomized evaluations that help answer the most critical policy-relevant questions.
Conducting rapid-response research and policy engagement to ensure effective pandemic recovery programs that reach those most in need.
Increasing the diversity of our staff and research network and ensuring inclusive research, policy engagement, and training.
Reducing the vulnerability of people living in humanitarian settings and ensuring their basic needs are met.
Designing, testing, and scaling cost-effective, high-impact policy solutions at the nexus of climate change and poverty alleviation.
Partnering with governments to test, innovate, and scale effective approaches that improve lives worldwide.
Designing sustainable infrastructure for social protection programs, reducing discrimination, and combatting misinformation and democratic backsliding.
Transitioning more training and educational offerings to a virtual setting to reach a wider audience of researchers and policymakers.

Launching J-PAL MENA

We launched our newest regional research center, J-PAL Middle East and North Africa (MENA), in collaboration with our longtime partner Community Jameel. Based at the American University in Cairo, J-PAL MENA builds on more than a decade of research and policy partnerships in the region led by our affiliates and staff. As our seventh regional office, J-PAL MENA works with innovative regional academics, policymakers, and development practitioners to co-design, evaluate, and scale effective approaches to reduce poverty and improve the lives of the region’s most vulnerable.

Innovative Research: Pivoting to Pandemic Response

Now more than ever, investing in rigorous research is essential to finding solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. Our growing network of 225 affiliated researchers and 300+ invited researchers work with local partners across the globe to conduct randomized evaluations that help us understand which approaches are most effective in the fight against poverty.

The King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI)

Climate change disproportionately affects people living in poverty and threatens to reverse decades of progress in global poverty alleviation. In partnership with King Philanthropies, we launched the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI) to design, pilot, evaluate, and scale policy solutions at the nexus of climate change and poverty alleviation, aiming to inform the scale-up of effective climate policies that reach at least 25 million people in the next ten years.

Policy Engagement: Informing Pandemic Response and Recovery

J-PAL works to identify policy lessons emerging from randomized evaluations, conduct outreach to share those lessons broadly, and build partnerships to inform high-level decision-making. This work is especially critical in times of global crisis, when decisions must be made quickly and confidently with millions of lives at stake.

Capacity Building: Expanding the Reach of Online Learning

With a focus on learning and innovation, J-PAL works to build the capacity of researchers who produce evidence, policymakers and donors who use it, and advocates of evidence-informed policy. Even before Covid-19 forced millions of learners online, J-PAL worked for more than five years to make top-quality trainings and courses offerings available virtually. As the pandemic took hold, we suspended all in-person events and moved many more of our trainings and courses online.

Research in Action: Highlights from our Affiliated Researchers

Our affiliated researchers worked closely with governments and NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions to issues exacerbated by the pandemic.

Globally Informed, Locally Grounded

J-PAL’s seven regional centers are based at leading local research universities and lead our research, policy engagement, and capacity building work around the world.

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

J-PAL fundamentally seeks to reduce human suffering in all its forms. Promoting the dignity and agency of all people is a very important part of this mission. We are working toward increasing the diversity of our research network, staff, and the places in which we conduct research; and are prioritizing equity and inclusion in our work.

J-PAL Leadership

J-PAL’s annual Board of Directors meeting moved to Zoom in 2020. Photo: J-PAL

Our Board of Directors, which is composed of J-PAL affiliated professors and senior management, provides overall strategic guidance to J-PAL, our sector programs, and regional offices. The nine-member Executive Committee of the Board takes decisions on behalf of the full Board on an ongoing basis.

Visit the J-PAL website to learn more about our work.


Sendra village, Beawar, Rajasthan, India. September 28, 2020. Rajasthani women wait in long lines to cast votes at a polling station during Panchayati Raj elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Sumit Saraswat | Shutterstock.com