The collaboration seeks to promote the generation and use of rigorous evidence in decision-making on public policy through high-quality research
This April, we announce great news for the whole Insper community: Our school signed an institutional partnership with J-PAL LAC, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab office for Latin America and the Caribbean. It is a center that has become a reference point in the fight against poverty through the formulation of public policy based on scientific evidence. The partnership aims to facilitate the implementation of impact assessments in Brazil, further promoting the generation and use of rigorous evidence in decision-making via the production of high-quality research.
Founded in 2003, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) has become a reference point in the fight against poverty by developing policies based on scientific evidence. J-PAL is headquartered at the Department of Economics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is supported by a network of more than 220 researchers all over the world. In partnership with those scholars, J-PAL works closely with governments and non-governmental organizations to rigorously test the effectiveness of new policies or existing programs, help extend the reach of effective programs, and institutionalize a culture of evidence-based public policy–making.
J-PAL’s work covers several fields of research. “Today, we have more than 1,000 studies in 80 countries in fields such as education, health, social protection, employment, gender, race, and climate. What these research projects have in common is the use of the methodology of randomized evaluations, also known as Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs), as a tool to measure the impact of public policies,” explains Paula Pedro, Executive Director of J-PAL LAC.
In 2019, J-PAL co-founders and directors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, along with J-PAL affiliated professor Michael Kremer, received the Nobel Prize in Economics “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”
About J- PAL LAC
Over the past ten years, the J-PAL LAC, J-PAL’s office in Latin America and the Caribbean, has been building partnerships with several governments in the region with the aim of promoting a culture of data use and program evaluation more systematically, generating concrete improvements in public policy.
“From our headquarters at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (UC), our research team works to measure the impact of social and environmental programs and policies. Through online and in-person courses, we build technical capacity for policymakers, foundations, and third-sector entities to generate and use rigorous evidence,” says Claudia Macias, Deputy Executive Director at J-PAL LAC. “On the other hand, our public policy team works to institutionalize this learning and disseminate the results of research with governments and other partners,” comments Edoardo Trimarchi, J-PAL LAC’s Senior Policy Manager. He highlights some of the office’s successes:
(i) “the establishment of an evaluation laboratory in the Peruvian Ministry of Education to develop, test, and expand programs — in addition to more than 20 other partnerships with governments in the region;
(ii) about 170 evaluations conducted by our affiliated researchers in the region, including 12 in Brazil;
(iii) over 4,500 policymakers and researchers trained to use evidence in their work, with emphasis on our course Impact Evaluation of Social Programs and Policies. It is offered free of charge in partnership with Brazil’s National School of Public Administration (Enap).”
J-PAL LAC is currently led by executive director Paula Pedro, with academic advising from scientific directors Prof. Claudio Ferraz (the University of British Columbia and Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro – PUC-Rio) and Prof. Francisco Gallego (UC).
Boosting cutting-edge, evidence-based research
“This initiative will solidify the Insper community’s inclusion in cutting-edge research done in the applied social sciences. Using experimental methods and data, which is the specialty of J-PAL, is increasingly frequent in them. The results of the research developed under this partnership will help in the qualified debate – one based on evidence – about public policy in Brazil and around the world,” analyzes Prof. Sergio Firpo, Dean of Research at Insper. “Through the partnership, research projects that enable the impact evaluation of public policies, especially of those implemented in Brazil, shall be financed. The results of these studies will be widely and readily informed to the general public, helping to improve policies and enrich the Brazilian public debate”.
According to Rodrigo R. Soares, holder of the Lemann Foundation Chair and an Affiliated Professor at J-PAL LAC, this partnership will bring a number of benefits. “First, it is a leading international institution in research related to economic development and public policy evaluation. Its presence will intensify Insper’s international inclusion, increasing its visibility and enabling the interaction of our researchers with others from international institutions that are developing projects in Brazil through the J-PAL,” says Rodrigo.
“Second, it will open up the possibility for students at different stages of education — from undergraduate to doctoral – to work on some of these projects, developing research skills essential to their academic training. Finally, the presence of J-PAL will provide additional support to the work developed by our researchers. Also, it will help, more generally, to disseminate the relevance of public policy evaluation in our country. Thus, it will potentially open up new opportunities for partnerships with local governments and NGOs. I believe the partnership will make an important contribution to the consolidation of Insper as Brazil’s reference center in public policy evaluation.”
Prof. Naercio Aquino Menezes Filho, the Coordinator of the Insper Ruth Cardoso Chair and a researcher at our Center for Public Policy and Administration (CGPP, for its acronym in Portuguese), highlights the relevance of the initiative. “J-PAL is one of the world’s most prominent organizations on the topic of evaluation of public policies and social projects. That type of evaluation is vital in Brazil today, as it is necessary to know which public policies impact society the most to expand them, ending policies that have no significant impact and consume taxpayer funds”.
Also, according to Naercio, “the partnership will allow a closer relationship between Insper researchers and J-PAL. It will make collaborations in impact evaluation projects easier, combining the institutional knowledge of public policy in Brazil with the most advanced techniques for impact evaluation. Moreover, it will facilitate professors’ access to the resources available for performing evaluations.”
For Claudio Ferraz, Scientific Director of J-PAL LAC, the academic and institutional support from Insper, besides allowing the expansion and strengthening of J-PAL LAC’s presence in Brazil, is of great importance in the center’s pursuit of its strategic goal in one of the region’s countries with the greatest potential for rigorous assessments. “We hope to work side by side and continue to promote high-quality research in the Brazilian context through this collaboration,” says Claudio.
The Executive Director of J-PAL LAC, Paula Pedro, is confident that the partnership with Insper will be long-lasting, enabling J-PAL’s permanent establishment in Brazil. “Together, we hope to fund and implement impact evaluations that are relevant to the public policy debate in Brazil,” says Paula. “We also hope to provide support to governments, NGOs, and other organizations with interest in delving deeper into the debate on evidence-based public policy–making — whether through technical assistance or executive courses. We also hope to be able to communicate research results to the general public, through events and content that will be made available on the J-PAL webpage”.