January 2019: J-PAL's Innovation in Government Initiative

Payout Date: January 30, 2019

Total grants: $1,000,000

Number of grantees: 1

Contents

Introduction

In January 2019, we recommended a grant of $1,000,000 to J-PAL's Innovation in Government Initiative (IGI). This grant is part of GiveWell's exploratory work into opportunities to help improve the uptake and implementation of evidence-based policy by governments. Details on the rationale for this grant are on this page. A brief extract is below.

About IGI:

IGI is a grantmaking entity within the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). It plans to make grants to partnerships between governments, J-PAL offices, and affiliated researchers to help pilot and scale evidence-informed programs in education, health, and social assistance. The grant will be used to support IGI’s general operating costs and run two requests for proposals (RFPs).

The case for the grant:

  1. A previous IGI-funded project appears to have had some success informing government policy in India. We have not seen strong evidence that this particular policy change had a positive effect (although our best guess is it did), but it suggests to us that IGI will be able to successfully identify opportunities to influence government policy.
  2. Our understanding is that IGI has substantial room for more funding, and has had difficulty raising funds in the past. This grant may give IGI sufficient runway to raise additional funds from other funders, or preserve option value if we decide to renew the grant.
  3. Our subjective impression is that IGI is a strong organization. IGI’s staff have communicated well with us, and have been open about the limitations of the evidence for assessing their impact.

Reservations about the grant:

  1. The case study we reviewed was substantially less straightforward than it appeared at first. This invalidated our main reason for investigating GPI ahead of a more thorough review of other groups working on influencing or informing government policy with evidence. We are cautious of overcommitting to a single organization without carefully reviewing the broader ecosystem of evidence-based policy.
  2. We currently believe it is unlikely we will review similar organizations in the short term (although we would like to do so in the long term). We are cautious of overcommitting to funding an organization which falls outside our short term priorities.

Why are we recommending a grant through Effective Altruism Funds?

We decided to recommend this grant through Effective Altruism Funds because our understanding is some donors give to this fund because they want to signal support for GiveWell making grants which are more difficult to justify and rely on more subjective judgment calls, but have the potential for greater impact than our top charities. If we had not funded this grant through the Effective Altruism Global Health and Development Fund, we would have sought funding from Good Ventures through the Open Philanthropy Project, who have generally followed our recommendations in the past.