Update UP supported Breakthrough India to close the gap in funding to deliver a school-based program aimed at reducing gender bias – a program that was being evaluated by a RCT conducted by J-PAL. The major study activities are concluding and preliminary results will be available at the end of April. UP also hosted Breakthrough India for an event in San Francisco and connected with several potential partners and donors. Breakthrough is already part of the Haryana government’s task force on the skewed gender ratio and has been establishing the necessary partnerships such that if the results of the RCT are positive, relationships to facilitate a statewide strategy will already exist.
Reflections For systems-change efforts, there is a role for both top-down and bottom-up approaches. The public sector offers a meaningful avenue to scale and can change standards that will immediately affect millions. However, when addressing deeply entrenched gender norms, there is also a role for individual and community-level engagement. It’s important to establish partnerships with government and policy makers early on, coupled with broader advocacy and community outreach to build a coalition of actors to create change. Appropriate timing, alignment, and buy-in from all stakeholders are important for pushing an agenda forward.
Update Since the UP award, the Graduated Reintegration team, based out of NYU’s Marron Institute, was able to secure significant additional funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to expand the reentry pilot to another location and conduct a rigorous evaluation of the work. They also brought on several key team members that have direct experience working with the Department of Corrections in Washington State to successfully introduce criminal justice reforms. The team has been working directly with two counties in Illinois, as well as state agencies, to get the appropriate agreements in place, train and hire key staff, develop program criteria, identify housing, and prepare all of the other details to start the pilots in the coming month.
Reflections Efforts to reform existing public service delivery require a deep understanding of the various political priorities of relevant agencies and the ability to ‘speak the language’ of stakeholders that will ultimately be responsible for implementing such changes. Pilots must be designed to achieve sufficient proof points to encourage adoption, but with a model simple enough that adoption is feasible given available public resources and capacity. Robust evaluation is important both for monitoring impact and to ultimately make the case for replication.
precision agriculture for development
Update While the applicant team was very seasoned and had conducted field experiments on several elements related to its planned operations, PAD was a nascent effort when they first applied for funding from UP. Since then, PAD has made significant progress in hiring top leadership, establishing active operations in two countries, establishing partnerships with key implementers in the field, raising significant additional support for organizational and programmatic development, and establishing an independent organization following support from Global Development Incubator. PAD has been able to show a workable product with significant customer use and demand and has engaged with nearly 28,000 farmers in India. The next stage is confirming value creation with improved productivity, yields, and income. In Kenya, PAD has conducted a successful pilot and is now conducting a larger scale trial with nearly 6,000 farmers across a broader geography and with several new mobile phone-based innovations.
Reflections There is great potential in working with strong academic leadership to take promising research out of the university to build a viable venture. This requires finding the right leadership and operational team, establishing strong governance practices, securing appropriate and flexible capital, and focusing on a balance of research and execution through piloting and A/B testing.
reformulated ready-to-use therapeutic food
Update This project was originally proposed by the Accordia Global Health Foundation, which since has merged with Africare. UP’s award was to fund half of the total costs of the three-year study once additional resources were secured and we worked closely with Africare and the lead investigators to find additional partners. Principal investigator Dr. Mark Manary was able to secure support from his home institution, Washington University in St. Louis, and we were very excited to also have the Open Philanthropy Project come on as partners to fully fund the study that is a collaboration between the Project Peanut Butter, the University of Malawi College of Medicine, Washington University, and Cornell University. Preliminary work is underway, with enrollment for the study taking place over the coming months. Reflections When working with many different stakeholders across various geographies, it is critical to have open communication and someone willing to play a coordination role. Transparency is key to ensuring that all perspectives are represented in the conversation. It’s important to align objectives, activities, and budgets from the outset so as not to delay implementation once funding is in place.
Update UP has been supporting StrongMinds Peer Therapy Group (PTG) program to test if volunteer-led groups can achieve similar treatment outcomes and how PTGs might be a viable pathway to massive scale. The PTG pilots last year established that women will volunteer to lead groups and that volunteer-led groups can achieve similar treatment outcomes; the next step is to figure out how to sustain and replicate the PTG program. UP is continuing to support StongMinds testing and refinement of the model over the next year. StrongMinds is also a relatively young organization, but have been very successful at building out their core program, experimenting with scaling through partnerships in addition to the PTG model, and attracting additional support to grow their work.
Reflections As described in this New York Times Fixes article, StrongMinds was particularly appealing to UP because of the possibility that its model of treating depression among groups of women could self-replicate throughout Uganda and beyond. Self-replication presents a unique approach to scaling with finite capital, but requires both testing to ensure sustained impact and some level of infrastructure to support early piloting and monitoring.
Watch this space for more updates from UP awardees in the future.