FID at the Collège de France: "Placing evidence and innovation at the heart of development policy"
On June 22 and 23 at the Collège de France, Juliette Seban, the Executive Director of the Fund for Innovation in Development, addressed the role of social innovation funds with Sasha Gallant, Chief of Development Innovation Ventures (USAID) and the teams leading the projects funded by these two funds, at a colloquium organized as part of the "Poverty and Public Policy" Chair held by Esther Duflo, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics.
"Innovation funds work successfully and have demonstrated high social returns, and yet there is so much more we can do" explains Juliette Seban, Executive Director of the Fund for Innovation in Development (FID), during the session dedicated to innovation funds at the "Placing evidence and innovation at the heart of development policy" on June 23.
Opened by Esther Duflo, economist and President of the Fund for Innovation in Development, the session dedicated to innovation funds started with a presentation of the methodology and operational functioning of FID, which was created in 2021 in France, and its American counterpart Development Innovation Ventures (USAID) founded in 2010. These two funds share the ambition to open up access to experimentation to structures from all over the world, as Juliette Seban, Executive Director of FID, explains: "We do not know what works. We are not the ones knowing what should be done to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. What matters to us is the potential contributions of these projects to figh poverty and inequalities". "We know that experimentations pave the way for continuous improvement and can be a powerful tool to inform policy and promote innovation and development" explains Sasha Gallant, head of Development Innovation Ventures at USAID.
Each year, both of these highly selective funds receive around 1,000 applications from all types of organizations around the world. "We don’t expect every single investment to be successful, but that enough of them have a big enough impact that will exceed the cost of our entire portfolio" says Sasha Gallant.
Perspectives from project teams
This talk was followed by a panel of project leaders, with Naomi Kirungu, Partnerships Manager at the African Management Institute (AMI), Alison Naftalin, Executive Director of Lively Minds, and Dr. Kwabena Tandoh, Deputy Director General of Ghana Education Services (GES), both partners in the Lively Minds program. They presented the AMI and Lively Minds programs, the former being implemented in Senegal to support the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, and the latter in Ghana to develop pre-school children's academic performances at school.
Discussions followed on the use of impact evaluation by both organizations. In the case of Lively Minds, which aims to scale up the project in 62 districts as part of the Ghanaian government’s prerogative, conducting an evaluation is crucial to the project's roll-out: "I think it is absolutely critical to have evidence backing a program if it is intended to be scale up. If this project was not evidence-based, we would not be able to get support from the government or funders", says Alison Naftalin. Dr.Kwabena Tandoh points out that the government of Ghana’s goal is to reach around 4,000 schools with this project: “We are witnessing that the scale-up of this project can become a model for Ghana’sneighboring countries that also need the same kind of support”.
The AMI project team is conducting an impact evaluation in Kenya to understand the effects of their training program on the development of small and medium-sized businesses, and "to find out what kind of impact provides the biggest transformation for businesses at a scalable price that they can pay for eventually".
Evidence in development policy
This session on FID is part of a morning dedicated to the use of evidence in development policies:
- Introduction by Abhijit Banerjee, Nobel Prize in Economics 2019
- 20 years of research and evidence use by Santhosh Mathew, (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and Rachel Glennerster (Chicago University).
- An address by Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships
- A presentation by Michael Kremer, Nobel Prize in economics and founder of DIV (USAID): Fostering the funding of innovation in development cooperation
- A presentation by Hervé Berville, Secretary of State for the Sea and former member of the FID Board of Directors
- A panel discussion on how development cooperation has been transformed by the surge in rigourous evidence with Dean Karlan, Northwestern University Professor and Chief Economist at USAID, Arianna Legovini, Director of Development Impact Evaluation at the World Bank, Thomas Melonio, Executive Director of the Department, Executive Director of Innovation, Strategy and Research at the Agence Française de Développement and Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser and Director of Research, UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
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