Path-to-Scale Research

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In this image:A person receives the COVID-19 vaccine. © i_am_zews on Shutterstock
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IPA’s Path-to-Scale Research Program connects the dots between innovation and implementation of evidence-based programs and policies, leading to better health, improved livelihoods, and less poverty.

The Path-to-Scale Research Program works to initiate and speed up the process of moving evidence-based interventions from proof-of-concept to scalable and adaptable programs and policies. In contrast to innovation research that explores brand new ideas for solving development problems, path-to-scale research begins with evidence-based approaches that have already shown promise in rigorous impact evaluations.

Path-to-scale research builds on these promising approaches by assessing how robust the original findings are, pursuing additional evidence on when, where, and why an approach is expected to work, and identifying ways to optimize program design and implementation at scale. Path-to-scale research seeks to help policy-makers identify and incorporate the most effective interventions into programs and policies, for example by reviewing and sharing evidence with decision-makers in strategic and timely moments, with an aim to improve health outcomes, boost livelihoods, and reduce poverty. Learn more about our Evidence Identification Processes.

Our work includes:

The PSR team is seeking partnerships for our current SME and child growth and development initiatives. Contact us.

Learn more about IPA's approach to scaling what works.

Child Growth and Development (Stunting) Initiative

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Stunting, or being too short for one’s age, is a warning signal that a child is at-risk of failing to reach their full developmental potential. Stunting has been linked to poorer school achievement and progress, lower cognition, reduced earnings, and a higher probability of living in poverty. It also increases the risk of death from infectious diseases in childhood. Stunting is a commonly-used measure of chronic malnutrition, but can be caused by poor nutrition and feeding, inadequate care, and repeated infections.

In December 2019, the PSR team prepared an evidence review on approaches to reduce stunting and held a workshop with academic and practitioner experts to identify promising evidence-based approaches and explore research questions to address evidence gaps. These prioritized approaches include small-quantity lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNS) and animal source foods to complement infant diets, cash transfers combined with behavior change communication (BCC) programs and home-based growth monitoring.

The PSR team is currently finalizing a path-to-scale research agenda around the prioritized evidence-based approaches (EBAs), working closely with expert academics, practitioners, and regional and country IPA offices throughout the process. The team is also developing home-based growth chart RCTs in Indonesia and Zambia, and are seeking new implementation and research partnerships across all four EBAs.

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Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Initiative

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SMEs are widely seen as engines of economic growth with the potential to alleviate poverty, but in many contexts, they face binding constraints to growth. Most impact evaluations of promising private sector entrepreneurship and SME development interventions in lower- and middle-income countries to date have been at the “proof of concept” stage.

The Entrepreneurship & Private Sector Development Program at IPA (formerly called the Small and Medium Enterprise or SME Program) launched a call for nominations for its Path to Scale Award in December 2018 to identify evidence-based approaches that demonstrated rigorous evidence of impact, cost-effectiveness, and the potential to be sustainably scaled up.

In April 2019, IPA’s EPSD program shortlisted five promising evidence-based approaches: business plan competitions with cash grants, entrepreneurial mindset training, business networking programs, SME business consulting services, and heuristics-based financial literacy training.These approaches comprise the initial focus of the PSR Initiative. Together with researchers and field staff, the SME Program mapped and explored potential partners for each of the five approaches, and fine-tuned research and intervention designs.

The “Boosting Small Business Growth with Mindset Training in Togo” project was selected as the recipient of IPA’s Path to Scale Award to fund an evaluation of the approach in Ecuador. In addition to testing this approach in a new context, this study will aim to better understand the mechanisms through which the approach is effective and identify which components of the intervention are crucial for success.

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Exploratory Work

Our exploratory work identifies potential Path-to-Scale Research projects or initiatives to pursue.

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Our approach to this work starts with assessing the body of evidence for a topic area, such as small and medium enterprises, or addressing policy-maker priorities, such as reducing childhood stunting or increasing childhood vaccine uptake. The results of the assessment may lead to the development of an initiative if there are considerable gaps that path-to-scale research could address, and alignment with internal capacity. Scoping may reveal less opportunity for an initiative, but need for replication and optimization research for an intervention.

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