Let evidence drive policy and not assumptions, says Iqbal Dhaliwal

Mysuru, December 27:- Let data-driven randomised evaluation speak for what works or does not and not intuition or assumptions. These were the key take away of the 6th Distinguished Lecture —‘From Research to Action: Using Evidence to Inform Policy’ by Iqbal Dhaliwal – Deputy Executive Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), MIT at the MYRA School of Business.

Delivering the lecture, Dhaliwal laid out interesting cases based on the J-PAL’s work in Karnataka to drive the message that hard evidence speaks volumes about the impact of various government programs — whether The MGNREGA or Microfinance Schemes.  Iqbal Dhaliwal started his address giving an overview of JPAL as an institution with a graphic overview of the correlation of Aid with Development.

He also laid the case for Microfinance with its share of support and critique. According to Mr. Dhaliwal, with no correlation found between Aid and Development, the need was felt to find out what worked and why it has worked – which led to evidence-based policy making.

Dhaliwal also shared an overview of 800 projects through 170 associated faculty members across more than 50 universities in 78 countries. In India, JPAL has completed 200 projects in association with various academic institutions and is considered an authority in evidence-based policy decisions.

Iqbal Dhaliwal spoke in detail about one study—an extensive, five-district randomized evaluation on improving health outcomes and service provider attendance in rural India specific to the state of Karnataka – a field research study done in collaboration with Rema Hanna of Harvard Kennedy School. This study evidenced “How Absenteeism can have huge consequences for the poor and for governments”The central learning from this field research is — mere monitoring without either incentives or disincentives do not yield desired outcomes.

Prof Shalini Urs, Chairperson of MYRA, set the context of the talk about the Triple Bottom Line philosophy of MYRA and the focus on Data Analytics by highlighting how Dhaliwal’s talk and J-PAL work bring the data-driven decision making and nudging consumers approaches and tools to develop programs.

Delivering the vote of thanks, Dr Sudhendar Hanumantha Rao, Professor of Information Systems, MYRA School of Business thanked Dhaliwal for his deep insights on this rather revolutionary evidence-based policy making as transformative not only to the student community but also budding Ph.D. researchers at MYRA at large. -(KK)

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