We are thrilled to introduce Evidence Action Beta.
Borrowing from software development where ‘beta’ connotes software prior to commercial release that is still being tested to find any bugs, Evidence Action Beta explores what program with proven impact might work for millions of people. Similar to beta testing for software, we want to ensure that we maximize benefit while reducing any unintended consequences of massive scale up of an intervention.
Our flagship programs, Deworm the World and Dispensers for Safe Water, now reach more than 40 million people and are growing fast. But Evidence Action, since its inception two years ago, has always had a larger mission. Our mission is to scale global development programs that have proven to be effective in their ‘alpha’ phase, that are cost-effective relative to their impact, and for which we can develop sound business and financing models so that millions of people benefit.
As we are developing Evidence Action Beta we wanted to share some of our thinking and the key questions we are investigating: How are we choosing Evidence Action Beta projects? And, what are we working on right now for Evidence Action Beta?
How Do We Choose What to Work on Next
The body of rigorous research generated in development economics over the past decade is a starting point for an Evidence Action Beta project. Recent randomized control trials are one means by which to identify candidates for scale. They are an important source of innovation and evidence that guide us. What else do we care about when choosing how to deploy our scarce resources for business model development? We have six criteria that we take into consideration.
What is the cost relative to the impact? The body of rigorous research generated in development economics over the past decade is a starting point for an Evidence Action Beta project. Recent randomized control trials are one means by which to identify candidates for scale. They are an important source of innovation and evidence that guide us. We seek to make a compelling case that, in the event that a sound business model can be articulated, an innovation or approach could make an important difference in the lives of tens of millions of people.
Can the project impact tens of millions of people? A priori, can see the outlines of what such a business model might look like? Since Evidence Action was specifically founded to scale up proven interventions to reach tens of millions of people, we are committed to only work on projects that have that potential over the course of the lifetime of the project.
Does the project have the potential for sound business models? All of the projects that we consider for scale go through a rigorous process of evaluating whether they can be sustainably funded. Sustainable funding may come from markets, or governments, or some combination of public and private sources. If we can identify funding sources other than donors or philanthropy, this creates a “market test” that ensures that we are supporting things that people actually want.
Is there demand and interest from potential partners? We assess and consider the extent to which there is demand from partners, especially those that will make the difference in going from ten million people reached to hundreds of millions. This means we are excited by government buy-in and commitment and avid fans of market research that helps us scope out alternative service providers besides ourselves.
5. RESEARCH EXPERTS:
Is there interest in collaboration by experts? We will never be subject matter experts in all the things we explore, and we do not have the in-house technical expertise in evaluation and economics needed for pressure-testing evidence and theories of change. We will work with academic partners that share our interest in and commitment to seeing research inform what happens on the ground.
6. THE COUNTERFACTUAL:
If we do not invest in this program or business model, what will happen? If someone else will do so, we should take care not to duplicate or crowd out these efforts. If the best role for us is to support others, we should be sure to leverage this opportunity. These catalytic investments help us have greater impact, with a smaller footprint.
So what is Evidence Action Beta Working on? Read on!
Photo Credit: G-United Volunteer introducing a computer to the classroom.