Evidence Action Newsletter September 2018

Q3 newsletter cover photo resized

A Note from CEO, Kanika Bahl


Alongside the updates you’ll read about below, I want to highlight an exciting update about our Beta incubator – an engine of growth and center of rigor within Evidence Action. Beta is currently testing a range of interventions, including No Lean Season, at varying stages of development – evaluating the scale potential, cost-effectiveness, and evidence of impact that are hallmarks of Evidence Action programs. I am thrilled to share that we recently received a $5 million grant from charity evaluator GiveWell to support early-stage exploration of additional initiatives through Beta, enabling expansion of our pipeline and capacity to test high-potential interventions. We will provide updates into our early-stage Beta work in future communications.
More broadly, I hope this newsletter provides you a glimpse of how we’re impacting individuals, families, communities and at such scale. Your support is what makes this possible – thank you for the trust you place in us.
One of the highlights of my job is to speak about our work. I am often asked to elaborate beyond scale and evidence, to relate how the lives of people we serve are improved by our interventions. While we measure and evaluate our impact through data and analysis, I am privileged to share stories of impact as well. You will find one of those stories below – please watch your inbox for more to come.


NLS Q3 Newsletter program updates photo
A village meeting in which rural agricultural laborers receive information about No Lean Season’s $20 loans and are given an opportunity to register for a loan.

Program and Incubation Updates

New to Evidence Action? Read more about the Deworm the World Initiative and Dispensers for Safe Water, our at-scale programs, or our Beta incubator and its current portfolio of promising interventions, like No Lean Season and Winning Start, which we are designing, building, and testing for scaled implementation and impact.

Evidence Action Beta

  • We recently received a $5 million grant from the charity evaluator GiveWell to support early-stage exploration of a set of evidence-backed, potentially cost-effective and scalable initiatives that are also aligned with GiveWell’s goals. Stay tuned for more as our incubation portfolio grows.
  • GiveWell Top Charity No Lean Season has begun issuing $20 travel loans to rural agricultural laborers in Bangladesh in the current 2018 program cycle. The loans will help them migrate for work as the lean season—the hardship period between planting and harvest—sets in.
  • Our Winning Start initiative in Kenya, G-United, is closing out its fourth cohort of volunteers and recruiting a fifth cohort that we anticipate will be the largest yet. Watch this video to hear teachers’ reflections on how volunteers affected the lives of the primary school children they reached with evidence-based Teaching at the Right Level literacy sessions.

Deworm the World Initiative

  • With our support, the Government of India successfully conducted its seventh round of National Deworming Day on August 10 across 33 states/union territories and targeted a total of 290 million children. We provided technical assistance to 9 of those states, together targeting 160 million children.
  • We supported the Government of Kenya in conducting a third wave of deworming in July, enabling National School-Based Deworming to cover all at-risk counties and bringing the number of children targeted in 2018 to approximately 6 million.
  • Our Deworm the World team facilitated a workshop on covering hard-to-reach populations at the Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network (NNN) meetings earlier this week.

Dispensers for Safe Water

  • In the last quarter, we saw chlorine adoption rates rise from an average of 53% in March/April to an average of 58% in June/July 2018 within the communities we reach in Kenya, Uganda, and Malawi. That’s one of our highest user-adoption figures since the program’s inception!
  • The rise in adoption rates may be attributable to our ongoing “refresher” trainings with volunteer promoters – sessions aimed at reminding and inspiring them to continue operating as our safe water ambassadors, sharing information about the benefits of chlorination, and ensuring our dispensers are filled with chlorine and working. In Kenya, we reached roughly 15,000 of our 35,000 promoters with trainings; in Uganda, we’ve trained over 2,500 promoters and carried out 266 community education meetings.

Engagement Opportunities

  • Did you know? Over 80% of philanthropy in any given year in the United States occurs in the months of November and December. Stunningly, 12% of annual donations occur in the last three days of the year.
  • At Evidence Action we are humbled by the support we receive from around the globe. With our flagship interventions costing less than $1.50 per individual, just about anyone can find a meaningful way to support our work to reduce the burden of poverty so people can live more productive lives!
  • Follow us and share on Twitter and Facebook. You can find several template tweets on our Get Involved page if you need help getting started.
Securing a healthy future

Securing a healthy future: Children in Fatehpur Shankarpally, Telangana celebrate being dewormed on India’s August 2018 National Deworming Day.

In the Media

  • In this episode of Displaced podcast, Ravi Gurumurthy and Grant Gordon of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) interview CEO Kanika Bahl on how we’re rethinking innovation in development.
  • No Lean Season is highlighted as an evidence-based approach to mitigating seasonal poverty in this Yale Insights interview with National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy President and CEO Aaron Dorfman.
  • This The News International article on the Government of Pakistan’s plans for mass deworming in Islamabad mentions Evidence Action’s role as a partner organization.
  • RTI International’s video ENVISION In Focus: Scaling Up the NTD Fight in Nigeria reflects on the impact of our collective school-based deworming efforts in Nigeria’s Cross River State.
Reaching the last mile

Reaching the last mile: Using motorbikes, a cadre of Community Service Assistants deliver chlorine to even the most inaccessible communities, and they respond quickly when dispensers reportedly break or malfunction.

Looking Ahead

  • Evidence Action Beta is working with leading researchers, including Harvard University’s Michael Kremer, to explore the potential for an evaluation of our Winning Start initiative in Kenya (G-United) and better understand its impact on students and volunteers. Stay tuned for more!
  • Two members of our Beta team, along with representatives from the Government of Kenya (our Winning Start implementing partner in Kenya) will share insights at a Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) conference in South Africa this week.
  • Planning for the November 2018 round of deworming in Vietnam and Nigeria’s Rivers and Oyo states is well underway.
  • Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good by Ann Mei Chang will be released Oct. 30 with practical tools for scaling social impact, including examples from Evidence Action.

Stories of Impact

DSW Promoter Betty Nangeso

Vivacious and confident, Betty Nangeso (pictured left) is always ready with her “elevator pitch” for the benefits of chlorine. Having lived in her village for almost 18 years, she was nominated by her community to be a “promoter” when a chlorine dispenser was installed locally. This voluntary job involves spreading word about the benefits of chlorination and water treatment, demonstrating how to use Evidence Action’s bright blue dispensers, and communicating with Evidence Action when dispensers need to be replenished or repaired.

“This dispenser has been helpful,” she’ll proclaim emphatically and without prompting, “we used to have so many problems. Every other day children were getting sick—today, typhoid; tomorrow, diarrhea—and they were not able to study well at all because they were always going home. Then this dispenser came and I can say we are well; we feel well.”

Has she ever encountered community members reluctant to use the dispenser? A few times. “There were those who didn’t want to use it, they would say it smells bad,” Betty recounts. However, she also thinks she’s won most skeptics over: “they saw that others were using it and feeling good, and whenever I went to village meetings, I would tell them about chlorine and I think they took me seriously. At this point, there is no one who doesn’t want us to have this chlorine dispenser around, and when I talk to the women they tell me they cannot fail to treat their water because they also do not want to spend money treating typhoid.”