Making replication research relevant for international organizations: A 3ie-IFAD post-event conversation

22 June 2018
Replication Financial services

After 6 years, 3ie’s replication programme is finishing its fourth round of 3ie-funded replication studies. In recognition of this round’s completion, 3ie and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) recently hosted a joint engagement event, Financial services for the poor programmes – verifying evidence for policymaking. Ben (3ie) and Michael (IFAD) co-hosted the event. At the event, 3ie’s current replication researchers presented their draft results.

The current round of 3ie-funded replication studies, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focuses on financial services for the poor. The Gates Foundation staff selected seven studies based on recent development-related impact evaluations, which were important for their programming (more information on the programme is available here). The replication research teams for each of the seven studies presented their papers at the event in Rome.

After the individual replication teams’ presentations, a group of experts from 3ie, IFAD, the Centre for Economic and International Studies and the Food and Agricultural Organisation formed a panel to discuss the current state of research transparency efforts. Michael gave the closing keynote address, where he summarised how replication research might fit into future IFAD-funded projects.

The importance of emphasizing policy relevance was one of the key takeaways from the event. The event participants repeatedly challenged the replication researchers to use their studies to provide concrete recommendations for policymaking. Michael highlighted the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to many policymakers. He suggested that the replication researchers should partially motivate their studies by framing them around the SDGs that the research addresses.

In the following conversation, we have a dialogue in which Michael shares his overall reflections on the event.

Ben: Michael, thank you again for co-hosting the event with 3ie. I thought this blog would be a nice opportunity to summarize your insights. Would you briefly give us your main takeaways from the day?

Michael: We should seriously consider funding and implementing more and longer-term studies for quality evidence to make decisions (i) on the types of offerings, products, services and approaches promoted through IFAD co-financed projects and programmes and (ii) the content of national policy engagement or dialogue. I also see great opportunities in pursuing more external and internal replications for enhanced evidence concerning long-term impact. Last but not least, the challenge of measuring for results and gained (rural) market or system development remain.

Ben: As you highlighted in your presentation, IFAD is a major player in rural poverty alleviation work. Given IFAD’s large amount of programming on this topic, what kind of replication research evidence would be most helpful for you? And how would you suggest it be packaged?

Michael: As IFAD’s Lead Technical Specialist for Inclusive Rural Financial Services, my interest is clearly focused on gaining more empirical evidence on how these investments are a means to an end regarding more food security, reduced vulnerability of rural dwellers and sustainable poverty alleviation. Additional research needs to address the levels of developing inclusive rural financial markets and systems, addressing the micro-level in terms of impact, creating an enabling market infrastructure that is ubiquitous, safe and competitive, and defining the elements necessary for a policy and regulatory framework for responsible and impactful financial inclusion. In particular, additional research addressing minor-level impacts should focus on how poor people are enabled to capture opportunities and build resilience and how financial service providers offer affordable, responsible, accessible and sustainable financial solutions for a significant number of poor people.

Ben: Replication research is a nascent field. 3ie recently released our transparency policy, which includes a commitment to push button replicating all 3ie-funded research. At the end of your presentation, you suggested a few possible next steps for conducting replication research with IFAD. Would you mind elaborating on one or two of those ideas here? How might we integrate replication research into IFAD’s portfolio?

Michael: In line with my two or three takeaways mentioned earlier, I would think that we could start selecting a few concept notes from IFAD’s investment pipeline, usually as part of the Country Strategy Opportunity Programmes (COSOPs), with a dedicated inclusive rural financial service component. When we work on the full project design, we document the theory of change and include in the logical framework objectively verifiable indicators and means of verification. We could then build-in replication impact research through the project. Of course, we would need to make sure that we have the human and financial resources available on the ground.

Overall, we considered the event to be a success. All seven of the replication teams presented their draft results and received comments on their work. They are all committed to incorporating the feedback they received at the event into their papers. The replication studies will be posted in 3ie’s Replication Paper Series later this year and are under consideration for a special issue. Keep your eyes out for this work in the near future!

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