3ie Delhi Evidence Week 2019

Beyond good intentions: from action to impact, New Delhi, 6-7 November

As part of 3ie’s Delhi Evidence Week, we hosted a one-and-a-half-day conference, Beyond good intentions: from action to impact. On 6 Novmber, we explored impact and measurement related questions in nutrition, sanitation and women’s empowerment. We capped it off with an interesting panel discussion on how leading philanthropies and foundations are making a measurable difference. On 7 November, we co-hosted sessions with the National Council of Applied Economic Research on open data and research transparency.

Start Date: 06 November 2019 End Date: 07 November 2019
Delhi evidence week 2019
Sheraton Hotel, District Centre, Saket
Time Sessions
9:00-9:15 Opening remarks: Emmanuel Jimenez, 3ie

9:15-10:15 Howard White Lecture: One Hundred Homes- a visual survey of India
Speaker: Jeff Hammer, principal, Economists without Borders and non-resident senior fellow, NCAER
Discussants: AK Shiv Kumar, director, International Centre for Human Development; Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India; Shekhar Shah, director-general, NCAER

Jeff Hammer talked about a unique ongoing project, One hundred homes, which uses images of houses inhabited by people (close to or below the poverty line) to explain what abstract statistics and measurements of standards of living look like in real life. In this highly interactive session, he showed the audience images of visually comparable houses, asking them to determine wealth based on what they saw. With each set of photos, he explained what consumption data captures, and how we can improve how we measure poverty. This project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Discussants weighed in on the implications of measuring poverty in India, and largely agreed that there was room for improvement in how we measure poverty. Nisha Agarwal talked about the importance of visualisations and stories to help communicate more effectively about poverty. AK Shiv Kumar stressed the need to measure poverty in a way that captures global changes, particularly, India’s move away from being a low-income country. Convergence on commodity consumption doesn’t reveal inequality in opportunities. While Shekhar Shah agreed with the other discussants, he said projects like this one helped open up a new way of thinking about poverty and how we measure it.
10:15-11:30 Enabling India to deliver nutrition interventions more effectively: What does the implementation evidence say?
Chair: Marie Gaarder, 3ie
Speakers: Alok Kumar, Niti Aayog; Carola Alvarez, Inter-American Development Bank; Purnima Menon, IFPRI; Stuti Tripathi, 3ie

Panellists in this session talked about the evidence available on implementation challenges with regard nutrition in India. They highlighted the need to bridge the gap between research, policy and practice in nutrition, with a specific focus on governance issues at the grassroots-level that affect the overall effectiveness of interventions. One panellist pointed out the need to investigate the factors affecting the variability in the reach of nutrition interventions and not just the delivery. They also discussed the need to focus on policy that would translate in accelerated reach as well as enhanced quality of delivery. They also discussed the importance of day-to-day monitoring in interventions, noting how checklists as monitoring tools could sometimes be more effective and useful than intervention guidelines. Some of the preliminary findings of an evidence gap map on implementation research in nutrition in India were also presented.
11:45-13:15 Making sanitation sustainable in India
Chair: David de Ferranti, 3ie
Speakers: Alex Armand, Institute for Fiscal Studies; VK Madhavan, Wateraid India; Radhika Menon, 3ie

In this session, Alex Armand and Radhika Menon presented the latest 3ie-supported evidence on urban and rural sanitation, respectively. Panellists discussed various barriers to and facilitators of latrine use in rural and urban India. The lack of willingness and ability to maintain latrines was mentioned as a big challenge in running community toilets in urban areas. Lack of access to water supply and functional latrines, preference for going out in the open and anxiety related to pit filling and emptying came up as barriers to latrine use in rural India. To achieve sanitation for all and to improve health outcomes, the panellists emphasised the importance of faecal sludge management, safe disposal of child faeces and the need to address last mile problems. They also made a pitch for the rigorous measurement of sanitation outcomes using multiple methods.
14:00-15:15 What works for women’s and girls’ empowerment: is evaluation keeping up?
Chair: Beryl Leach 3ie
Speakers: Bidisha Barooah, 3ie; Farzana Afridi, Indian Statistical Institute; Gillian Dowie, IDRC; Thomas De Hoop, American Institutes for Research; Yamini Atmavilas, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Panellists agreed that, due to its complexity, the study of women’s empowerment requires long-term, mixed-method approaches. They discussed the many definitions of empowerment, which allow for adaptations of the concept to local context. Panellists commented on complementarities between economic empowerment and social empowerment, and observed that social norms may limit women’s abilities to participate in the labour force. Speakers described the need to consider empowerment outside the home, including within the context of the market, government, health system, and banking sector. They also discussed the role collectives can play in empowering individuals.
15:30-16:45 Making philanthropic actions count in India: investing in what works
Chair: Ruth Shapiro, Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society
Speakers: Arvind Balasubramanian, Azim Premji Philanthropies; Mukul Sood, Tata Trusts; Suneeta Krishnan, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In keeping with the theme of the evidence week of moving from action to impact, speakers at the panel discussed the different ways in which a separate monitoring, evaluation and learning entity within philanthropic initiatives could contribute to increasing the impact of investments. They shared examples of how monitoring and evaluation lessons can be used to improve strategy and work better with governments. One panellist highlighted the importance of building an organisation-wide culture of critical thinking and learning. They also described how such units could foster evaluation learning and avoid being siloed.

 How to leverage open government, research and data to strengthen policymaking in India

Time Sessions
9:15-9:30 Opening remarks: Shekhar Shah, NCAER, and Emmanuel Jimenez, 3ie


Greater openness in government, research and data to strengthen accountability and the effectiveness of public policy in India
Chair: Shekhar Shah, NCAER
Panellists: Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative; Parth Shah, Centre for Civil Society; Rahul Matthan, Trilegal

Panellists drew from their diverse backgrounds to discuss the nature and extent of data openness across government and non-government sectors at this well-attended session. Speakers recognised that while government and research data was still far from being open and usable, concerns of data hoarding, privacy and regulation also needed a closer look. Participants highlighted how silos within departments and lack of quality metadata hamstring data availability and usability.

11:15-12:30 Leveraging information and communication technologies to generate evidence for policymaking in India
: Marie Gaarder, 3ie
Panellists: Aparna Krishnan, J-PAL SA; CN Raghupathi, Infosys; Renuka Sane, NIPFP

Panellists discussed challenges of working with data within the government, such as low levels of digitisation, measurement of large-scale indicators, data collection especially in the health sector, and privacy concerns. One of the panellists spoke about the successful large-scale digitisation of the tax system while another questioned the process of digitisation itself. All speakers spoke about the need for capacity development within the government in using advanced technologies.
12:30 -13:00 Keynote address: Amitabh Kant, NITI Aayog

Amitabh Kant emphasised the importance of data for informing decision-making. He shared lessons from his previous work, where he used real-time data to rank states and create competition to improve their performance in ease of doing business. He argued that collecting data on a real-time basis, publishing it in the public domain, and using the data to create competition would lead to improvements in socio-economic indicators that are essential for rapid growth. He said data is essential for governance and for bringing transformative on-ground changes.

  • Follow the conversation on Twitter using the #3ieDEW2019.
3ie’s Evidence Weeks include internal meetings with our board and members, a public conference, seminars and workshops. The public conference brings leading researchers, high-level policymakers, programme managers and donors together to share evidence, explore the challenges and lessons, and demonstrate using high-quality evidence to inform decision-making. To read about our previous evidence weeks, click here.