By Neil Buddy Shah
This post marks the launch of IDinsight’s first blog, IDeas, a place to share learnings, challenges, failures, and debates as we work to transform how decision-makers globally use data and evidence to improve lives.
We hope there will be something here for everyone.
Our team at IDinsight grapples every day with some of the biggest challenges in development, from a diverse set of perspectives. We are economists deep in the technical details of how to balance rigor and practicality in designing impact evaluations. We are field managers creatively addressing difficulties with rural data collection. We are data scientists leveraging large government datasets to create quicker feedback loops. We are policy professionals supporting all-star government bureaucrats to drive evidence-informed change.
We also contemplate the philosophical questions that accompany this work. How do we make the most of well-intentioned foreign capital and ideas while ensuring national development agendas remain in the driver’s seat? What are our personal obligations (how much of our salaries should we donate and to what causes? How should we craft our careers for maximal impact vs. personal fulfillment?) in a world of inequality and widely divergent access to opportunity?
This is a platform for everyone debating similar challenges.
One of our first substantive blog posts will be from our Chief Economist, Daniel Stein. It shares our failure to get recommendations adopted by an agriculture company despite compelling evidence. We are sharing it because we believe our sector can benefit from more transparent discussion about our shortcomings.
In the next few weeks, you will also read about how our learning partnership with UNICEF informed its scale-up of a sanitation program, a post about improving impact with machine learning, a few of our favorite data visualizations, and a lively, if wonky, debate about whether to include “I don’t know” as a survey option.
Whether you are an academic researcher, a non-profit program manager, policymaker, data visualization nerd, social entrepreneur, or even all or none of the above — we hope there is something for you.
We will be posting guest pieces from our partners in NGOs and governments who are the ones driving change — like the inimitable Rukmini Banerji of Pratham — to share their journeys toward using data and evidence to improve the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters around the world.
It has been encouraging to see organizations and individuals globally pushing for evidence-informed decision-making. We share the belief of partners like Ruth Levine at Hewlett Foundation: there is a moral case for evidence in policymaking. And we recognize that to advance this moral case and create systemic change in global development — to better the lives of people worldwide — we must learn from each other.
This requires transparency and openly examining ourselves through the same rigorous lens as we do our partners and peers. We will aspire to the level of transparency in admitting failures as our partners at GiveWell, while also highlighting successful examples (both from inside and outside of IDinsight) of data and evidence leading to improved lives.
With that, we invite you to join this space and follow the discussion. Your comments, critiques, and reflections make up the dialogue that propels this work forward.