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MIT alumnus gives increased support to Poverty Action Lab

MIT today announced that alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel has committed a substantial gift to support the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in its mission to reduce poverty worldwide by ensuring that policy is based on scientific evidence. The Lab, named in honor of Mr. Jameel's father in 2005, is based in the Department of Economics in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Jameel's new commitment will allow J-PAL to expand its work over the next five years and well into the future with the primary goal of improving the lives of 100 million people worldwide by 2013.

J-PAL takes the concept of randomized trials from medicine and adapts it to evaluate the most effective ways to improve the lives of the poor -- tackling issues from children's health, to women's empowerment and small holder productivity. Working closely with partners all over the world, J-PAL translates research into action, providing evidence to governments, nongovernmental organizations, private companies and international agencies on how to make their programs more effective and promoting the scale up of approaches that are particularly cost effective.

MIT President Susan Hockfield said, "Through the original gift that launched the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel performed a hugely creative act of philanthropy -- supporting groundbreaking anti-poverty research that would produce powerful ripples of positive change in the lives of people across the developing world. By pinpointing ways to make health and education interventions far more effective, J-PAL's findings have already improved daily life for millions. His magnificent new commitment will help ensure that these insights exponentially transform development policy and practice around the world. J-PAL's scientific assessment of how best to relieve the burdens of poverty helps governments and NGOs target their limited funds -- never more important than in this time of scarce resources and growing human need. On behalf of all those whose lives will be improved by J-PAL's insights and recommendations, we are enormously grateful to our alumnus and dear friend, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel."

Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel received his SB in civil engineering from MIT in 1978. He is president of the Abdul Latif Jameel Co. (ALJ), which was founded by his father in 1945. In 1955, the company was granted sole distributorship for Toyota vehicles in Saudi Arabia, which the company has maintained ever since. Today, ALJ is the largest private independent distributor of Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the world, with operations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan and China. The group activities also cover the areas of electronics, real estate development, financial, and marketing services.

Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel is the founder and "Chief Job Creating Officer" of Bab Risq Jameel (Gateway to Prosperity), which creates thousands of jobs annually for young men and women in the Arab world. His efforts also support many programs related to poverty alleviation, economic development and efforts to promote understanding among different cultures and religions.

In 1994, ALJ made a donation to MIT to establish the Abdul Latif Jameel-Toyota endowed scholarship fund to honor the company's founder. To honor the long-standing relationship between Toyota and the late Abdul Latif Jameel, students receiving the scholarship are called Jameel-Toyota scholars. The scholarship provides financial aid to undergraduates from 28 Middle Eastern and Asian countries who could not attend MIT without financial assistance.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 13, 2009 (download PDF).

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