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Grant to MIT's Poverty Action Lab increases focus on working with governments

Support from Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives seeks to improve policymaking in the fight against poverty.
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The Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) has committed a substantial grant to the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT. The new funding will allow J-PAL, which champions the use of randomized controlled trials to help answer critical policy questions in the fight against poverty, to greatly expand the reach and real-world impact of its research by increasing its work with governments to scale up antipoverty policies that work.

J-PAL will use this support to create the Government Partnership Initiative (GPI), which will work with governments to design, evaluate, and scale up programs that aim to reduce poverty. GPI will also provide technical support to help governments scale effective policies and further institutionalize evidence-informed policymaking.

The grant from ALJCI builds upon previous significant contributions to J-PAL made by MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel '78, chairman of ALJCI.

“J-PAL transforms research into action, informing smart policies that have already improved more than 200 million lives worldwide," says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. "Mr. Jameel's abiding commitment to serve the world's poorest people inspires us to accelerate our efforts and extend the reach of J-PAL's transformative insights. We could not be more grateful for the generosity of Mr. Jameel and the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives in supporting this vital work."

J-PAL, based in the Department of Economics in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, was named in honor of Jameel's father, Abdul Latif, in 2005. Researchers affiliated with J-PAL use randomized controlled trials, similar to those used in medicine, to evaluate the most effective ways to improve the lives of the poor — tackling issues from children’s health and education to women’s empowerment and rural development. It has built a global network of 117 affiliated professors and regional offices in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Working closely with its global partners, J-PAL provides evidence to governments, nongovernmental organizations, private companies, and international agencies on what works — and what doesn’t work — in poverty alleviation efforts.

“Mr. Jameel's support has been crucial for J-PAL to establish itself and grow into a serious actor in the world of poverty alleviation," says J-PAL Co-Director Esther Duflo PhD '99, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development in the MIT Department of Economics. "This new grant from ALJCI will allow us to maintain the rigor and academic quality of our research and enable us to greatly increase our collaboration with governments, who have the power to reach and improve the lives of the poor on a massive scale. We are enormously grateful for Mr. Jameel's support and the support from ALJCI.”

“Many governments are eager to innovate and test new approaches to fighting entrenched social problems. Since GPI will quickly deploy funding for research that will help governments answer their most pressing public policy questions, we believe it will kick start partnerships that can serve as models for how researchers and policymakers can work together more effectively to address real-world problems,” notes Iqbal Dhaliwal, J-PAL deputy director, who will serve as GPI co-chair, along with Abhijit Banerjee, J-PAL co-director and the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics.

Jameel is a dedicated supporter of research initiatives at MIT to improve lives around the world. In May, he gave a major grant to establish the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS), also named in honor of his late father, to spearhead research that will help humankind adapt to a rapidly changing planet and combat worldwide water and food-supply scarcity. He has assisted MIT's Development through Dialogue, Design, and Dissemination's (D-Lab) Scale-Ups program, which develops and helps commercialize products that are affordable for the poor. The Abdul Latif Jameel Toyota Endowed Scholarship Fund, established in 1994, has supported dozens of MIT students, most from developing countries. 

Jameel earned his BS in civil engineering from MIT in 1978. He is president and chairman of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group (ALJ), headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and founded by his father in 1945. Today, ALJ is the largest independent distributor of Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the world, with Toyota and Daihatsu distributorships and dealerships in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, the UK, Germany, Monaco, Japan, and China. The group is also involved in consumer durables, real-estate development, job creation, energy, media, venture capital, and financial services.

ALJCI was founded in 2003 as the community services arm of ALJ. It supports and partners with global institutions that employ hundreds of people. ALJCI promotes Middle Eastern arts and culture, works against unemployment, enables research for poverty alleviation, and provides education and training opportunities for people around the world, especially in the Middle East. 

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