Hassan Jameel, vice chairman of Community Jameel, opens the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab 20th anniversary at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 3 November 2023.

Hassan Jameel opens the J-PAL 20th anniversary at MIT

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Remarks delivered by Hassan Jameel, vice chairman of Community Jameel, to open the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) 20th anniversary at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).



Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of Community Jameel, on behalf of my family, many, many congratulations on J-PAL's 20th anniversary celebration. We are truly honored to be here today to join you in reflecting on two decades of impact in the fight against poverty.

First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude. Your dedication to social change and poverty alleviation has made a significant difference in the lives of countless individuals around the world.

For the past 20 years, J-PAL has been part of a movement that has pioneered rigorous evaluations of anti-poverty interventions to identify what works, what doesn't, and why. Through partnerships with governments, NGOs, affiliated professors, many of whom are here with us today, J-PAL has helped shape policies and programmes that have transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of individuals.

For Community Jameel, we are truly honoured to be a part of this journey, to support and partner with J-PAL. The story of this partnership began when, back in the days when it was just PAL without the J.

My father, who studied at MIT and who is sorry he couldn't be with us today, met with a small team of economists who were working to tackle poverty and had created a poverty action lab. He was inspired by the clarity of the vision of Esther and Abhijit and their colleagues: If we could simply conduct experiments to measure the effects of interventions designed to alleviate poverty, we could work out which ones were effective.

My father was convinced immediately that we should support their work. But first, he posed one question. He asked: "How many people's lives could you touch in 10 years?"

Esther and Abhijit came back with an answer that was both ambitious and achievable. They said: "100 million people."

Looking back, this was a staggering number. But as we gather here today, the team has sailed past this target. Today, as you all know, J-PAL has touched the lives of over 600 million people.

My father was inspired by Esther and Abhijit's targets, so Community Jameel, in its prototype form, supported the team. We are truly grateful to them and to MIT for allowing us to name the lab after my late grandfather.

I'd also like to recognise my father's vision in this critical phase of J PAL's development. With a handful of others, including Esther, Abhijit, their collaborators, Susan Hockfield, and Barbara Stowe, my father was able to share a vision of how J-PAL could change the world.

Sometimes when we look back and see the Nobel Prize, seven offices around the world, hundreds of staff, affiliated professors, 600 million lives touched, it can be tempting to think that this was always going to turn out this way. But the courage and the vision of that small group of people, and a lot of hard work by J-PAL's staff, partners and affiliates, are truly the bedrock of these towering achievements.

As the world faces a seemingly unending series of shocks – from the pandemic to the climate emergency to wars and the terrible loss of innocent lives – we need J-PAL more than ever, helping to improve the lives of the very poorest and those who are most vulnerable.

We are excited about the future. We are excited that Community Jameel is still committed to partner with and support J-PAL on new initiatives: from the European Social Inclusion Initiative to a series of embedded policy labs in India, Egypt, and South Africa.

Today, as we reflect on J PAL's past accomplishments and look to the future, let us reaffirm our commitment to combatting poverty and creating a lasting impact.

Together, we can continue to make a difference and shape a world where every individual has the opportunity to thrive.

Thank you again for this opportunity to speak here today, and congratulations once again.

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