Science and the fight against poverty: How far have we come in 20 years and what's next?


As the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) marks 20 years of its work in the fight against poverty, this two-day colloquium will bring together J-PAL co-founders Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, alongside researchers, policymakers, social innovators, funders and the general public at the Collège de France in Paris to explore the role of evidence in shaping development and social policy to alleviate poverty in a variety of contexts. With all of these actors gathered together, the colloquium will serve as a space to celebrate progress, identify and disseminate best practices and take stock of the work still to be done to address global challenges like climate change.

This colloquium serves as the culmination of the first year of J-PAL co-founder and director Esther Duflo’s chair position in ‘Poverty and public policy‘ at the Collège de France, which she has used to explore the progression of the global effort to develop and mainstream evidence-based policy. Ultimately, this event will seek to chart the path forward for policymaking informed by rigorous research on a global level and continue J-PAL’s work of advocating for innovative, cost-effective solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

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The colloquium will take place across two days, with the following agenda:

Thursday 22 June

Panel discussions and presentations will focus on J-PAL’s work in France, Spain, and other research and policy partnerships across Europe.

Opening session

  • Introduction, welcome and address - Esther Duflo (J-PAL, MIT)
  • Opening address - Bruno Le Maire (French minister of economics, finance and industrial and digital sovereignty)
  • Address - Abdourahmane Cissé (minister, secretary-general of the presidency, Republic of Côte-d'Ivoire)

Morning: Building a hub for experimental research and evidence-based policy-making in France

  • Advances in experimental education research in France - Charline Avenel (Academy of Versailles), Axelle Charpentier (French Ministry of Education) and Marc Gurgand (PSE)
  • Talk by Martin Hirsch (former commissioner for youth and for Active Solidarity against Poverty)
  • A conversation on how experiments have informed the work of the public employment agency in France - Bruno Crépon (CREST) and Cyril Nouveau (Pôle Emploi)

Afternoon: Investments in Social Policy in Europe

  • Opening address - José Luis Escrivá (Spanish Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration)
  • Introduction to the European Social Inclusion Initiative (ESII) - George Richards (Community Jameel)
  • Generating rigorous evidence to support social  inclusion in Europe - Sule Alan (EUI), Eliana La Ferrara (Harvard Kennedy School) and Luc Behaghel (Paris School of Economics)
  • Case study: Building a Policy Lab in Spain to evaluate pilot social inclusion measures designed for households receiving  the national minimum income - Samuel Bentolila (CEMFI), Mónica Martínez-Bravo (CEMFI), Milagros Paniagua (Spanish Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration), moderated by Abhijit Banerjee (J-PAL).


  • Closing address - Jutta Urpilainen (TBC) (European commissioner for international partnerships)
  • Address by Chrysoula Zacharopoulou (TBC) (French minister of state for development, Francophonie and international partnerships)

Friday 23 June

The focus will be devoted to global poverty reduction challenges and the role of evidence-driven innovation in development.

  • Opening address - Abhijit Banerjee (J-PAL)

Morning: Placing evidence and innovation at the heart of development policy

  • 20 years of research and evidence use - Rachel Glennerster (University of Chicago; J-PAL’s first executive director) and Santhosh Mathew (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), moderated by Abhijit Banerjee (J-PAL).
  • Fostering the funding of innovation in development cooperation - Michael Kremer (University of Chicago)
  • FID and the modernisation of development partnerships - Hervé Berville (French Secretary of State for the Sea)
  • Introducing USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures Fund (DIV) and the Fund for Innovation in Development (FID) - Sasha Gallant (DIV) and Juliette Seban (FID).
  • Perspectives from project implementers - Naomi Kirungu (African Management Institute), Alison Naftalin (CEO, Lively Minds) and Kwabena Tandoh (deputy director general, Ghana Education Services)
  • Panel discussion: How has development cooperation been transformed by the surge in rigorous evidence? What can we do better? - Dean Karlan (Northwestern University; USAID), Arianna Legovini, (World Bank), Thomas Melonio, (Agence française de développement, AFD) and Charlotte Watts (British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office FCDO), moderated by Esther Duflo (J-PAL)

Afternoon: Addressing global challenges

  • Presentation: Climate challenges and solutions by Robin Burgess (LSE) and Michael Greenstone (University of Chicago).
  • Presentations: Reflecting on the power of long-term research partnerships: Presentations and dialogue by Pascaline Dupas (Stanford) and Carol Nekesa, (Vyxer Research Management, REMIT); Rema Hanna (Harvard Kennedy School) and Elan Satriawan (Gadjah Mada University TNP2K, Indonesia); Miriam Laker (GiveDirectly) and Tavneet Suri (MIT)
  • Closing remarks - Iqbal Dhaliwal (global executive director, J-PAL), Esther Duflo (J-PAL) and Rémy Rioux (chief executive, AFD).
Collège de France, Paris
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Esther Duflo

Co-founder and co-director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)

Abhijit Banerjee

Co-founder and co-director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)

Bruno Le Maire

Minister of economics, finance and industrial and digital sovereignty, France

Rémy Rioux

CEO, Agence française de développement

Hervé Berville

Secretary of state for the sea, France

George Richards

Director, Community Jameel

Luc Behaghel

Chaired professor, Paris School of Economics and Affiliated professor, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)

Charlotte Watts

Chief scientific advisor and director for research and evidence, UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office

Iqbal Dhaliwal

Global executive director and board member, J-PAL; Scientific director, J-PAL South Asia



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