The Verghese Kurien Policy Lab (VKPL) is a policy (and intervention) design and analysis research lab at the Institute of Rural Management Anand. The lab specializes in designing and implementing complex development interventions by making use of empirical methods including field and laboratory experiments, natural and quasi-experiments, machine learning, and natural language processing. The empirical and data-driven approach to developmental puzzles has enabled the lab to generate robust evidence on alternative development strategies and identify what works (and why?) and what does not.
The core activity of the lab is to carry out research in empirical development economics. The researchers use experimental and micro-data to derive policy and implementation specific conclusions. The research themes cover issues germane to promotion of livelihoods, women’s empowerment and agency, decentralization and rural governance, financial inclusion and take-up of fintech products, design of M&E, community-driven household welfare interventions, land governance, and agricultural markets.
The core team of the lab consistently works with researchers of international repute from The World Bank, Brown University, IIM Ahmedabad, and Purdue University. Such collaborations have enabled the lab to pursue action research and field experiments in several parts of the country. The common thread in all such engagements include:
(a) The provision of services (for example, credit, technological know-how, etc.),
(b) Capacity-building of vulnerable rural households and communities, and
(c) Identification of mechanisms and pathways through which household behavior can be influenced favourably.
A significant role of the lab is to build research capacities at IRMA, as well as support the R&D activities of regional agencies that include State Rural Livelihood Missions, and Rural Development Departments. The lab has been able to attract research associates and fellows who have graduated from top-ranked economics and public policy departments in India and elsewhere, viz., Delhi School of Economics, JNU, Madras School of Economics, and Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.