Verghese Kurien Policy Lab


Poverty Action and Research Observatory (PARO)

PARO is the outcome of a partnership between VKPL and Jharkhand State Livelihoods Promotion Society (JSLPS), Rural Development Department, Jharkhand. The observatory is expected to bring together development practitioners and researchers particularly in the context of Rural Poverty Alleviation interventions and projects in the state of Jharkhand. The collaboration is expected to align with a paradigm shift in the approach from doling out benefits (aids, assets, and subsidies) towards a clear focus on participation, capacity-building, localized (bottom-up) planning, empowerment, inclusion, and concern for environment and sustainability. ‘Investments’ and long-term engagement and capacity-building of vulnerable communities, replaced ‘aid’. Instead of monitoring of physical inputs, outputs and expenditures of projects, the new M&E frameworks seek to understand the adherence of project implementation and outcomes with the program’s theory of change and logical and result-based frameworks. PARO will closely examine, monitor, and evaluate the design of multiple treatment arms of development interventions and its implementation. Research conducted at PARO will adhere to highest scientific rigor and therefore, the policy evidence and recommendations will be of international standards. VKPL at IRMA will provide complete technical support and guidance to the observatory.

PARO will act as Research and Development Action Lab that will closely observe and test the broader theories of change of National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), its sub-component and other developmental projects managed by JSLPS. The observatory will suggest alternative development trajectories and generate experimental pilot-level evidence from the field. Such evidence is expected to be instrumental in delivering optimal project benefits through efficient allocation of scarce resources that include international investments, taxpayer’s contributions, and human resources.

PARO will be hosted and nested under the Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) unit of JSLPS. It will have a dedicated technical staff, resources for policy analysis and experimentation, and buy-in for thematic autonomy. The research observatory will function under two sets of team leads. The field team will be permanently hosted at JSLPS, while the academic team will be based at the lab.

Financial Inclusion for Rural Transformation (FIRT) is a novel evidence-building and research undertaking of the Lab in partnership with CIIE.CO and IIM Ahmedabad. In two parallel tracks, this initiative gathers evidence and closely analyses data to understand patterns of change in rural India, particularly those associated with past and ongoing financial inclusion interventions. Our work untangles the precise mechanisms and pathways of impact of policy led and market driven financial inclusion on rural households. We map and measure micro-level outcomes of financial inclusion for households in rural India, and model macro-level impacts of financial inclusion on India’s rural economy.

The research partnership combines two research tracks:

(a) Three decades of understanding rural financial inclusion that explores three unique panel data sets to measure outcomes variables and pathways of impact from participation in financial inclusion initiatives for households in rural India. We track sampled households across three decades from 1982 to 2021. The three-panel dataset includes Rural Economic and Demographic Survey (REDS), Socio and Economic Profile of Rural India (SEPRI), and Financial Inclusion Survey (FIS).

(b) Market interventions and financial inclusion track will undertake a series of innovative field experiments designed to discover behavioral processes underlying discrimination, selection, and purchase of digital financial products among farm households in rural India.