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Founding Board members of GIF recognised with Nobel in economics

This week the Nobel’s Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. Here, our CEO, Dr Alix Peterson Zwane, reflects on the deep influence of Michael and Esther on the Global Innovation Fund.

Earlier this week it was an absolute joy to read of this award for a remarkable trio, commended for their scientific approach to reducing poverty’s harmful effects through field experiments in schools and other real-world settings.

Few prize announcements give me such elation when the pioneering research of my great colleagues and friends is celebrated, two of whom have had such a profound influence on the organisation I now lead. Their contribution to the field of development economics is unparalleled and underpins all of the work of the Global Innovation Fund.

At GIF, we speak a lot about the inspiring leadership of the US and UK governments, where public servants worked to envision and then set up a new investment vehicle to find and fund innovations with the potential to transform the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people. There are countless people to whom we are indebted for harnessing the political will to make GIF a reality, but one stands out. In many ways, Michael Kremer and his work inspired the vision for GIF.

Working with colleagues at USAID and DFID, Michael worked to envision the model that is in our founding documents the commitment to rigorous evidence of impact that has formed the basis of his career; and is at the core of the GIF model today. That model, with its evidence-based, tiered-funding stages, builds on Michael’s pioneering work in establishing Development Innovation Ventures (DIV), our sister organisation within USAID. These two funders – investors with the deepest commitment to evidence, grounded in development economics – are testament to Michael’s supreme ability to get things done. The portfolios of GIF and DIV are improving the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people, a feat only possible with Michael’s vision and leadership.

That leadership was apparent in Michael’s role as a founding Board member of GIF, where he shaped the governance and strategic objectives of the organisation, encouraging Board colleagues to fully embrace the principles of open innovation and rigorous evidence on which we were founded. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Michael for all he did in service to GIF during his time on the Board, and also for his mentorship and friendship to me personally.

Esther Duflo’s influence on GIF was no less significant – as a founding Board member, she was at the heart of GIF as we embarked on our mission. Esther brought expertise and energy to the work of the Board; and our Development Policy Committee, ensuring that GIF would build a world-class impact forecasting and monitoring tool (Practical Impact) and that Board members were properly focused on ensuring that we were delivering rigorously-evaluated impact. It is also important for me to acknowledge that Esther has set two records this week: she is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics, and the first female with an economics PhD to win it. You can catch Esther’s Ted Talk here, where she explains the experimental-based approach that is helping us fight poverty.

My warmest congratulations go to Abhijit, Esther, and Michael – your work over the past two decades has revolutionised the field of development economics and is an inspiration to all of us working to address global poverty.