Belissa and I met at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2003, where we were pursuing our graduate studies in development. We became close while team working together for our Economic Development Policy class. The course focused on analyzing economic policies in developing countries using regression analysis and other quantitative methods. In other words, we learnt how to scientifically evaluate the impact of public policies and development interventions. Furthermore, we learnt how to critically assess the quality and adequacy of research methodologies, as well as the limitations and policy implications of research findings. We became both, producers and consumers of empirical evidence.
Our professors at the LSE were outstanding, but so were our classmates. We spent endless hours discussing our lectures and readings, sharing our diverse backgrounds and previous experiences, and trying to fix the world. We all had a common dream: reducing poverty and improving economic and social development worldwide. We fantasized about working in developing countries, for development banks, or together with the renowned authors of our readings whose research was changing the world.
Fast-forward more than 15 years and we have proudly made most of those dreams come true. I personally have worked with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for years, researched and taught at top academic institutions, and closely worked with stellar scholars, such as Paul Gertler and Ted Miguel. However, the initial dream that brought Belissa and I together remains unmet, and the current global pandemic seems to be only undermining decades of efforts from the development community to end extreme poverty, reduce massive inequalities, and stop climate change.
Belissa and I have considered working and starting something together since our early days at the LSE. We fortunately crossed paths at the IDB and resumed those career goals’ discussions, so when she recently told me about IMPACTO and offered me to be the Director of Research and Evaluation I accepted immediately. However, IMPACTO’s goal is mostly working with private sector companies and impact investors in becoming more sustainable and impactful. Having worked in the non-profit sector for two decades now, did that transition make sense?
My work has focused on understanding what works and doesn’t to improve people’s lives. I have spent half of my career conducting applied research, designing and implementing large impact evaluations of ‘real-world’ development interventions globally, using gold standard methodologies and cutting-edge measurement tools. The second half it’s been dedicated to institutionalize the use of rigorous evaluation and evidence to inform public policies, development interventions, and large impact investments. I am equipped with the knowledge and tools to support the private and impact investing industries to learn about, generate, and rigorously measure positive impact; so yes, it does make sense indeed. I am excited to share my scientific rigor, training skills, and broad development expertise with the private sector to effectively enable them to embrace a different way of doing business, and ultimately help them to positively and sustainably achieve their impact goals.
~ Alex Orsola-Vidal is IMPACTO’s Director of Research and Evaluation