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A twist on social work: Using research and data to create social impact

Updated on: 27 August,2020 12:54 PM IST  |  Mumbai
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Armed with a Master of Science in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, USA, one of the top schools in her field, Shrutika has dedicated her career to using research and data to influence government policy.

A twist on social work: Using research and data to create social impact

Shrutika Sabarwal


How can one influence social policy in a meaningful way from outside the government? Many readers would be dismayed by the myriad poverty issues our country faces and the disconnect they feel from government policies. There are several ways to influence these policies, and Shrutika Sabarwal, an inspiring researcheris championing one such way in which she contributes to this effort.


Armed with a Master of Science in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, USA, one of the top schools in her field, Shrutika has dedicated her career to using research and data to influence government policy. Spanning over several years, she has worked with prestigious organizations such as Population Council, Catalyst Management Services (CMS), and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), with a focus on conducting rigorous research in social policy areas such as gender-based violence, reproductive health, HIV, sanitation, nutrition, education, labour, and the ageing population.She has worked on several research studies with funding awards from national and international organizations that have helped expand research in these fields. Her published research in international journals has also been widely cited in other research work and books.



"My inspiration comes from the work done by these organizations and the people in this sector. For instance, the co-founders of J-PAL won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty," Shrutika said.


Shrutika aspires to influence policy makingthrough scientific evidence, and has played an important role in several projects to advance this mission. For instance, in 2014, the Government of Tamil Nadu partnered with J-PAL to institutionalize the use of evidence in policymaking by evaluating innovative programs, strengthening monitoring systems, and enhancing the government officials' capacity to generate and use data. Shrutika played animportant role in this partnership by working closely with other experts in her field, running large scale research studies, and building capacity of government officials to understand, implement, and use research to inform their policy.

"The State and Central governments collect extensive data on numerous human developmentindicators, but are often only used for high-level reporting. They can harness the power of this data to really understand the needs and mould policies that can benefitthe population.Other important uses of administrative data are assessing the effectiveness of policies and programs, improving service delivery, and managing existing resources," said Shrutika.

"It is encouraging to see the meaningful intersection of research and policy making, and that researchers and data experts can contribute to and influence government policy, even from the outside", Shrutika said. Inspired by the positive outcomes of her work and realizing the need for reforms, Shrutika continues to be a strong advocate of this promising field that has high social impact, contributing to our society in a tangible way.

Shrutika now works at Arnold Ventures in USA, which is a philanthropy with the mission to invest in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice. Here she manages a portfolio of investments to generate rigorous scientific evidence, which the government can use to create and impact policies.

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