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As part of the BIF team I am currently participating in an international seminar on current trends and results in private sector development (PSD), organised by the DECD in Bangkok.

Not only the mix of participants (programme managers, M&E specialists, field based and HQ based donors) representing 30 different countries and more than 200 different projects is exciting in itself, but even more so all the various discussions on how measuring results differs from programme to programme but yet seems to have so much in common.

Today, I was facilitating a breakout session on the Business Innovation Facility and our approach to measuring results in BIF. Whilst the concept of inclusive business is well known to many practitioners, the term itself is less widely used outside the core 'IB community'.

BIF also differs from many other PSD programmes represented (M4P approaches such as Katalyst or trade facilitation programmes such as Trade Mark East Africa) in that we directly work with companies. Challenge fund approaches such as the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) do that, too but BIF yet again differs since we don't offer finance (grants or loans) but advisory support.  

 

So, is BIF results measurement all different to what others do? Not really...some first thoughts on common issues many programmes seem to face:

  • Terminology differs but matters. Even amongst the M&E community common terms such as impact, evaluation, or assessment are used widely different. In BIF the importance of using business language with business, e.g. Results and Key Performance Indicators instead of M&E and impacts is one of the lessons of BIF M&E so far. A lesson shared by others who also work directly with companies such as the AECF.
  • The importance to integrate results measurement into management systems and not have M&E Managers that operate in silos. AECF, for example only have 1 full time M&E Manager but approx. 30 project managers who oversee and implement the whole M&E process for their specific projects.
  • The need to balance donor expectations and their appetite for (often) quick results with realistic estimates and honest results. Participants agree that clear expectation management and the use of early M&E to clarify what kind of results and data can be expected over time is key here.
  • Issues of attribution, the difficulty of quantifying (and measuring) systemic changes, time lag until results can be measured vs. limited programme implementation phases are also challenges shared between many of us.

 

More to follow soon...Follow the latest seminar updates on Twitter http://twitter.com/TheDCED and watch our HUB for more updates. All seminar materials will be made available soon after completion of the event.

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Replies to This Discussion

Very interesting to hear the themes and common issues from discussions in Bangkok.  The question of how to integrate results measurement into existing management is really interesting: not just applicable to donor programmes, but to companies too.   Programmes like ours will get better results reporting from client companies if it fits well with their existing management reporting.  But what if their existing reporting focuses heavily on one side or the other of IB: the commercial or the social?    I think as we work with companies on their own Key Performance Indicators, it will be a good challenge to help develop KPI systems that adequately and easily cover both.

Hi Carolin, I heard more about your session on BIF from a colleague of mine. Wish I could be present and learn a bit more about BIF.

I think, 'Recognizing the importance of using business language with businesses' is brilliant as well as indispensable for working with businesses. One thing I'd like to understand more is about the companies; if they themselves don't qualify as poor (which often is the case), then their business indicators may not fully capture the pro-poor impact of the project. In this case, the business indicators of the company itself probably become proxy indicators of the real intended change in lives of poor people in a different part of the value chain where the company works.

And again, if these companies do have poor owners (or shareholders), then there's probably high possibility (specially when you might want to scale up the IB model) that they would have lacking in their bookkeeping/accounting capacity & thereby would struggle to post some business indicators (like EBIT), which may give you results with less reliability even if they give information in their best knowledge.

And, integrating results measurement into management systems is also imperative from the viewpoint of my current project (Katalyst). Though the ratio 1 M&E manager to 30 project managers do seem just a little bit risky to me. A slightly higher proportion in the M&E sect might be safer.

And of course, my comments are based on very limited knowledge on your project and so, I would be happy to be corrected in case I have made wrong assumptions.

It is great to have these insights available so fresh from your discussions.  I wonder if other project have also experienced such positive feedback from companies as we in BIF have on actually going through the process of thinking about impacts and how to measure them?  I am thinking about the workshops I have been part of where we have enouraged companies to set their own indicators for what will be achieved, and how this helps them to think about their IB model in a new and useful way.

Hi Carolin,

It was great to have you at the DCED Seminar and to learn more about BIF and its approach to results measurement.

Everyone who is interested in the presentations given at the Seminar by other major private sector development (PSD) programmes from around the world can view them at http://www.enterprise-development.org/page/seminar. The presentations focus on candid accounts of the experiences and results achieved by value chain development/ M4P, trade facilitation as well as business environment reform programmes and challenge funds. Many of them also cover programmes' experiences in applying the DCED Standard for Results Measurement.

Thanks to all for comments so far; the Seminar this last week did indeed feature a lot of interesting presentations, and some very lively and informed discussion.

The good news is that there are many professionals who are committed to monitoring progress against development goals, to the greatest extent possible. This does however take some work, especially at the higher levels; it is challenging to build a system that uses the findings of good monitoring in real time, to inform management decisions.

One dilemma therefore for the DCED is whether to focus on getting as many programmes as possible to start on the road to having such a system in place, or to focus on a few programmes that are committed, and that have an appropriate design and resources - helping them to get a complete and effective system in place over time. We might not have the capacity to do both, properly.

Maybe businesses can help us; in general, they are more used to real-time monitoring, and like results chains as a clarifying management tool. But they may not have either the capacity or the appetite to monitor progress against development goals like reducing poverty, particularly at the market-wide level. Our objectives overlap, but are not identical - and the development goals can be the hardest to get at.

I'd welcome opinions on the many starters vs. few in-depth strategy question.

Carolin,

Thank for your interesting insights on results measurement framework work, yes, issues of attribution has been always challenge in private sector development (basically attribution at company vs their outreach level). I totally agree with Tom Harrison, to make this process accurate and pro-poor oriented, the bigger companies/ lead firm should be supported to designing their efficient and accountable RM process from the start. The BIF pipe line project on Biofuel Value chain in Zambia will have a perfect IB business case where small holder feedstock producer groups, Local SMEs (Semi processing) and bigger company (buyer) are involved in the chain, where we can perfectly apply BIFʼs approach to tracking results to track  both commercial and social indicators .

Jim, I would say the DCED universal indicators are the key elements where various programme can custom these minimum global indicators to harmonise their M&E framework and program design .Here DCED could play a supportive role to develop  some minimum common framework (the DCED has already put a lot of efforts on this process) and to help pilot on a few programmes that are committed, and that have allocated resource for.

A series of seminar videos to capture some of the key messages that came out of the seminar, based on interviews with participants and presenters are now available on Business Fights Poverty here.

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