Positive impact begins with client responsiveness. We start by ensuring that our interventions are accessible and appropriate for our clients: people living in poverty, women, and others facing high barriers to financial inclusion. Opportunity uses systems like Social Performance Management (SPM) to measure and improve our outreach to those we seek to serve.
Opportunity establishes theories of change to plan for and measure success. We frequently review each program's theory of change and strengthen them by incorporating lessons learned through measurement and learning activities. We regularly measure program components, including:
- Outreach: Who is being served? (e.g. poverty level, gender breakdown)
- Scale: How many people are we serving?
- Operational Performance: How efficient and sustainable are our operations?
- Client-level Outcomes: How are our clients' lives being transformed?
We employ a range of methodologies to measure and understand client outcomes, since different research approaches lend themselves to different kinds of insights.
- Human-centered research. Facilitated, open-ended interviews allow for a deep understanding of a clients' experience within a program and are especially useful for identifying previously unknown areas of impact.
- Client data capture. Opportunity measures relevant client data to report against project targets. For example, in a study among women microfinance clients in India, 95% of clients said they had used their loan to invest in their business, and 84% saw an increase in their monthly income as a result.
- Comparative impact studies. In partnership with leading research institutions, Opportunity engages in rigorous, multi-year studies to measure the impact of services on target clients. For example, a three-year study of 1,600 households in Ghana comparing clients with non-clients confirmed that when smallholder farmers took out an AgFinance loan, spending on agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer increased by 42%. These investments led to an increase in farm revenues and ultimately perceived progress in household well-being.
Of course, our desire is not only to measure outcomes, but also to gather client feedback and learn lessons to enhance our results. Impact assessment, thus, is only one element of Opportunity's research and learning process.
Opportunity as a Learning Organization
Opportunity International is committed to continuously improving our client-responsiveness, efficiency, sustainability, and effectiveness. In-depth research is critical to this organizational learning. Our Knowledge Management team strategically employs a range of monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning methods to help Opportunity:
Understand clients and markets
Successful programs are based on a thorough knowledge of the people you wish to serve and the environment in which they operate. Examples include:
- Talking with women and girls about ways to strengthen their education and career pathways
- Observing obstacles to growth for small businesses in rural China
Carefully observing and documenting new projects with a learning lens allows for the expansion of exciting new concepts that show promise, while limiting inefficiencies by learning from past mistakes. Examples include:
- Testing digital solutions to help clients save more
- Identifying key success factors to empower women in agriculture
Opportunities for improvement exist in every facet of our work, so we are constantly looking for ways to help our partners implement more time and cost-efficient processes that ultimately benefit our clients, including:
- Facilitating sustainable savings behavior through extensive portfolio analysis
- Strengthening trust between clients and financial service providers
Strengthen program strategy
We develop program-level theories of change to guide program objectives and identify programmatic areas that could be improved through insights from further research, including:
- Collaborating on extensive theories of change for all Opportunity programs (AgFinance, EduFinance, Digital Finance, MicroBanking)
- Analyzing AgFinance value chain and partnership types to inform programmatic strategic direction
Measure client impact
We conduct ongoing evaluation efforts and additional targeted research studies to demonstrate the positive impacts of Opportunity's work on its clients, including:
- A Microfinance Plus impact study that is currently underway
- AgFinance positively impacts smallholder farms in Ghana
Facilitate knowledge exchange
We drive opportunities for learning and engagement between Opportunity partner organizations and within the broader poverty alleviation community by sharing of resources and cross-learning activities, including:
- Regularly contributing to industry conferences and webinars on topics such as women's empowerment in agriculture finance and digital nudges to influence savings behavior.
- Equipping organizational partners with new research methods and insights; connecting them with fellow practitioners throughout the Opportunity network.