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Designing better project takeaway from session with MEDA, CARE Canada and Plan Canada

Large cohort of youth worldwide need opportunities to thrive

International development workers met in Toronto April 26 to hear what leading agencies are learning from recent program evaluations of their work.

The event highlighted the findings of an impact evaluation of MEDA’s YouthInvest project, managed by Jennifer Denomy and Nicki Post of MEDA, as well as presentations on other successful youth economic empowerment projects by Plan Canada and CARE Canada.

From 2008 to 2014, YouthInvest reached over 63,000 youth in Morocco and Egypt with savings, loans and soft skills training. With the support of The MasterCard Foundation, MEDA worked with banks, microfinance institutions and training institutions to develop youth-friendly products and build capacity of their staff to support youth clients. MEDA presenter Elena Mizrokhi, who worked as our Monitoring and Evaluation Manager in Morocco, noted the number one lesson from the assessment was the proven impact of training on youth keeping bank accounts open and continuing to save.

CARE Program Officer Ally Crofton shared learnings from a participatory video evaluation of their POWER Africa project in Burundi aimed at increasing financial inclusion and expanding opportunities for adolescent girls and women. She noted a key finding was that boys pose the biggest financial threat to girls’ finances, particularly older brothers.

Emrul Hasan, Plan Canada’s Director of Program Effectiveness, discussed the pathway approach Plan uses to build youth economic opportunities across multiple projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. He said finding decent work for youth needs more than a bit of training: It requires a market systems approach, since the private sector offers both scale and sustainability.

Following the presentations, the two dozen participants broke into groups to discuss how to design better projects from these learnings. Among them were the following:

  • Gender dynamics: Projects should ensure boys are not left behind as they can sabotage the project. Involving boys will create more sustainable and inclusive change, and ultimately greater benefit to the community.
  •  Beware of the unintended consequences of programming for girls, since they could be victimized as they acquire assets.
  • Video methodology using an appreciative inquiry approach has its benefits, but you also need evidence from ongoing monitoring efforts. The solution is a mixed method approach that includes both qualitative and participatory aspects.
  • Usually there is no money for long-term evaluations, which must be within the current budget. Agencies need to build those costs into the budget, rather than it being an add-on.
  • Consider determining the market price on outcome achievements as another indicator for impact.
  • Power of market-driven livelihood interventions: Agencies can leverage existing strength in the community by identifying entrepreneurship champions and learning from them to enlarge the pool.
  • Integrate rigorous evaluation into project design.
  • Learn more about and connect with the MaRS Discovery District regarding the Impact Genome Project® (IGP) – “an effort to create the most comprehensive evidence base of ‘what works’ in social change. It creates a complete picture of ‘what we know’ about effective programming that will be universally accessible to funders and practitioners alike.”
MEDA released the first of three learning documents at the event. Two more documents will be published later this month. The complete 150-page technical assessment will be posted when it is finalized.

Large cohort of youth worldwide need opportunities to thrive

There are approximately 1.3 billion young people in the world between the ages of 15 and 24, and one in five live in Africa. This is the largest cohort of youth the world has ever seen. To be a force for positive change, these young people need opportunities that will help them thrive – access to training, education, jobs and financial services. And yet, youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. They also are 33% less likely to have a bank account, and 40% less likely to have saved formally than adults. MEDA is supporting young people around the world with increased access to sustainable economic opportunities.
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