Finding the Gaps and Building on the Evidence: MEDA’s Mapping of Evidence Gap Maps

A woman entrepreneur in Tanzania showcases her oil products.
MEDA's map of EGMs reveals minimal research has been conducted in several areas, including the relation between gender equity practices and poverty reduction.

At MEDA, we pursue lasting economic development by creating business solutions to poverty. MEDA has been supporting and working with individual agriculture entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for over 70 years to strengthen their businesses and value chains and create more decent work opportunities, particularly for women and youth. As the organization continues to innovate solutions to poverty, we have committed to creating and sustaining 500,000 decent work opportunities in the Global South by 2030. MEDA does this through a combination of access to capital, technical know-how, and strengthening the markets in which these businesses work.   

However, there are many interventions that could potentially lead to business growth, decent work opportunities, and other important outcomes such as women’s economic empowerment or improved environmental impact. MEDA leveraged secondary research to inform our programming and validate our own assumptions and approaches to find the most impactful way forward. By learning from other industry actors, we can also discover gaps in available data to inform project learnings and to continue to act as a thought leader in the economic development space. This is what led MEDA to create an evidence gap map meta-analysis.  

What are Evidence Gap Maps?

An Evidence Gap Map (EGM) is an intuitive, visual, and interactive tool designed to provide an overview of the existing evidence on a topic or domain. EGMs are helpful tools to understand the evidence base underlying different development interventions and how likely they are to lead to the desired outcomes. It does this by mapping existing research in the intervention/outcome area and when aggregated, it can highlight where evidence or research is more abundant and where it is lacking.  

Several EGMs have been created by different institutions on various topics and sectors, ranging from international development to biotechnology, to help inform evidence in these spaces. Developing an EGM requires significant time, resources, and stakeholder consultation, along with a team of qualified researchers.  

How MEDA uses Evidence Gap Maps

Organizations like MEDA can leverage the information provided through EGMs and develop new studies on topics within the gaps visualized, both contributing to the industry and elevating their research. MEDA can gain insights by analyzing the gaps highlighted in the map of maps concerning key project outcomes and other MEDA interventions beyond decent work, such as market participation, improved food security, gender equality, and environmental sustainability initiatives. These gaps will help inform MEDA’s strategic learning agendas, which focus on key topics such as decent work, gender equity, and impact investing, with an aim to help narrow industry knowledge gaps.  

For MEDA, understanding the evidence base for interventions that contribute to creating decent work opportunities is a top priority so that we can effectively design our interventions for impact. MEDA merged various EGMs using different methodologies, concentrating on economic development research, to inform new studies on how indicators like higher income, yields, and productivity connect to decent work. It is worth noting that because a limited number of maps were consolidated, the map of maps may not fully reflect the gaps and research in the industry. It does, however, offer a useful overview of industry trends, making it a reliable source for general findings.  

Key findings from MEDA’s map of EGMs

By using the consolidated EGM, MEDA aims to address industry knowledge gaps and promote cross-organizational learning. MEDA’s map of EGMs has revealed several areas that our organization is well positioned and keen to address: the data available for youth participation in agriculture, the nexus of gender and environmental programming, and how decent work differs among different value chains and within the market systems in which MEDA operates.  

The consolidated map also revealed that there are many studies on market systems approaches and how environmental impacts connect with the agricultural sector. Through these findings, organizations like MEDA can capitalize on industry research, replicating best practices that improve and innovate methodologies being applied in their programs. 

Conversely, the map shows minimal research conducted in areas such as impact investing, the relation between gender equity practices and poverty reduction, and the relationship between environmental approaches and the creation of decent work. These findings allow experienced organizations like MEDA to share technical expertise from their project learnings and best practices relevant to these knowledge gaps to meaningfully contribute to the sector. 

As MEDA continues to help strengthen resilient and sustainable businesses for all people across the Global South, decent work remains at the forefront of our work to ensure an equal and just world for all. MEDA’s map of maps helps guide our work to improve our programming and to continue to be both innovative and intentional. It can also serve as a tool for other organizations in the international economic development sector to gather and share knowledge that will advance our collective efforts towards addressing poverty. 

Explore MEDA’s consolidated Evidence Gap Maps here:

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  • Sophia Amstutz

    Sophia Amstutz currently serves as the Strategy Implementation Manager at MEDA, where she leads strategic initiatives and drives MEDA's thought leadership presence in the sector. Sophia is equipped with a strong background in strategy implementation, impact assessment, and project management. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Gender & Social Justice and a Minor in Political Science from the University of Waterloo.

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