Clean Cooking Alliance Irish Aid

WDI collaborated with the CCA Market Strengthening Program to generate learnings from projects supported by Irish Aid. This work entailed collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data from projects in CCA’s Venture Catalyst Program and User Insights Lab. The Energy team worked with the PMI team to synthesize findings across projects based on key learning questions.

WDI is supporting the learning objectives of the Clean Cooking Alliance Market Strengthening Program by developing innovative methods to measure the effectiveness of market strengthening interventions. We are providing programmatic and data support, informing programmatic adaptations and pivots, and contributing to knowledge products targeting clean cooking enterprises, funders, policymakers and other stakeholders.

Performance Measurement & Improvement

Photo courtesy of the Shell Foundation

WDI’s two-year study on ‘gender smart’ business practices reveals benefits and costs

Gender lens investing isn’t just about gender equality. It’s also about business. In fact, if you ask many investors propelling these models forward, it’s firstly about business. The problem is, until now, it’s been hard to prove. Historically, investors have relied on anecdotes to demonstrate the power of this approach to investing.

In June 2019, with funding support from The International Development Research Centre (IDRC)  and USAID, six investors with more than $700 million in assets under management — the AlphaMundi Foundation, Acumen, AHL Venture Partners, Root Capital, SEAF, and Shell Foundation — launched the Gender-Smart Enterprise Assistance Research Coalition (G-SEARCh). The goal of the consortium was to conduct new research in the gender lens investing community, focused on post-investment support provided to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The research project aligns with the William Davidson Institute (WDI) at the University of Michigan’s mission to provide decision makers with the tools of commercial success, which leads to both economic and social progress. WDI participated in the consortium and studied the effects of a relatively new type of gender lens investing strategy: gender smart technical assistance (TA) activities. “There’s a gap in evidence and know-how that holds back other investors and funders from wanting to implement the different types of gender-smart TA engagements,” said Yaquta Kanchwala Fatehi, Program Manager for the Performance Measurement and Improvement team at WDI.

The G-SEARCh consortium recently published Business and Social Outcomes of Gender-Smart Technical Assistance Activities in Small and Medium Enterprises: Building the Evidence Base for Gender Lens Investing lays out the findings and lessons learned. It shares data compiled and case studies on companies that received TA support, conclusions and calls to action, and specific steps investors can take to build greater equality and bolster business results.

The Business Outcomes Of Gender Lens Investing

There’s more to gender lens investing than simply investing in women-owned or women-led businesses or gender-forward companies. New strategies include promoting gender diversity within the investment firm and implementing a gender lens to the investment cycle. An additional strategy is the design and implementation of gender-smart TA within portfolio companies. WDI’s work focused on the outcomes of embedding equality and inclusiveness across operations. WDI also considered the costs of implementing such TA activities.  (The data limitations preclude strong conclusions — most companies in the study could not provide in-depth cost information due to the burden of data collection and long-term outcomes could not be measured due to research time constraints). However, the data that were gathered suggest that there were benefits. Additionally, 86% of the companies continue to use the TAs even after the close of investor funding suggests the benefits outweigh the costs for the vast majority of companies.

The challenge and advantage of a TA strategy is that it needs to be customized for it to work effectively. An experience must closely match the profile, needs and goals of the organization. WDI studied the impacts of internal strategies, like HR policies and management mentoring programs, external strategies, such as marketing to more women, and a mix of both, such as stakeholder training and sex-dissaggregated data collection and analysis. Each activity led to a different result.

For example, in one WDI case study, a financial services company in Latin America found low utilization of its non-financial products by women. The firm responded by creating a targeted promotional program to share the benefits of a medical and dental assistance product with women clients. It developed social media messaging, completed credit officer training and sent out customized information. As a result, it saw an 8% increase in women using this product.

TA activities also can enhance brand loyalty, improve workplace culture, push for formalized commitments to gender equality, increase sales numbers, and attract new funding. It largely depends on objectives, impact pathways and implementation strategies, Fatehi said. In the 21 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) studied by WDI, 86% of the organizations reported improved brand loyalty from customers and external partners and 38% reported higher sales numbers after utilizing these tools.

Businesses are excited about the investment opportunities that come from participation. “We talk about this program with potential funders and investors,” reported one SME management team. “They are keen to hear that we are promoting gender-transformative learning and development programs, which is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of their confidence in investing in us.”

The Social Outcomes of Gender Lens Investing

While business boosts rank high in the reasoning for pursuing gender lens investing and TA activities, there are compelling social effects that follow these economic benefits. Of the 21 companies in the sample, 71% of SMEs reported increased pride for the company among its stakeholders (customers, producers, distributors and/or employees); 67% of SMEs reported increased skills and knowledge among their stakeholders.

Through TA programming, Nova Coffee, a company in Rwanda that sources its coffee from small-scale local farmers, decided to make significant efforts to train women coffee farmers on mitigating and adapting to climate change effects. With those offerings, over 90% of the 120 women farmers surveyed in the case study gained access to critical agricultural training. There also was a major shift in how they interacted with climate change.

Before the sessions, 49% believed climate change rarely impacted their farming and 77% were taking no steps to change their practices. After the program, 96% of the farmers changed their farming practices around climate change. With another similar coffee company in the region, as it became clearer that women could participate in the local coffee production industry with their improved abilities, child marriage in the area began to drop. The impacts of these efforts rippled through the lives of these women and their children.

“To help women farmers is to help the nation because women are detail-oriented in their business; they take care of their children and community, and more so than the men. When you give the money to women, they will use it on their families and help their families to be resilient,” a Nova Coffee representative shared.

The Future of Gender Equality in Business

This study not only explored the potential power of gender-smart TA practices, it also compiled a list of best practices for TA implementers that would increase the probability of success, including:

  • Empower the company receiving the investment for TA activities to guide the process. “Trust your portfolio company,” said one SME management team. “That’s exactly what our investor did… They heard where we needed the most support and how we believed that support should be delivered.”
  • Leverage internal and external expertise from the start to contextualize the material to local cultural and gender norms. This customization is critical to improving women’s participation and minimizing resistance from male heads of households and male leaders in the community.
  • Integrate insights gained from TA implementation into other business functions and projects. Furthermore, sharing successes with other groups and investors could attract additional funding and increase support.


[Find more of these tips and insights in the full report, along with case studies, a toolkit and other resources.}

Despite the burgeoning  evidence, there’s a lot more room for study into this area. The research pool will benefit from a better understanding of the monetary and human resource costs, as well as the long-term impacts of the practice, said Fatehi. Such research would help to analyze the net benefits of TA and the correlations between business and social outcomes further highlighting possible benefits to the businesses’ profitability. This could then increase the likelihood and scale of adoption of gender-smart TA by other investors, funders and businesses.

“We haven’t answered every single question,” said Fatehi. “We’re just scratching the surface and giving people confidence that there can be social and business outcomes from well-designed gender- smart technical assistance when companies and investors implement and assess this strategy.”

Note: Please watch the recording of the talk below.



Traditional surveys and questionnaires can be imprecise methods for understanding the needs and motivations of low-income and vulnerable populations. In a Feb. 17 virtual discussion, acclaimed author and entrepreneur Daryl Collins will explore how technology can help researchers, nonprofits and businesses engage and serve these communities around the world.

During the talk, Collins will share examples of how her company, Decodis, is using technology to collect and analyze qualitative data in a more scalable and lower-cost manner. Collins will share examples of collecting data using WhatsApp audio responses to understand changes in gender norms and assessing Google Play reviews of digital lending apps in India. In both examples, Collins will share how she and her team used Natural Language Processing (NLP) – a common market tool – to detect key topics and phrases to unpack the meaning of the responses. She’ll also share how she and her team analyzed speech signals (such as pitch, duration of responses and voice modulation) in the audio files to determine whether the respondent was engaged in their responses, when the respondent was unsure, and when the respondent gave them a “canned response” — i.e., telling the researchers what he/she thought the researchers wanted to hear.

The William Davidson Institute and the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions are co-sponsoring the talk, which begins at 5 p.m. is free and open to the public. 

Daryl Collins

Daryl Collins

As a pioneer working at the intersection of finance and human vulnerability, Collins has built a broad portfolio of work with financial service providers, foundations, bilateral donors and governments. Collins’ work is grounded in a deep understanding of the financial lives of individuals. She is the author of the ground-breaking “Portfolios of the Poor” and creator of the Financial Diaries, a research tool used in over 10 countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania. 

People living at or near poverty levels are less likely to speak their minds when responding to surveys and other efforts to collect data. This hesitancy is understandable, but it also creates a real challenge for researchers, enterprises and policymakers to better understand their needs, said Heather Esper, Director of WDI’s Performance Measurement & Improvement group.

“Daryl Collins is truly a pioneer in collecting and analyzing data to better understand the lives of low-income and vulnerable individuals at scale,” Esper said. “The qualitative methods she uses shed more light on what individuals are saying by accounting for how they say it.”

Collins recently established Decodis with a team of linguists and Natural Language Processing data scientists. Decodis seeks to advance scale and robustness in qualitative research techniques by providing tech-led consumer research methods that are insightful, scalable and low cost. The Decodis team is currently working on a range of projects across a breadth of countries, languages and sectors to explore new ways of both collecting and analyzing open-end response data. 

Collins holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from New York University. She spent the last decade as Managing Director and CEO of BFA, a niche financial inclusion consulting practice with offices in Boston, New York, Nairobi, Accra, New Delhi and Medellin. 


Performance Measurement
& Improvement

Study after study has shown that investing in women living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has a strong ripple effect. When women earn more money, either as entrepreneurs or employees, they tend to place more of their economic gains back into their children’s education and health, and also strengthen local economies.

However, there is far less evidence on how gender-focused investing and gender-diverse teams within businesses lead to better financial and social outcomes, and how to go about achieving those goals.

This is the aim of the Gender-Smart Enterprise Assistance Research Coalition (G-SEARCh) which includes six impact investors: AlphaMundi Foundation, Acumen, SEAF, Root Capital, AHL Venture Partners, and Shell Foundation. Impact investors seek social and/or environmental gains in addition to financial returns on their investments. The group came together with a shared goal of supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets to incorporate gender across their respective business models. In addition to providing direct investments, these impact investors are also providing subsidized technical assistance focused on promoting gender equity as a core business principle to these SMEs. The G-SEARCh consortium also seeks to build the evidence base and business case for gender lens investing and this approach.

As the research partner behind the 18-month project, WDI’s Performance Measurement & Improvement (PMI) team is exploring the financial and social performance results of gender-smart technical assistance (TA) provided to these SMEs. These practices can range from internal focused interventions such as recruiting more women employees, refining policies and procedures to skills development, as well as a host of external practices such as conducting market research to better understand women customer needs, and adapting product and/or service offerings to women customers.

“The most exciting part of this research is uncovering the possible links between social and financial performance,” said Yaquta Kanchwala Fatehi, program manager with the PMI team. “We want to better understand if gender inclusivity through technical assistance leads to improved financial performance for these businesses—and subsequently improved returns on investments.”

The project focuses on 29 SMEs across multiple LMICs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These businesses work in a variety of sectors, including microfinance and financial inclusion, food and agriculture, and renewable energy and climate. WDI will investigate the outcomes of gender-smart TA provided to SMEs supported by their investors. To do this, the team is conducting extensive interviews and surveys to gather data with the additional goal of strengthening interventions. WDI also will investigate the effectiveness of different approaches and tools that the G-SEARCh consortium members are deploying to incorporate gender-smart practices across their respective investees. The research will take into account existing data gathered by investors and SMEs to reduce the burden of data collection.

“The long-term goal of this research is twofold: First, to provide SME leaders with the knowledge and tools to become more inclusive, gender-equitable, and profitable,” said Christine Roddy, Executive Director at AlphaMundi Foundation, which is the lead administrator of G-SEARCh. “Second, we hope to provide tested tools, approaches and frameworks to impact investors as they allocate resources to gender-smart interventions across their portfolios.”

This will provide crucial knowledge to help scale gender lens investing in emerging markets to deliver on gender equality.

WDI’s team is working closely with G-SEARCh partners to develop a gender lens investment toolkit along with multiple case studies to illustrate various interventions and analysis. These details will be summarized in a report capturing all the insights and recommendations, including the surveys and frameworks. The report, scheduled to be released in late 2021, will be made public so other investors can apply the knowledge toward their respective investment and business practices.

The research fits within WDI’s mission of helping the key players within any business ecosystem understand and utilize the tools of commercial success. The G-SEARCh consortium is supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Powering Agriculture Investment Alliance, which is funded by USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, GIZ in Germany and Duke Energy.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities, and women and girls in developing countries are the most affected,” said Carolina Robino, Senior Program Specialist at IDRC. “This is timely research that will allow the impact investing industry to learn and share the most effective ways to integrate gender into SMEs. This will provide crucial knowledge to help scale gender lens investing in emerging markets to deliver on gender equality.”

Another intended outcome is to provide best practices and lessons learned to SMEs as they seek to become more inclusive and gender-equitable, as well as to impact investors, who increasingly see the industry as a mechanism for improving gender equality. In its 2020 industry report, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), which includes nearly 300 investors, reported the global impact investing market exceeded $715 billion.

Notice: The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of IDRC or its Board of Governors. This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.

Performance Measurement & Improvement

Why Small and Growing Businesses Should Lead the Researchers—
Not the Other Way Around

This article was originally published on NextBillion, WDI’s affiliated media site. 

All too often, global development research hinges on the interest of researchers, rather than the knowledge needs of small business people and, most importantly, their impacted communities. The actual methods for data collection and analysis are also kept within the research domain, leaving an entrepreneur or small business manager with plenty of reports, but no practical tools for continuing to collect and use data themselves.

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), a global network working to advance emerging market entrepreneurship, recently partnered with the International Development Research Centre to support a set of partnerships explicitly designed to help small and growing businesses (SGBs) improve their own approaches to collecting and using data on gender to increase their impact. These projects were more than an exercise in changing perspectives. Instead, we collectively and purposefully attempted to “flip the script” toward empowering business owners and managers with the agency and tools to harness their data – not for the researcher’s benefit, but for their own business and community development.

As part of this process, we considered several questions relevant to SGBs that are collaborating with researchers to generate data on their work and impact. We’ll explore these questions below.

What should an SGB consider before leading an engagement with a researcher?

Before engaging with a researcher, SGBs should have a strong sense of their main goal and audience for the research. For instance, is it to inform decision-making, or to understand and share their impact? Is it to better frame their storytelling—both to inform existing stakeholders and possibly to attract new investors and/or consumers?

Often SGBs have multiple goals for data collection. While that is understandable, multiple goals can compete with one another and result in outcomes that do not fully meet any particular goal or resonate with any particular audience. A clearly articulated principal goal for data collection will help an SGB select a research partner, and set clear expectations with that partner for the type of guidance that will be most helpful in accomplishing their shared goal(s).

How relevant is a researcher’s advice to SGBs?

When an SGB leads a collaboration, researchers need to be prepared to adapt their recommendations based on the SGB’s needs and realities. While researchers may be used to applying rigorous methods in a particular way, when they place an SGB’s needs at the forefront, that approach may need adjustment. In such situations, it is helpful for the researcher to work closely with the SGB to adapt data collection to the SGB’s reality – while maintaining as much rigor as possible. While providing such guidance, researchers should explain if the adaptations will create any limitations on how the data can be used or what can be concluded from it.

For researchers’ advice to be relevant, it is also important for them to be proactive in asking questions related to the context, and to clarify any assumptions. After all, SGBs are not in the business of research, and therefore may not recognize the value of information that’s relevant to a researcher. Although SGBs are incredibly busy, it is important that their managers conduct regular meetings to provide updates and changes to the research plans. For their part, researchers should also proactively assess if and how conditions related to the research may have changed since the last conversation.

Researchers must also bring themselves closer to the areas where the SGBs work, whether that is through travel or through virtual means. Frequently, research methods are developed using desk-based work, literature and methodology review, or strategic planning sessions. But the simple act of attempting to implement these methods in the field often shatters pre-conceived notions about how realistic such methods are in the first place. Indeed, testing tools and methods before collecting data is important, as it allows researchers to adapt them to the context in order to collect useful data. For instance, in one project we supported, the team discovered a disconnect between theoretical ideas about how easily research tools could be applied, and the actual reality and context of the SGB. Recognizing this early on helped the research partners design more flexibility and validate those tools in the field.

What are some of the challenges of researcher and SGB collaborations?

Without a well-established partnership, developing a new researcher and SGB engagement will likely take more time and resources than either party expects. Both parties should anticipate spending additional time on project administration throughout the engagement.

It’s easy for things to get “lost in translation” across different national and organizational cultures. This issue is compounded when conversations involve technical language associated with research, and exacerbated when partnerships are new and communication is reliant upon e-mail, WhatsApp and other text messaging platforms. Confusion over of roles and responsibilities will almost certainly arise, much of which will not be fully anticipated. Sometimes prioritizing live voice or video calls, even when schedules are busy, can preempt or clear up misunderstandings before they solidify into conflicts.

Furthermore, when the partnership requires data collection from the local community, external researchers are unlikely to have the existing relationships and social capital of an SGB. It is important for the SGB to work with the researchers to ensure that data is collected in a way that is comfortable and respectful for community members and their cultural norms, to avoid losing trust with the community.

Are SGB-led research collaborations worth this extra effort?

Yes! These engagements can take more resources (including time), and some individuals within the SGB may not initially buy into the research process. But once the engagement concludes, most stakeholders see the value of the data gathered and are interested in continuing or even building upon the data collection processes. Indeed, in one of our projects, an SGB owner realized that the additional resources required to collect impact data from women in the coffee value chain (such as women who harvest, thresh, roast or work as baristas) yielded the added benefit of improving their understanding of these women and the challenges they face. As a result, the company (Gente del Futuro, based in Colombia) is seeking to develop new training efforts to improve the value chain. Researchers can also gain value from SGB partnerships, through field validation of their methods and being exposed to real-world implementation challenges.

How can SGBs maintain the momentum after the end of an engagement?

For busy SGBs, it can be frustrating to have piecemeal engagement with researchers on fragmented projects. To create continuity of implementation, such that researchers can further build their data collection efforts and help guide SGBs as they make decisions based on the data gathered, it is worth considering a long-term relationship with a particular research organization or individual. In order to build on the success of an engagement, researchers and SGBs can partner on the dissemination of toolkits, learnings or other project outputs through webinars or other events.

Moving research tools out of the strictly academic domain and into the hands of SGBs and other practitioners requires a spirit of patience and collaboration. But when everyone commits to the undertaking, we know the effort will lead to long-term and impactful improvement. But even more importantly, flipping the narrative and putting the power to drive research in the hands of SGBs and on-the-ground actors can enable these businesses to better meet the needs of the communities they serve.

Heather Esper

Heather Esper is the Director of the Performance Measurement and Improvement team at the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan. 

Additional contributors to this article include: Vava Angwenyi,  co-Founder and Director of Gente Del Futuro; Monica Cuba, Head of Communication at Practical Action; Matthew Guttentag, Research and Impact Director at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs; and Mallory St. Claire, Impact Analyst at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of Gente del Futuro.

A worker with Chakipi Acceso Peru. Image courtesy of Chakipi.

A worker with Chakipi Acceso Peru. Image courtesy of Chakipi.


WDI has teamed up with MIT D-Lab on a new case study

By Rebecca Baylor

For over 10 years, the Performance Measurement and Improvement (PMI) team at the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan has been using robust monitoring and evaluation approaches to measure results and generate value for businesses and their stakeholders.

Whether we are working with the largest network of micro-distributors in Latin America or a multi-national business in the apparel industry, our goal is to meaningfully engage our partners in the measurement and learning process. We want to make data collection valuable for participants and data findings actionable for decision-makers at all levels of a business, organization or program. 

We believe such work should be shared and include practical strategies for applying research to improve performance and generate social impact. That’s why we’ve teamed up with MIT D-Lab to write a Lean Research case study,Positive Change Through Actionable Metrics.” Lean Research is an approach to improve the practice of data collection involving people and communities in development  and humanitarian contexts. (For more information on foundations of the Lean Research approach, check out this three-part blog series on

 As defined by MIT D-Lab, Lean Research is driven by four principles of good research practice:

  • Rigor – Follow good research practices for your discipline or field of practice.
  • Respect – Maximize the value of the experience and outputs for research subjects and stakeholders, including creating an opportunity for them to enjoy the experience, reject participation in the study and review and refute findings.
  • Relevance – Address priority issues for stakeholders, including research subjects, and produce results that are understandable, accessible and actionable.
  • Right-sizing – Use only the protocols, “human subjects” and resources necessary to collect data that informs decisions.

Our team’s case study covers how we followed the Lean Research approach and applied each of the four principles to our work with three separate social enterprises. Each of these businesses wanted to strengthen their ability to collect accurate data and lead their own evaluation efforts. As a result of the work, leadership from the three enterprises gained a clearer understanding of how to measure changes in the well-being of the low-income women they work with. They also learned the importance of using both business and social indicators to improve operations.

Thanks to this process, we were able to review the way we collect data, and create a data collection manual and survey templates for each business model [we have],” said a pilot participant from Chakipi Acceso Peru, one of the businesses in our research.

So far, MIT D-Lab has produced three such cases, which you can find here. Each case describes an example of  Lean Research and discusses its results and implications for development work globally. A revised version of the Lean Research Field Guide is expected to be released soon (WDI was a contributor to that work as well!) 

We plan to create more cases and practical examples of how the Lean Research framework can be applied. We’re also proud to be able to contribute to what is a robust and growing community of evaluations practitioners. Indeed, we’re always looking to work with businesses that are putting Lean Research at the forefront of their measurement goals.

Want to learn more about the work mentioned in the WDI Lean Research case study? Check out the project description on our website or read the full WDI Impact Report: Positive Change Through Actionable Metrics.


Rebecca Baylor

Rebecca Baylor
is an Evaluation Consultant with the WDI Performance Measurement and Improvement team.




“These relationships flow both ways: faculty turn to us for help in their work and we will incorporate them in specific projects we are working on. Our work increasingly integrates our expertise between sectors within WDI as well as with the expertise across the university.”


—Paul Clyde, President of WDI

WDI teams of staff and/or students worked on nearly 50 projects in more than 30 countries in 2019. Our work focused on our core consulting sectors – education, energy, finance and healthcare, as well as our management education programs, entrepreneurship development, measurement and evaluation services and the deployment of University of Michigan graduate students around the world. In the course of the year, WDI worked with faculty and researchers at the U-M Ross School of Business, the Zell Lurie Institute, Law School, the School of Public Health, the College of Engineering, the School of Nursing, the College of Literature, Science and Arts, School of Education, College of Pharmacy, Medical School, Kellogg Eye Center, School of Information, and the School of Environment and Sustainability.

“Our work capitalizes on the expertise of our staff as well as the expertise across campus,” said WDI President Paul Clyde. “Over the past 12 months we have worked with 30 faculty and many students from Ross but also students and/or faculty from a number of other schools within U-M. These relationships flow both ways: faculty turn to us for help in their work and we will incorporate them in specific projects we are working on. Our work increasingly integrates our expertise between sectors within WDI as well as with the expertise across the university.”

Here is a closer look at some highlights from 2019:


The Education consulting sector and its Entrepreneurship Development Center (EDC) continued its work on the LIFE Project, which supports refugees in Turkey as they become entrepreneurs in the food sector. In July, WDI staff members Amy Gillett and Kristin Kelterborn and faculty affiliate Eric Fretz visited the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Mersin. Watch a narrated slideshow below of their trip that details the work they did while there and the program graduates they met. Gillett and Kelterborn also wrote an article for WDI’s affiliated NextBillion website on how to accelerate the success of refugee entrepreneurs. 

Building off the success of its M2GATE Program (for more on the program, watch a video below here), WDI’s Education sector is facilitating a new virtual exchange course at the U-M Ross School of Business. Read about Business & Culture: A Virtual Practicum here. And read a WDI Impact Report on virtual exchange written in March. 

The Education team also delivered another successful leadership workshop for NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe. Watch an entertaining and informative video on the latest workshop here. The next NGO workshop will take place in May 2020 in Warsaw, Poland. 


WDI’s Energy consulting sector, established formally in 2018, explored the hot topic of renewable mini-grids to increase energy access. Specifically, the energy team is beginning to work with local partners in the Bagladeshi village of Bagdumur to determine the viability of a mini-grid there. In early 2019, WDI also deployed graduate students from the U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability to study how energy enterprises in India and Uganda perform and how best to document it. 


WDI’s Healthcare consulting sector team members Michael Krautmann and Ben Davis traveled to Tanzania for a U.S. Agency for International Development project to help strengthen that country’s health supply chain systems. Krautmann also sat down for a Q&A about his supply chain work at WDI, and Healthcare sector faculty affiliate Ari Schwayder answered five questions about his favorite health projects to work on. 

WDI’s Healthcare team also conducted a project with the Linked Foundation to inform social enterprise, med-tech, digital health, and private sector investment in Latin America. The Foundation seeks to identify market-based, impact investment opportunities specific to women’s health in Latin America, based on an integrated assessment of the major unmet needs in combination with identification of high-impact solutions and opportunities to foster the enterprise ecosystem and sustainable women’s health solutions. WDI developed an analytic methodology, conducted a landscaping study for Colombia and Peru, and will be publishing the report in January 2020. WDI and the Linked Foundation also had the opportunity to present project findings at four conference settings in the U.S. and Latin America in fall 2019. Linked anticipates this work will inform their investment strategy and catalyze additional resources to the most-needed areas in women’s health in Latin America.

WDI President Paul Clyde wrote an article exploring the profit potential for health care companies in low- and middle-income countries. 

WDI Vice President  for Healthcare Pascale Leroueil continued her work helping global health organizations such as Global Fund, Gavi and WHO to increase the impact of their investments.

At the beginning of 2019, WDI Vice President of Administration Claire Hogikyan traveled to Ethiopia as the first phase of work to help that country find a sustainable solution to its medical waste problem. Her trip led to the deployment of a team of Ross School graduate students a couple of months later. They developed a proposal that was presented to government officials by an organization that plans to begin operations in early 2020 of a medical waste incinerator outside Addis Ababa. 


WDI’s Finance consulting sector partnered with the Ross School of Business and Professor Gautam Kaul on a first-of-its-kind curriculum-based, student-run international investment fund.  

The Finance sector team also partnered with Awash Bank in Ethiopia to study a remittance program to increase peoples’ access to capital. How the program would work is explained in this infographic and in this concept note

Performance Measurement & Improvement

In 2019, the Performance Measurement & Improvement (PMI) team continued work on several ongoing projects, including whether developmental evaluation works in a USAID context and using impact data to develop strategies to increase engagement of women in Colombia’s coffee sector. PMI Senior Research Associate Rebecca Baylor also shared her views in an article exploring whether developmental evaluation is an appropriate assessment strategy

PMI also collaborated with other WDI consulting sectors such as Education, Energy and Healthcare to provide assessment services on their projects, including evaluating the impact of the Business and Culture course. Working alongside the PMI team on that project is WDI Faculty Affiliate Andy Grogan-Kaylor. Read a Q&A about his work and why he enjoys collaborating with the PMI team

The PMI team also attended several conference proceedings in the impact measurement field and often spoke on panels and roundtables about their work. They led several discussions at the November 2019 American Evaluation Association annual conference. After attending and moderating a discussion at a global metrics conference, Baylor wrote about what is being done to incorporate gender equality into the impact measurement space.

Student Opportunities

The past year featured several opportunities for University of Michigan students to participate in WDI-sponsored projects. In all, 76 U-M students traveled abroad for WDI work. 

Occasionally, students may participate in multiple WDI-sponsored projects. To reward these hard-working, committed students, WDI established the Davidson Field Scholar program. There are currently nine students who have earned this honor

WDI sponsored 11 Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) teams in 2019, and deployed five teams to five countries to study ways to improve healthcare delivery there. One MAP team member who worked in Rwanda recorded her thoughts about the project for a narrated slideshow. (See below).

And we also caught up with a couple of former students – one in South Korea and the other in India – who participated in WDI student projects to see how working on these projects impacted their career paths. 

“While I knew it would serve as a useful resource, I did not realize just how helpful the Institute would be until I got to Ross and started interacting with the staff and professors associated with WDI,” Puneet Goenka, WDI alumnus said.

And as part of the WDI Global Impact Speaker Series, the Institute hosted four guest speakers – Sally Stephens of Medicines360; Tami Kesselman of Aligned Investing Global; Ujjwal Kumar of Honeywell and Efosa Ojomo of the Clayton Christensen Institute. Watch an interview with Stephens here; an interview with Kesselman here; and watch Ojomo’s talk here.




Government health ministries in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have historically struggled to adequately fund healthcare services for their citizens. But as these countries transition away from donor funding over the next two decades, many will need to find new domestic revenue streams to finance these services. A new WDI white paper explores the impact of raising additional government revenue through increased tax rates on “bads,” such as tobacco, alcohol and sugary drinks.  

The paper, “Revenue Estimates from Taxing ‘Bads’ in 16 Low- and Middle-Income Countries,” estimates the additional revenue generated in 2016 had higher excise tax rates been imposed on tobacco, alcohol and sugary drinks and then compares this revenue to select national economic indicators. The analysis included 16 low- and middle-income countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Moldova, Myanmar, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Togo. 

Ben Davis

Ben Davis

“The key finding is that increased excise tax rates that result in only a modest increase in retail price can still generate an important amount of additional revenue relative to current health expenditure,” said Ben Davis, a research manager with WDI’s Healthcare sector.  Davis wrote the paper with Pascale Leroueil, vice president of WDI’s Healthcare sector, and William Savedoff, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. 

The simulations showed that in 14 of the 16 countries, a tax increasing retail price by 17% could generate additional revenue that is more than 50% of the amount these governments currently spend from their own budgets on healthcare.  For 7 of the 16 countries, additional revenue is more than 100% of that amount. 

Davis emphasized that the study has limitations. For example, estimates do not account for income and cross-substitution effects (or when consumers switch to cheaper alternatives when a product’s price rises), and they are not adjusted based on historical experience in raising tax revenues.  

While the results of the current study are broadly aligned with those recently produced by the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health, there is a slight difference in methodology. The method used by Davis and his fellow authors allowed them to incorporate several different data sources and calculation methods in the final revenue estimates.  Input data were obtained from public databases, journal articles, and LMIC government websites and then used in either a “bottom up” or a “top down” calculation. The “Bottom up” calculation begins with data showing how often individuals consume tobacco, alcohol and sugary drinks while the “top down” calculation begins with the amount of money actually collected by LMIC governments that taxed these products.  

Davis said these estimates could act as a starting point for a discussion between global donor organizations and country governments. “A government stakeholder might say, ‘These results are interesting.  An increased excise tax on these products might be worth considering. Let’s do a deeper analysis to make sure these numbers reflect reality when we take into account all of the factors that couldn’t be captured in the initial study.’” 

“This paper is a small part of a larger conversation about domestic revenue mobilization and healthcare financing in low- and middle-income countries,” Davis said. “It is a building block.”


With funding support from the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) at the Aspen Institute and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), WDI is working with Gente del Futuro (GDF)– a for-profit partnership between three private players within the coffee sector. Together, GDF and WDI are working to collect empowerment data from women working with GDF in Colombia. GDF believes that making coffee more profitable and empowering young people, particularly women, through practical and technical training can promote a more inclusive approach to develop better functioning coffee chains.

To help accomplish this objective, WDI is supporting GDF to pretest and pilot a short quantitative survey that examines how empowerment differs based on women’s role in the coffee value chain. The data will be used to use to inform GDFs operations, in particular how they can better engage and empower women. The survey will be administered to a sub-sample of the 300-500 women that GDF has worked with over the years in Colombia and will assess decision-making and empowerment at home and work.

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