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The Preschool Promise

Posted By Carlson Giddings, Aspen Institute, Thursday, December 14, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Preschool Holds the Promise to Transform Learning Outcomes for India's Working Poor

As the foundation for learning, preschool has the ability to set children on a path of educational success. In India, 86 percent of working poor (low-income) parents (who make up 70 percent of the urban population) invest in private preschooling for their children, which they believe can help improve their child’s academic prospects. Unfortunately, the current quality of preschooling is extremely poor, leading to poor learning outcomes through high school.  

By shifting parents' expectations toward high-quality preschooling, the quality of education being delivered by affordable private schools could be transformed. We surveyed over 4,000 of these parents to understand their beliefs and behaviors that are driving outcomes todayranging from how they choose schools to how they gauge academic progressin order to identify how change can be achieved.  

Our research uncovers several opportunities to leverage existing beliefs and motivations among low-income parentsparticularly the demand for English and mathematics skillsin order to spread high-quality preschooling in a sustainable manner at scale.

Key Takeaways:

  • Low-income parents care deeply about their child’s education and, despite the availability of free public options, are investing about 6 percent of household income per child on core preschooling-related expenses in private schools. A quarter of parents are also investing in tuition classes to further support their child’s academic progress, spending an additional 2 percent of household income. 
  • Of the parents who had chosen private providers, 78 percent had opted for an "English-medium" provider and were paying a 28 percent premium on core preschool expenses. This reflects their views about which skills are needed for success in grade school and to secure a white-collar office job—an aspiration for many working poor.  
  • Parents have 4 primary criteria when choosing a preschool provider: (1) English-medium (i.e. English is the main language of instruction), (2) Attached (i.e. provides classes beyond preprimary), (3) Close to home (i.e. is within 10 minutes of travel time from home) and (4) quality (using word-of-mouth recommendations and the school’s reputation).  
  • Parents want to know their child is learning, but there is a crucial gap between what parents expect their children to learn and the markers they are using to test learning. Currently, parents are gauging their child's learning by using "wrong" markers (e.g., can my child recite numbers up to 20). By shifting parents' expectations toward looking for "right" markers of learning (e.g., can my child pick out 12 sticks from a stack of 20), schools will need to respond by shifting their practices to the activity-based approaches that support conceptual learning or risk losing those parents’ fees.

To read the report, click here

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State of Measurement in the SGB Sector

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, December 12, 2017

State of Measurement in the SGB Sector

by Brianna Losoya-Evora and Genevieve Edens, ANDE
Measurement practices are rapidly evolving in the small and growing business (SGB) sector, and organizations operating in this space may feel overwhelmed while trying to keep up with trends and best practices.

To better understand measurement practices in the SGB sector and to help organizations benchmark themselves against their peers, ANDE surveyed 30 members about their measurement practices as a follow-up to our 2014 paper.

Key Findings:

  • All investors and half of capacity development providers use IRIS.

  •  Half of our sample collects household data. Capacity Development Providers and Investors were equally likely to report collecting household data, but relatively few Africa-based organizations collect household level data.

  • Capacity development providers tend to focus on business performance outcomes for the SGB while investors more focus on the SGB reach and quality.

  • Nearly all respondents spent less than 5% of annual budget on measurement. Capacity Development Providers tend to spend a greater percentage of their budget.

  • Organizations that collect household-level data spend about the same on measurement as those that do not.

  • Over half of ANDE organizations surveyed said they have no full-time staff person dedicated to measurement.

  • Of the six Africa-based organizations who responded, only one had a full-time staff person dedicated to measurement, and none of the organizations surveyed in Latin America had a full-time staff person dedicated to measurement.

  • Members have gravitated to Salesforce because of its high level of customizability and affordable pricing for non-profit organizations. We did not ask specifically about Salesforce in our sample, but it was mentioned 25 times.

  • Two-thirds of the ANDE organizations surveyed receive grant funding for measurement, and just under half build the cost into their annual operating budgets.



Tags:  2017  ANDE publication  Data Collection  impact evaluation  impact measurement  indicator  metrics and research  Performance Measurement  SDGs 

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Posted By Liza Curcio, Aspen Institute, Monday, December 11, 2017


By LightCastle

There are around 2.7 billion people who live below U$ 2 a day. That’s 2 out of every 5. The total wealth distribution of the world has become extremely skewed. The richest 0.5% control over 35% of the total wealth. US and Europe collectively owns 60%+ of the world’s wealth. The rise of capitalism propelled by the industrial revolutions, world trade, technology, consumerism means that total resources of the world are controlled by those with economic might.

Multilateral agencies, INGOs, donor firms and local NGOs have all done a fantastic job in transitioning many developing countries into emerging economies. However, at the same time, as countries move into the rungs of middle income status, the development initiatives will begin to look for sustainability exits coupled with downward funding pressure as a follow-up of the financial meltdown, Eurozone crisis and shifts in economic policy.

Focus has invariably shifted towards building sustainable models where we work not in isolation, but hand in hand with entrepreneurs, investors and organizations to explore new markets, discover more customers, and, in the process, transform lives of the underserved 2.7 billion. The solution lies in bringing them as an integral part of the market economy, create employment and convert them into consumers; not keep them in fringes of the informal economy.

Working on myriad cases of inclusive business projects over the past five years, we have gathered deep insights to be able to create and test a robust tool that works in the context of Bangladesh. The goal of the publication is to inspire social ventures adequately serve the bottom of the pyramid by leveraging this robust framework, which allows for a detailed list of factors ensuring viability, sustainability and scalability.

Download the report here.

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Posted By Liza Curcio, Aspen Institute, Monday, December 11, 2017
We launched the third in our country-focused inclusive business report series in Bogota, Colombia to an audience of private sector actors, donors, government and UN agency representatives on 30 November 2017.
The new report, which joins previous reports published in Kenya and the Philippines this year, outlines the role that private sector can play in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improving the lives of low income Colombians.
The report finds that with over a quarter of all Colombians living below the poverty line, efforts to tackle poverty and improve living, working and health conditions must be stepped up if Colombia is to achieve its SDG commitments by 2030. In his opening remarks, UNDP Colombia Country Director Pablo Ruiz highlighted the important role that companies can play – especially in their ability to innovate to address issues of poverty and social impact – as key players in achieving the SDGs in Colombia.  

Download the report here.

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At the heart of impact measurement: listening to customers

Posted By Liza Curcio, Aspen Institute, Friday, December 8, 2017

At the heart of impact measurement: listening to customers
By the impact programme 

Understanding customer needs is especially critical for enterprises aiming to create social impact, however most impact measurement practice relies on assumptions (“output” measurement). We tend to count the widgets we produce in the world and assume those widgets do wonderful things. By contrast, direct data collection from end- customers across what are known as “outcomes” — the material positive or negative impact of a product or service — remains rare. Without better information, we limit our ability to maximise the impact we create in the world. 


So why is more-progressive measurement so unusual? Many asset managers and their portfolio companies still see social-impact data collection as a burden something they do to satisfy reporting requirements. But when we reframe the conversation so that it’s about customer centricity and unlocking business and social value, notions of burden begin to recede. 


Overcoming the perception that impact measurement is an obligation rather than an opportunity is one focus of the Impact Programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) which aims to catalyse the market for impact investment in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The programme is undertaking research on the social outcomes of the Impact Fund, one of its investment vehicles, managed by the CDC Group, the the UK’s development finance institution. It is starting with a Ghana-based portfolio company and, together with Acumen’s Lean Data team, we aimed to apply customer centricity to better understand social value. This initial work has continued to strengthen our conviction that for commercially successful, impact- creating companies, investors and enterprises alike overstate the dichotomy between impact and business data. We can learn much about social performance by unpacking consumer and supplier behaviour, and listening for useful feedback. By focusing on uncovering the “why” of what customers do and do not value, this approach improves companies’ ability to glean insights it can turn into action. 


Of course, customer centricity is not a silver bullet for measuring impact, but it holds much promise for understanding social performance while simultaneously collecting data to further business goals. 


The following case study shares practical guidance on how to use customer centricity to meet data collection needs for both business and social performance measurement.


Download the report here. 

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A 10-Point Roadmap For Europe on the Role of the Private Sector in Development

Posted By Liza Curcio, Aspen Institute, Friday, December 8, 2017

A 10-Point Roadmap For Europe on the Role of the Private Sector in Development


How can the private sector
, understood as organisations engaging in profit-seeking activities, contribute to realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development globally? In different ways, the private sector has already led many voluntary initiatives which contribute to sustainable development. However, to realise our collective transition towards a system that offers people worldwide a dignified life and respects our planet, both companies and governments must take further action.

This paper highlights what the European Union (EU) and its Member States should do to create an environment that maximises the potential of the wide range of private sector actors to contribute to the implementation of Agenda 2030. Recommendations cover diverse interconnected policy areas: development, trade and investment, taxation, financial regulation, competition, justice, access to remedy and how decisions are made in Europe.

This may seem like an overambitious shopping list – it is not. It is a ten-point roadmap that needs to be considered seriously and will require concerted action if the EU wants to play its full part by 2030. This paper gives specific recommendations for each of the following ten areas for action, calling on the EU and its Member States to:

  1. Abandon the “one-size ts all” approach to the role of the private sector in development, and focus on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and social economy enterprises in local and regional value chains and trade.

  2. Adopt mechanisms to avoid the corporate capture of decision-making processes, among others: legally binding lobby registers and stronger ethics regulations.

  3. Align the financial system with social and environmental agendas, integrating environmental, social and governance factors in policy and regulatory frameworks on public and private finance.

  4. Ensure the public delivery of essential services and acknowledge that private finance cannot be a substitute for gender-responsive public investment.

  5. Ensure companies pay their fair share of tax where they operate by creating greater transparency and better reporting systems.

  6. Ensure the sustainability chapters of investment treaties are as enforceable as the provisions protecting investors.

  7. Ensure business enterprises operating outside the EU respect human rights and the environment and contribute to sustainable development.

  8. Reform EU competition law and set guidelines to allow for initiatives that increase sustainability collectively per sector without breaching EU competition law.

  9. Ensure the respect of development effectiveness principles in consultation with local communities and civil society organisations; integrate the principles in development finance institutions’ processes and approaches.

  10. Ensure transparency and accountability when public nance is used to leverage private investments in developing countries. 

Download the report here.

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Off-Grid Energy Country Focus: Uganda

Posted By Liza Curcio, Aspen Institute, Thursday, December 7, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 4, 2017

OFF-GRID ENErgy country focus: uganda

By Open Capital Advisors & the Shell Foundation 

In 2017, Shell Foundation and Open Capital Advisors came together to pilot a new approach to accelerate energy access in Uganda.

With support from local DFID and USAID offices, and the Government of Uganda, the result is a dedicated and neutral intermediary that provides balanced data and advice to enterprises, investors and policy-makers; coordinates resources to tackle major market barriers such as awareness, affordability and energy for productive use; and catalyses interventions where necessary.
As part of this work, the Ugandan Accelerator has launched two reports to help identify barriers to growth in off-grid energy access in Uganda, recommend appropriate actions to overcome them, and signal opportunities for investment and innovation. 
Mapping the Market
The Ugandan Off-Grid Energy Market Accelerator has mapped current activities to enhance energy access across the industry by private sector players, donors, development organisations and other stakeholders – and identifies challenges and opportunities to enhance the collective impact from this work. 

Download the report here.

Productive Use

This second report deep dives into productive use technologies and demonstrates the potential value these offer to advance the off-grid space via consolidated effort from the relevant stakeholders. 
Emerging technologies in the irrigation, fishing, dairy, grains, oil seeds and coffee industry are evaluated for their potential to scale, and recommendations made on ways in which public and private actors can support their adoption.

Download the report here.

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Landscape Study of Accelerators and Incubators in India

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 4, 2017

Landscape Study of Accelerators and Incubators in India

by the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) 

This study, conducted by the ANDE India Chapter with the support of Autodesk Sustainability and Foundation, uses GALI’s Global Accelerator Survey to add clarity to the profile of accelerators and incubators in India – their structure, objectives, goals, funding, and the financial and non-financial support that they offer.

 Data Highlights:

Sample Characteristics

  • University accelerators and incubators made up the largest portion of the respondents, at nearly one-third.
  • Two-thirds ran their first acceleration or incubation program after 2013.

Sector Focus and Impact Objectives

  • Over half of the respondents indicated a focus on energy or environment.
  • Three-quarters work specifically with ventures that have a social or environmental impact objective.

Program Structure

  • With a median size of 9 and an 11 percent acceptance rate, cohorts were small, programs were selective, and early-stage ventures were mostly likely to receive support.
  • One-third of respondents provide direct funding, and equity is the most popular investment instrument.

Funding Sources

  • At 43 percent, philanthropic grants were the most common funding source for programs, followed by government support.
  • One-third of the government-supported respondents received funds from the Department of Science and Technology.

Questions or comments? Contact Devyani Singh at

Tags:  2017  Acceleration  accelerators  ANDE publication  India 

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Building a Female-Led Sales Force

Posted By Liza Curcio, Aspen Institute, Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 4, 2017

Building a female-led sales force

By the Envirofit Women's Empowerment Program
The Envirofit Women’s Empowerment Programme (WEP) was founded on the belief that women, as primary users of cookstoves, must be involved in both their design and distribution in order for stoves to be adopted and for women’s needs to be fully met. The WEP was first developed and funded in conjunction with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) in 2012.
Download the report to see five insights that the programme has delivered, and how members of the programme have benefitted with increased confidence and business skills and experience. 


Download the report here.

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Examining the Energy Portfolios of the Rural Poor

Posted By Liza Curcio, Aspen Institute, Monday, December 4, 2017

Examining the Energy portfolios of the rural poor

By the Shell Foundation 

Energy is needed for the day-to-day functioning of rural households (cooking, lighting, and running appliances) as well as for livelihoods (agriculture and small businesses). 

In rural India, where access to energy sources is often poor and availability is unreliable, many households resort to using multiple energy sources to service their energy needs. Energy portfolios (the set of connections between what households need energy for and what fuel sources they use) reflect the complex reality of the rural household’s energy choices. 

We have worked with FSG, a consulting firm supporting leaders in creating large-scale, lasting social change, to produce a fresh analysis to understand how energy-poor customers make fuel choices in rural India. 

The paper will help funders, governments, intermediaries, and enterprises working in the energy space in India shift their perspective to align with that of the rural consumer when designing interventions and polices.

Download the report here.

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