Center for Global Development Updates UN Foundation Report on Women’s Economic Development

In 2013, The UN Foundation and ExxonMobil issued a groundbreaking report, A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment.

Built on rigorous fact checking and a series of commissioned studies, the report classified women’s empowerment interventions into four tiers and then graded them by their ability to deliver measurable results to specific beneficiaries with their own unique contexts.

In November of 2016, a new report written by Mayra Buvinic and Megan O’Donnell for the Center for Global Development has updated the findings with more recent data — Revisiting What Works: Women, Economic Empowerment and Smart Design.

Both reports cover a broad spectrum of women’s economic endeavors, but the depth of the study still provides us with one of the most comprehensive and insightful looks into women’s entrepreneurship available today. A highlight of the approach is the attention to context, with economies being fit into macro-categories – for example, “Declining Fertility Formalizing Economies.” This then classifies the women’s population by their circumstances in simple and effective terms, with the “Declining Fertility Formalizing Economies” having women entrepreneurs who would be classed as “Poor” or “Non-Poor.” From there, it’s a matter of creating a matrix of appropriate interventions and then rating their efficacy by the four grades here:

  • Proven / Being Proven
  • Promising
  • High Potential
  • Unproven

Within our example, we see “Proven or Being Proven” interventions for “Poor” Women Entrepreneurs to be “Microsavings and Bundled Services,” while the highest tier of interventions for their “Non-Poor” peers are “Savings, Credit and Business Training.”

Focusing specifically on the Women’s Entrepreneurship findings, the 2016 report has updated a few of the interventions:

  • Small and very small loans to micro-entrepreneurs
    Description: “Small and very small loans to micro-entrepreneurs who lack typical forms of collateral and/or an established credit history, with weekly or monthly repayments, varied interest rates and individual or group (joint) liability.” 
    Revised rating: “New evidence on micro-credit revises the 2013 Roadmap’s rating from ‘unproven’ for the poor and very poor to ‘promising’ for poor women, with the caveat that the positive economic impact of standalone micro-credit is small and by no means transformative.”

  • Business Management Training 
    Description: “Training on record-keeping, marketing, financial planning and/or other aspects of operating and expanding a business, of varied content, quality of instruction and duration.” 
    Revised rating: “Updated evidence suggests that high-quality business management training of reasonable duration can have positive economic outcomes for poor women entrepreneurs, justifying rating it as ‘promising’ for them.”
  • Networks and Mentors 
    Description: “Access to informal groups and more formally constituted associations as well as one-on-one interactions, including with those with more career expertise, in the same sector or line of work.”
  • Revised rating: “New evidence supports updating the rating ‘associations and networks’ and ‘mentors and role models’ from ‘high potential’ to ‘promising,’ to increase the impact of other interventions aimed at improving the economic outcomes of poor women farmers and entrepreneurs.”

These are just a few highlights from the Revisiting What Works report, so be sure to investigate it in full for further insights into our collective efforts to quantify the Women’s Economic Development landscape.