The Dutch private sector development organisations PUM and CBI, together with research institutes LEI Wageningen UR and Erasmus School of Economics, launched a new approach today to measuring the impact of support provided to organisation in developing countries. The joint project, called PRIME, will involve five years of data collection from a large number of support organisations operating in developing countries as well as many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is the first time these agencies and research institutes are working together so closely in measuring development impact.
In the new approach, the impact of interventions on turnover, employment, profitability and sustainability will be assessed. Such effects are difficult to quantify, as they are influenced by many factors. More direct effects of interventions will be measured in the new approach, such as the amount of market knowledge acquired by those receiving advice, their internal business organisation and the degree to which they use external networks. If the approach is successful, it will be rolled out among other Dutch organisations engaged in private sector development in developing countries.
The initiative has the full support of the Inspection for Development Cooperation and Policy Support (Inspectie Ontwikkelingssamenwerking en Beleidsondersteuning, IOB) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs´. IOB director Prof. Dr. Ruerd Ruben appreciates the fact that the evaluation tackles the core issue of impact. “It is vital for this programme to provide more insight into the effectiveness of advice offered to SMEs in developing countries”, he says.
Laan van Staalduinen, general director of LEI Wageningen UR, notes that the “real-time monitoring of changes in enterprise behaviour is important. The introduction of this method means corrections can be made more quickly and the overall impact will increase.” Karen Maas, assistant professor at the Erasmus School of Economics and one of the project leaders, adds that the new learning evaluation programme is unique in both form and content. “This 5-year study will not only produce insight into the results achieved, but also into critical factors for success and failure. The outcome of the scientific research will be used directly to improve working practices. PRIME is a great example of valorisation.”
PUM and CBI are also excited about the new approach. “Until now, evaluations were held after the actual interventions had taken place. The outcomes and recommendations were too little, too late –by the time they were presented we had already identified and dealt with many of the issues ourselves”, says Thijs van Praag, CEO of PUM. Dick de Man, deputy director of CBI, agrees: “. We will be able to respond immediately to possible obstacles and new market realities. And what’s more, we will better understand what works best and under which conditions.
PRIME is an acronym for ‘Pioneering Real-time Impact Monitoring and Evaluation in small and medium sized enterprises’. It is a joint project of PUM Netherlands senior experts (PUM), the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI), LEI Wageningen UR (LEI) and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE). Researchers at the LEI and ESE will use the acquired data for scientific research into the (socio-)economic effects of advice offered to organisations in developing countries. The 5-year project has to result in a more efficient approach and an improved evaluation methodology for organisations engaged in private sector development in developing countries.