How to get a $32 Return for Every $1 Invested

How to get a $31 Return for Every $1 Invested

Publication info

Posted
2/1/17

According to communities in Ghana, Malawi, and Mali, the Pathways program generated $158 million worth of benefits in their lives.  That’s $31 of benefit for every $1 the project spent working with them.

Not convinced this is a big deal? The average small business in the US gets $1.38 in return for every $1 invested. $31 is HUGE.

The Pathways project partnered with the New Economics Foundation (nef) to figure out not just what impact we were having, but how much it cost. 

What did we accomplish?

  • $31 return for every $1 invested: this is calculated in total benefits to the community—both direct program participants, their families, and their neighbors.  In fact, about 25% of the benefit is in spillover effects to farmers, businesses, and government actors who weren’t a part of the program.
  • $13 increase in food security: People said that of the total benefit they received, $13 worth was an increase in their food security—better diets and more food available to them.
  • 37% of benefits were in women’s empowerment: of the total return on investment, 37% (about $11 worth) was due to the rise in women’s empowerment. 
  • Income improved: Annual income went up for families—from a $217 increase in Mali to a $545 in Ghana.

How did we get there?

  • Build capacity: most participants told us that training and information—things that helped them build new skills—were critically important for not only the benefits they see now, but also for the sustainability of impact.
  • Invest in women: The project focused heavily on women farmers, and getting them the same access to information and opportunities as men have.  This paid off in a big way.
  • Remember productivity: women often said that productivity and income gains gave them the platform they needed to expand their rights and roles.  Once they got more access and more resources, they could move into leadership roles.
  • Think holistically: the evaluators can’t tell you which one component had the biggest impact, because the integrated approach is what made the whole program work.  The project looked at production AND markets AND nutrition AND gender equality AND climate resilience; those pieces together made impact.

How did we learn it?

  • Build on existing M&E: the New Economics Foundation (nef) took data from Pathway’s existing evaluations and combined that with new field data to build a whole picture of impact.
  • Look for comparisons: nef created counterfactual groups—that is, similar groups that had not been in the project—to compare Pathway’s impact to what might have happened with no interventions. In many cases, comparison groups were worse off in 2016 than they had been in 2012.
  • Look at country context: there is variation across the countries—with Mali having a $23 return on investment and Ghana having $45.  Context is important to understanding the full picture.

Want to learn more?

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