Designing the most effective bundle of services to help clients achieve economic well-being outcomes

Practitioners designing economic programs for refugee populations face a number of key challenges when thinking about optimal design:

  1. There is some rigorous evidence on program approaches that work in certain contexts, but often not specific evidence on what works for refugees and other particularly vulnerable clients in humanitarian settings
  2. There is information on the types of programs that work—like skills training and business grants—but not enough information on the specific combination or dose of services to get the best results. How much training? Does mentoring help or are trainings and grants enough?
  3. There is information on evidence of what works and how much it costs to deliver employment related services, but not enough information on how to evaluate impact relative to cost. Is the impact of business skills training high enough (relative to other similar interventions) to justify $X worth of costs?

To help answer some of these key and pressing questions, the IRC is collaborating with Georgetown University’s Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation (gui2de) at the McCourt School of Public Policy to conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in Nairobi, Kenya. The research aims to look at the impact and cost-effectiveness of business grants; business skills training; and, coaching and mentoring services for entrepreneurs. Our goal is to better understand the right bundle of services to deliver to clients who are receiving microenterprise support to achieve economic well-being outcomes, such as employment, self-employment, income, and more.

The RCT focuses specifically on the microenterprise track offered at IRC’s Livelihoods Resource Center in Nairobi. The microenterprise track offered by the IRC is comprehensive and aims to address a number of barriers that clients may face.

The track consists of the following services:

  1. Literacy and numeracy training (if needed, administered as prerequisite to enrollment)
  2. Business skills training
  3. Participation in a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA)
  4. A business grant (cash)
  5. Coaching & mentoring

The RCT aims not only to evaluate the impact of a program that provides a combination of business skills training, coaching, and mentoring, but also to understand the contribution of its components and their impacts compared to cash grants of a similar value. In addition to this, it also explores clients’ willingness to pay for services, i.e. the monetary value that clients place on IRC services offered. Between August 2019-2020, the IRC team in Kenya will deliver three versions of the microenterprise track to clients in Nairobi county to understand the impact and cost-effectiveness of each track as compared to the others and to a control group. Georgetown University will conduct a baseline and an endline survey to capture the short-term (1 year) impact of the interventions. 

The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.