Research Reports

The challenges inherent in supporting the self-help efforts of the chronically hungry poor require innovation to achieve greater scale, impact and sustainability.

Freedom from Hunger has always been committed to innovation backed up by rigorous research. Our research staff and collaborators put our innovations, and those of other organizations, to the test, employing a wide range of methodologies to ensure that they are supported by evidence from the field.

We are pleased to provide our research reports to all who are interested in evidence-based innovation. Generally, these reports have also been published in part in technical journals and other publications, but seldom are the complete research reports accepted for publication. Therefore, we make our full research reports, as well as summaries, freely downloadable in PDF format.

These reports provide the full details of the research projects—social and institutional context, objectives, design and implementation of the innovation being tested, research design, methods, analysis, results, discussion in light of relevant literature and conclusions. The reports are listed below in chronological order, starting with the most recent reports.

Most Freedom from Hunger reports have been translated into French and/or Spanish for the benefit of the in-country institutions with which we have partnered to develop and test these innovations. In the absence of full translations, summaries in French and/or Spanish are usually available.

We sincerely hope you will find these research reports useful for broadening your understanding of value-added microfinance and related innovations.

Saving for Change Impact Stories Research Report: Burkina Faso

Johnson, Amanda; Chelsey Butchereit; and Megan Gash. Freedom from Hunger Research Paper Number 18. 18pp. (February 2014). Davis, CA: Freedom from Hunger.

Intro

Saving for Change is a highly replicable savings-led microfinance program developed by Freedom from Hunger, Oxfam America and Strømme Foundation. The Saving for Change program with SEMUS in Burkina Faso began in 2012. It enables the very poor to form self-managed Savings Groups and participate in simple, relevant, high-impact education in health, business and money management. The program brings basic financial services to areas that are typically beyond the reach of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and, in doing so, creates sustainable, cohesive groups that tackle social issues facing their members and their communities.
This study of Savings Group members was conducted with one of Freedom from Hunger’s local NGO partners, SEMUS, which works in the northern region of Burkina Faso in rural areas of the province Passoré. This region is the poorest in Burkina Faso, with approximately 68 percent of households living below the poverty line.2 More than 80 percent of the workforce relies on agriculture for income in an area with inconsistent rainfall and poor soil, which often leads to poor crop yields.

Longitudinal Study of the Impact of the Integration of Microfinance and Health Services on Bandhan Clients in India

Johnson, Amanda, Chelsey Butchereit, Martha Keyes, David Vance, Kira Anderson, Bobbi Gray, Marcia Metcalfe, Megan Gash, Benjamin Crookston. Freedom from Hunger Research Paper. 20pp. (January 2014)

Intro

This report synthesizes the findings from this longitudinal assessment of impact of the Microfinance and Health Protection Initiative with Indian MFIct with Bandhan from 2008 through 2013. Bandhan’s Health Program developed and piloted from 2006 and 2009 with Freedom from Hunger, provides access to behavior change health education, services from local community health volunteers who also provide affordable, quality medicines and health products, referrals to local health care services, and health loans.  The results from client surveys conducted at three times (pre-test-2007),  post-test 1 (2008) and post-test 2 (2013) demonstrate that among clients participating in the program, significant improvements were detected and sustained regarding important key indicators of knowledge and health related to maternal and child health.

Costs of Health Education and Health Product Distribution: Bandhan’s Experience in India

Marcia Metcalfe, Sheila Chanani and Myka Reinsch with Soumitra Dutta. Freedom from Hunger Research Paper No. 10A. 9pp. (June 2010)

Intro

This paper presents an analysis of the financial costs and revenues associated with Bandhan’s provision of health services – including health education, health product distribution and informal linkages to healthcare providers – in West Bengal, India. We describe the components of the MFI’s health protection package developed and tested in partnership with Freedom from Hunger as part of the Microfinance and Health Protection (MAHP) initiative and then present an estimated income statement for the services, including both direct and allocated costs. The purpose of this analysis is to provide microfinance practitioners with practical information about the approximate cost of offering nonfinancial health services in conjunction with a microfinance program and to inspire further research and discussion about quantifying the potential financial and nonfinancial costs and benefits of such services.

The Impact of Health Insurance Education on Enrollment of Microfinance Institution Clients in the Ghana National Health Insurance Scheme, Northern Region of Ghana

Schultz, Elizabeth; Metcalfe, Marcia; Gray, Bobbi. Published as an ILO Microinsurance Innovation Facility Research Paper (Research Paper No. 33)

Abstract

Designed as a randomized control trial, the study looked at two methods of providing health education to clients of microfinance institutions (MFIs) as well as a “reminder” session provided one year later. While health insurance education appeared to increase knowledge of health insurance among those who received it, the research indicated no significant differences in health insurance enrollment rates between the treatment groups and control group, by type of education or for those who got reminder sessions. The education may not have had a large impact because baseline enrollment and knowledge of insurance was already high, suggesting that knowledge was not a barrier to enrollment. Rather, it appears that convenience of registration and clients following through on stated intent to enroll, and the timing of making the premium payments are more common challenges for enrollment. In environments where knowledge and enrollment are low, educational programs may have more impact.

Enrollment increased for the studied groups at a higher rate than the general population. It is possible that the repeated surveys, along with the treatment activities, might have served as “touch points” that prompted clients to take action to register or enroll in insurance.

Final Impact Evaluation of the Saving for Change Program in Mali, 2009-2012

Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona and Innovations for Poverty Action. Final Impact Evaluation of the Saving for Change Program in Mali, 2009-2012. May 2013.

Intro

This research conducted in Mali by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA) at the University of Arizona examines the impacts of Saving for Change, a Savings Group program developed by Freedom from Hunger, Oxfam America and the Strómme Foundation. IPA conducted a randomized control trial (RCT) with 500 villages (6000 households) as well as high frequency surveys with a subset of 600 households over a three-year period between 2009-2012. BARA conducted an ethnographic case study with a purposive sample of 19 villages including those in the RCT area with a baseline in 2009 and an endline in 2012.

BARA and IPA concluded that Saving for Change is an effective program providing real socioeconomic benefits to its intended populations. The study found that 40% of women in treatment villages and 12% of women in control villages joined Saving for Change. While those who joined Saving for Change were on average slightly older, more socially connected and wealthier than non-members, the program reached remote and poor villages where the majority of the households were living on $1 per day. The study also concluded that Saving for Change led to small, but positive and statistically significant economic effects when compared to control villages including increases in savings, loans and household livestock holdings, as well as improvements in food security and malaria knowledge, but not behavior. There was no measurable impact of Saving for Change on how households deal with health expenses, and small or no significant impacts on school enrollment, business development or expansion, agricultural inputs, or household and agricultural assets. The ethnographic research found an increase in social capital in terms of village-level solidarity and contact with other women, but the RCT did not see increases in social capital or female empowerment. Structured replication, in which replicators participate in a three-day NGO-sponsored training, are given a pictorial manual, and receive a certificate upon completion, led to higher take up of the program and larger impacts for outcomes such as savings, food security, livestock holdings and poverty.

Saving for Change: Financial inclusion and resilience for the world’s poorest people

Saving for Change: Financial inclusion and resilience for the world’s poorest people. Report Summary. Freedom from Hunger and Oxfam America. Updated May 2013.

Intro

This research conducted in Mali by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA) at the University of Arizona examines the impacts of Saving for Change, a Savings Group program developed by Freedom from Hunger, Oxfam America and the Strómme Foundation. IPA conducted a randomized control trial (RCT) with 500 villages (6000 households) as well as high frequency surveys with a subset of 600 households over a three-year period between 2009-2012. BARA conducted an ethnographic case study with a purposive sample of 19 villages including those in the RCT area with a baseline in 2009 and an endline in 2012.

BARA and IPA concluded that Saving for Change is an effective program providing real socioeconomic benefits to its intended populations. The study found that 40% of women in treatment villages and 12% of women in control villages joined Saving for Change. While those who joined Saving for Change were on average slightly older, more socially connected and wealthier than non-members, the program reached remote and poor villages where the majority of the households were living on $1 per day. The study also concluded that Saving for Change led to small, but positive and statistically significant economic effects when compared to control villages including increases in savings, loans and household livestock holdings, as well as improvements in food security and malaria knowledge, but not behavior. There was no measurable impact of Saving for Change on how households deal with health expenses, and small or no significant impacts on school enrollment, business development or expansion, agricultural inputs, or household and agricultural assets. The ethnographic research found an increase in social capital in terms of village-level solidarity and contact with other women, but the RCT did not see increases in social capital or female empowerment. Structured replication, in which replicators participate in a three-day NGO-sponsored training, are given a pictorial manual, and receive a certificate upon completion, led to higher take up of the program and larger impacts for outcomes such as savings, food security, livestock holdings and poverty.

Voices from the Frontlines: A Research Project Focused on Listening to Microfinance Credit Officers

Gray, Bobbi with Cassie Chandler, Megan Gash, Chris Dunford, Byron Hoy, Kelly Taylor, William Roberts, Paul Ream, Sara Maldonado, Lauren Brunner. Freedom from Hunger: Davis, CA. (Feb. 2013)

Abstract

Listening to the poor without preconceptions has generated remarkable insights about their desires, challenges and capabilities, with significant implications for designing programs that more effectively meet their needs. To complement these efforts and the learning they have generated, Freedom from Hunger undertook a project to listen to the frontline fieldworkers; specifically, to listen to the credit officers of financial service providers who utilize the village-banking model as a platform to provide financial and non-financial services to groups of poor women. Freedom from Hunger worked with five microfinance institutions to conduct this research. Almost 200 interviews and focus-group discussions were conducted with credit officers, clients and supervisors to answer five key questions: 1) What motivates credit officers? 2) What is the state of the relationship between the credit officer and the client? 3) What can we learn from credit officers about the people they serve? 4) How can we better support credit officers? and 5) How faithfully are programs, policies and procedures carried out by credit officers? This report documents the findings for these five questions.

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