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.

Show Me the Money: Costs and Revenues of Youth Savings and Financial Education Services Offered by Credit Unions in Mali and Ecuador

Loupeda, Christian. 53pp. (2014). Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth, Freedom from Hunger: Davis, CA.


With more young people alive today than ever before, most of them in poor countries, the need to include youth in financial outreach has never been greater. The international development community, with its global agenda of financial inclusion, now fully recognizes the need to provide young people with financial services and education. But providing financial services to the youth market is more challenging than targeting adult market segments. Moreover, the financial sector lacks experience targeting and serving this changing and multifaceted population.

The purpose of this paper is to shed light on some of the challenges and opportunities faced by financial service providers, credit unions in particular, in providing savings integrated with financial education to youth.

Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth (AIM Youth) in Ecuador and Mali: Final Project Research Brief

Gash, Megan, and Bobbi Gray. (2014). “Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth in Ecuador and Mali: Final Project Research Brief.” Davis, CA: Freedom from Hunger.


Responding to the opportunity to build the financial capability of a future generation of money managers and clients of financial service providers, Freedom from Hunger, a recognized expert in integrated[i] financial and non-financial services for the chronically hungry poor, launched the Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth (AIM Youth) initiative in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation in December 2009. As of December 2013,  39,439 youth in Mali and Ecuador—exceeding the goal of reaching 37,000 youth—had received financial education sessions and had access to savings mechanisms either in the form of formal savings accounts, non-formal group-based savings, or group-based savings linked to savings accounts.
This research brief will summarize the key findings from both the Mali and Ecuador research, focusing primarily on savings knowledge, attitudes, practices, and outcomes, such as amounts saved generally and for emergencies, and will share important insights into the ability of integrated financial services to build the financial capability of youth. The intended audience for this paper includes financial-service providers, technical assistance providers, and donors interested in learning more about how youth interact with integrated financial services.

Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth (AIM Youth) Financial Diaries Research Report

Gash, Megan, and Bobbi Gray. (2014). “Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth Financial Diaries Research Report.” Davis, CA: Freedom from Hunger.


This report highlights key findings from financial diaries research completed with program participants from four Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth partners; two in Mali (Conseils et Appui pour l’Éducation à la Base (CAEB) and Nyèsigiso) and two in Ecuador (Cooperatives San Jose and Cooprogreso). The financial diaries, high-frequency quantitative surveys administered at regular intervals over several months, were designed to answer the following questions:

  1. How did the amount of money youth receive fluctuate over time?
  2. How did youth report using their money over time?
  3. How did youth report saving their money over time and for what reasons?
  4. How did their financial knowledge, specifically regarding the educational objectives of the financial education, change over time?

The primary purpose of this report is to describe differences and similarities seen between Mali and Ecuador youth as well as among youth accessing different types of integrated financial services and financial education programs. The four key questions are answered throughout the description of outcomes from both countries.

Models for Integrating Financial Services with Financial Education for Young People. Lessons Learned from the Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth Initiative

Ramirez, Rossana and Candace Nelson. 52pp. (2014). Davis, CA : Freedom from Hunger.


This technical report synthesizes project and research results from the Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth (AIM Youth) project, which was launched in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation in 2009. The report documents the experience of Freedom from Hunger and its implementing partners in Mali and Ecuador offering three different packages integrating youth financial services (primarily in the form of savings) and education and their impact on the financial capability of the participating youth. This report is intended primarily for institutions interested in building the financial capability and promoting the financial inclusion of young people by offering both financial services and education.

What drives performance of successful women microentrepreneurs in Mexico? A qualitative portrait of positive deviants and typical microentrepreneurs


To build a bridge and respond to the needs of women who are between successful microentrepreneurship and investment-ready small enterprise in Mexico, Freedom from Hunger, in collaboration with Agora Partnerships and Ambito Productivo, initiated a formative research project to inform the design of a program that would support women with high-potential microenterprises in Mexico to become investment-ready and qualify for small-business accelerator programs. The research revealed that successful microentrepreneurs, or positive deviants, had six factors in common. They 1) wanted to be an entrepreneur in the first place compared to those who saw their business as a means to achieving some other financial goal; 2) had chosen a business that had room and opportunity to grow; 3) seemed to have more confidence in themselves; 4) had established their business in a permanent location and/or had the business registered; 5) had older children or had a workable arrangement that allowed them to care for their children and their business; and 6) most importantly, had a vision for their business and some ideas of how to achieve their vision.

From One Generation to the Next: The Role of Parents in the Financial Inclusion of Young People

Ramirez, Rossana and Veronica Torres. 21pp. (2014). Davis, CA : Freedom from Hunger.


This paper explores the key role parents play in young people’s financial inclusion, specifically in their ability to access financial services and develop financial capability. There is currently limited information on the role of parents in the financial lives of young people and how intra-household dynamics can affect the way young people understand and utilize money and financial services. In our analysis, we provide background information on the importance of understanding the relationship between youth and parents living in poverty, and the way family can influence the young person's behaviors. We then present an overview of the experience of Freedom from Hunger working with youth, followed by an in-depth analysis of the role of parents in promoting the financial inclusion and financial capability of young people. We offer insights on the complex intra-household financial dynamics that impact the financial socialization of youth and the implications of these dynamics in the strategy of cross-selling financial services to parents. We then examine how the regulatory and institutional environment impacts the way youth and parents might interact with finances. Throughout our analysis, we also examine the experience of other organizations offering similar types of financial services to young people. The paper concludes with areas to deepen youth and household financial inclusion based on the premise that parents are strong financial attitudinal and behavioral influencers of their children.

Impact of Integrated Financial Services for Young People in Ecuador: A Comprehensive Research Report for the Freedom from Hunger Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth Project

Gray, Bobbi. Freedom from Hunger Research Paper Number 17B. 69pp. (April 2014). Freedom from Hunger: Davis, CA.


Freedom from Hunger collaborated with two Ecuadorian credit unions, San Jose and Cooprogreso, to test the effectiveness of the Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth (AIM Youth) initiative which combined financial education and youth individual savings account services for youth. The results found that youth who participated in AIM Youth were more likely to report having savings in general, to report higher amounts in general savings and emergency savings, were more likely to be satisfied with their savings amounts, were more motivated to save, and were less likely to feel less stressed about covering educational and household expenses. Early adopters to the youth individual savings accounts were youth whose parents were already members of the credit unions. Girls and boys alike were able to open savings accounts and maintain similar amounts in total savings. To ensure youth stay engaged and continue to grow their savings, beyond providing access to a savings account and financial education sessions, additional “experiences” and touch-points with the youth have to be built into the product and service design.

Impact of Integrated Financial Services for Young People in Mali: A Comprehensive Research Report for the Freedom from Hunger Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth Project

Gash, Megan. Freedom from Hunger Research Paper Number 17A. 46pp. (April 2014). Freedom from Hunger: Davis, CA.


Freedom from Hunger collaborated with two Malian non-governmental organizations, CAEB and Le Tonus, and one credit union, Nyèsigiso, to test the effectiveness of the Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth (AIM Youth) initiative which combined financial education with youth savings groups (YSG) and group savings accounts (GSA). The results found that participating youth reported higher amounts in total savings, including higher value of livestock; improvements gained by youth in savings, financial attitudes and financial knowledge were sustained despite a coup d’état during the course of the project; and savings goals for both boys and girls evolved over time, moving away from clothing towards more productive goals, such as saving for livestock, emergencies and their trousseaus (for girls). YSG members, who tended to be younger than the GSA members, demonstrated greater improvements in financial knowledge and financial attitude indicators than GSA members; however, the YSG members had more room for improvement. Despite these last two points, age and gender may account for differences in needs and economic activities but they do not necessarily translate into different benefits from the financial services. Not having money to save and migration proved to be the biggest challenges to accessing and using the financial services. The youth highly appreciated the financial education; they thought it was valuable to help them plan for the future, to be less wasteful and to manage their money better. Overall, the youth from both YSG and GSA, as well as their parents, expressed that they are quite satisfied with the savings services and the financial education.

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.


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.