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.

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.

Integrated Health and Microfinance: Harnessing the Strengths of Two Sectors to Improve Health and Alleviate Poverty in the Andes.

Metcalf, Marcia, Lisa Kuhn Fraioli, Andrea Del Granado from Freedom from Hunger, and Anna Awimbo (Microcredit Summit Campaign). 24pp. (January 2013) Davis, CA: Freedom from Hunger

Abstract

Over the last few decades, microfinance has been considered one of the most important strategies in alleviating poverty and addressing food-security issues. For years, microfinance prviders have recognized that poverty and poor health are so intimately connected that it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the causes of one and the effects of the other. Many microfinance leaders and field agents report that health problems are often given as the reason clients fail to repay loans or build and sustain successful income-generating activities. In recent years, we have begun to see how the microfinance sector is increasingy becoming recognized as an effective platform for providing vital health education, products and services.

Health Financing: A New Role for Microfinance Institutions?

Leatherman, Sheila and Kimberley Geissler, Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA, Bobbi Gray and Megan Gash. Freedom from Hunger

Abstract

An innovative and scalable approach, health financing by microfinance institutions can expand existing health-financing options for the poor. We examined healthcare-seeking behavior, health costs and health-financing methods among microfinance clients in Bolivia, Benin and Burkina Faso. Health costs and lost productivity were substantial. Clients benefit from assistance, including health savings, health loans and health micro-insurance. Microfinance institutions offer advantages in developing health-financing options: global reach, expertise in loans and savings, and their mission to facilitate household financial stability. Health-financing products hold considerable potential but require careful design to optimize value and minimize risk to clients.

Microfinance: A sustainable platform for non-financial service

Gray,Bobbi, Megan Gash, Scarlett Reeves, Benjamin Crookston. In Thomas L. Wouters (Ed.). "Progress in Economics Research. Volume 20". 22pp. (2011). Hauppage, NY : Nova Science Publishers, Inc. (Read-Only version).

Abstract

Over the past few years, microfinance has been widely heralded as a successful contributor to the alleviation of poverty. Scores of studies have shown the positive impact that microfinance can have on the lives of poor people. However, overall progress has been disappointing. Achievement of poverty alleviation goals will call for new and innovative ways of working rather than more of the same. A strategic, overarching strategy to address poor people's interrelated needs through creative partnerships that build on the best of different development sectors has the potential to lead to exponential rather than incremental reduction of poverty in the developing world. Evidence now supports the integration of microfinance with non-financial services as an approach that has potential for enormous contribution to poverty alleviation. This chapter will focus on the opportunities and challenges for microfinance organizations providing these integrated services. It also will provide supporting evidence that shows promising financial and health benefits of integration for the poor and the institutions that support their self-help efforts.

Integrating microfinance and health strategies: examining the evidence to inform policy and practice

Sheila Leatherman, Marcia Metcalfe, Kimberley Geissler and Christopher Dunford. 17pp. (February 2011). Chapel Hill, NC : Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina and Davis, CA : Freedom from Hunger.

Abstract

Introduction Single solutions continue to be inadequate in confronting the prevalent problems of poverty, ill health and insufficient health system capacity worldwide. The poor need access to an integrated set of financial and health services to have income security and better health.

Human Faces of Microfinance Impact—What We Can Learn from Freedom from Hunger’s “Impact Story” Methodology

Jarrell, Lynne, Bobbi Gray, Megan Gash, Chris Dunford. 42pp. (February 2011). Davis, CA : Freedom from Hunger.

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