iDE Uses the PPI to Ensure its Market-Based Solutions Are Reaching Poor Entrepreneurs >


An interview with Chris Nicoletti, iDE

International Development Enterprises (iDE) has been putting business to work for the poor for more than three decades, using market-based solutions to change the living conditions and livelihoods of millions of people around the globe. In poor countries, markets often don’t function as they should and the reasons can be very simple, or they can be incredibly complex. One thing we know for sure is that every market is different. Replicating what works in one context is not a guarantee of success in another. We replicate our approach, and each context dictates a unique solution. To identify why a market is inefficient, or broken, requires a deep and broad market analysis process. By listening to every stakeholder—the suppliers, producers, retailers, end users, and others who might have an influence on the end customer—we create a comprehensive understanding of the links in the value chain and the roles of each market player. Then we develop business solutions that make new connections and strengthen existing connections to achieve a more robust market ecosystem. As part of this process, iDE uses a combination of human-centered design, rigorous research and evaluation, as well as custom-built, dynamic, cloud-based information systems—using TaroWorks and Salesforce—to ensure that our management decisions are based on evidence. This integration enables us to have real-time data upon which our cost-effectiveness, progress towards targets, and key performance indicators can be analyzed, allowing us to quickly prioritize investments and business models that work and eliminate those that don’t.

iDE has refined several market engagement strategies that can be adapted to the local environment: private sector engagement, market facilitation, value chain development, and social enterprise creation.

Market engagement requires a spectrum of approaches. At iDE, we don’t limit ourselves to definitions but analyze the market to identify whatever is necessary to best accomplish our goal of increasing incomes and improving livelihoods for the world’s poorest populations.

Photo Credit: iDE

1. When did your organization start using the PPI, and why? What was the need you were hoping to address?

iDE began using the PPI in 2013 for a series of quasi-experimental impact evaluations of micro-irrigation programs in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Zambia. iDE was looking for a way to control for poverty incidence using a low-cost, easy-to-verify metric that could be incorporated into our quantitative model. The PPI questions were included in each of the survey instruments being used to collect crop production and expenditures data, along with key socio-demographic information related to the household. From there, iDE began to integrate PPI questions into a number of survey-based data collections, as well as many rolling customer satisfaction and quality control data collections spanning both the agriculture and sanitation sectors.

2. How does your organization use the PPI? To measure poverty outreach? To improve social performance (targeting or product/service design)? To track changes?

iDE’s work will always be market-based, meaning we are in a constant place of tension with the market to ensure that we are designing profitable business models—for the social enterprises we run/manage, and for the small-scale service providers that we are recruiting and training —while also ensuring that our solutions are serving low-income rural households. We have not yet used the PPI for targeting purposes, but do incorporate the PPI into a number of lean-data instruments that give us ongoing information on the “types” of customers we are working with. This allows us to understand which segments of the market we are primarily working with. In addition, we incorporate the PPI into all of our survey-based data collection instruments for inclusion in our rigorous evaluations. The PPI is useful in these evaluations as poverty status can be a useful variable to estimate the effects of other indicators that we study on outcomes. 

As a summary, iDE has collected PPI data in the following contexts (hyperlinks have been included for more information):

  • Zambia Improved Agricultural Extension program – called Farm Business Advisors (FBAs) – descriptive analysis of clients
  • Ghana Quasi-experimental impact evaluation of micro-irrigation program – evaluation report here
  • Zambia Quasi-experimental impact evaluation of micro-irrigation program – evaluation report here
  • Burkina Faso descriptive analysis of drip irrigation clients
  • Vietnam Quasi-experimental impact evaluation of an irrigation program – evaluation report here
  • Nicaragua quasi-experimental impact evaluation of drip irrigation social enterprise called iDEal Tecnologias
  • Ghana social enterprise selling improved toilets in rural Ghana – called Sama Sama - rolling customer satisfaction survey 

3. Does your organization collect PPI data directly from households, or do you get PPI data reported to you from partners/investees?

In general, iDE collects PPI data directly from households. In rare cases, independent service providers are also the primary data collectors and they are responsible for collecting PPI data. 

4. What did PPI data tell you that you didn’t already know? What actions has your organization taken as a result of what you've learned from the PPI data? For example, have you made changes to your product offerings, your client base, or your business model? Or chosen to invest or partner with organizations differently?

In a few cases, the PPI has confirmed that we are, indeed, working with the poorer segments of the market, when we thought that we were working with more lower-middle income segments of the market. Furthermore, we have learned that many of our early adopters are less poor than later adopters, which helps us to strategically engage with the market from early piloting to full scale up. iDE acknowledges that the earliest adopters of agricultural products or service offerings, as well as sanitation products, may not be the poorest of the poor, but that establishing oneself and gaining momentum in the market is important to improve cost-effectiveness and expand last-mile supply chains so that you can effectively reach poorer segments of the market. 

5. Is the PPI helping you to achieve your goals? What impact do you think the PPI has had on your organization and/or its beneficiaries? How many people do you think have benefited from your organization’s use of the PPI?

I think that the PPI has been helpful for our organization, in that it allows us to more cost-effectively collect data and use that data to make decisions and carry out rigorous evaluations. The PPI has helped us to ensure that solutions we are developing are, in fact, benefiting the poor.  

6. Describe the logistics of collecting and using the PPI at your organization. This could include what data collection platform you use, who does the data collection, whether data is collected via sample or census, how many households you collect PPI data on, whether data collection is integrated into operations, how frequently data is collected, who does the data analysis, and whether the PPI is used as part of a broader monitoring and evaluation strategy.

As discussed above, we use the PPI in a number of different contexts and for a number of different programs. For many of these programs, we use custom-built management information systems to streamline operations. The information systems are built on the platform. We use an application called TaroWorks to build front-end mobile forms to collect survey data, fill out order forms, loan applications, etc. and push data into the Salesforce-based information system. iDE field officers and/or service providers are equipped with a smart phone or tablet and have data collection jobs assigned to them based on their role in the organization or social enterprise. Using the TaroWorks PPI templates, we are able to collect PPI data from clients in the field and sync the data to our cloud-based information system. The data collection process is integrated into the operational model and is not siloed to the M&E team. Once the data is collected and synced, it can be pulled out of the cloud-based information system and analyzed with a statistical package (Stata, SPSS, R, etc.) by headquarters staff for rigorous evaluations, or it can remain in the cloud-based information system and be dynamically analyzed and reported back to key field staff and program managers using Salesforce reports and/or dashboards.