Pro-Poor and Proving it: How Katalyst Measures Social Performance >

William Neuheisel

Operating in Bangladesh since 2003, Katalyst is one of the oldest and largest pro-poor market development projects in the world. In its first five years, Katalyst proved itself as a high-impact program, generating widespread job growth and increased income for farmers. In 2008 however, an organizational strategy review identified a major area for improvement: Katalyst wasn’t sure how accurately it was targeting its interventions toward people living in poverty.

This spring, the journal Enterprise Development and Microfinance published an article by Mohammad Muaz Jalil and Nurul Azam, which reviews how Katalyst project tackled this question, and their journey in ultimately selecting and implementing the Progress out of Poverty Index®. The article is available for purchase here, and is worth reading in full, but presented here are a few highlights.

Evaluating the Field

Katalyst looked at other poverty scorecards, developed by the World Bank, USAID, and others, but found that “All these indices were often very context specific, rarely updated, country focused, lacked widespread usage or were complicated to use. Hence in reality there was no alternative to the PPI as such.”

Using Targeting to Improve Program Design

Katalyst used the PPI to test its assumptions in designing market interventions intended to reach poor farmers. Their original design in one such example promoted the adoption in hatcheries of high-value fish species, in hopes that their ROI would be attractive to small farmers. However: “halfway through the intervention it was found that only large fish farmers were investing in the high-value species while small farmers refrained from doing so since they believed the upkeep and maintenance of these species was too costly for them.” Data from the PPI helped target cultivation trainings to small farmers to overcome this obstacle.

Screening to Improve Market Research

When Katalyst wants to understand household consumption behavior, it needs to easily screen for poor households to include in research studies. “Since the PPI could be administered rather quickly, it helped to ensure that the screening process did not take up too much time or resources.”

Facing the Challenges of Assessing Impact as a Facilitator

Katalyst faced one problem that is common to many organizations when facilitating (rather than directly implementing) interventions. Being a level away from actual service delivery prevents Katalyst from selecting the control and treatment groups needed for their measurement methodology. The PPI helps mitigate this problem by providing a simple way to compare poverty status of treatment vs. control groups which are not known in advance.

“In fact, the PPI has been mainstreamed within the monitoring and results measurement system such that it forms an integral part of all quantitative assessments done at Katalyst,” they write.

The full paper is available for purchase from the journal Enterprise Development and Microfinance here.