5.2 Measuring Risks of Youth-Focused Interventions

A.) Monitor Risks and Potential Negative Outcomes

When implementing youth-focused interventions, it is important to not only measure participants’ benefits and outcomes of interest, but also monitor potential risks that may lead to unintended negative consequences for beneficiaries. As a child-focused organization, Save the Children champions a child-safeguarding approach for the YouthSave[1] project; that is, it is seeking to promote the welfare of children while protecting them from harm.

In order to conduct a program that is safe for youth, the YouthSave project developed strategies to continuously assess, mitigate, and monitor for potential risks:

  • Risk assessment: As a first step, the project conducted a risk assessment in each of its project countries to identify potential risks that may result from encouraging children to save, such as theft, the expropriation of savings by trusted adults, or using money for saving instead of basic needs (e.g. food). For each risk, it then tried to estimate their likelihood to occur and the severity of the impact, if they occur. This helped the project prioritize the most likely and severe risks, and identify mitigation strategies.
  • Risk management: After identifying key risks, YouthSave staff developed country-specific risk management strategies based on the standards of Save the Children’s child-safeguarding protocol: a) Awareness; b) Prevention; c) Reporting; and d) Responding. For example, all staff, partners, and other representatives were made aware of the potential risks to children and potential ways to reduce these risks to children. When opening an account, youth were provided with tips on how to be a safe and responsible account holder, including information on where to go for help and advice. In addition, partner bank staff were trained on how to treat youth account holders, and on how to report incidents or concerns.
  • Risk monitoring: In order to continuously monitor for risks to youth, the project developed tools for collecting staff observations and reports, and for soliciting the opinions and experiences of youth participants through focus groups, interviews and interactive games (see below). Questions for collecting youth opinions and experiences were adapted from the Population Council’s Safe and Smart Savings Program. These monitoring mechanisms, in turn, were intended to identify potential vulnerabilities and exposure to risk, while also complementing other M&E tools in determining youth’s satisfaction with the YouthSave-sponsored accounts and financial capability programming.

B.) Leverage Data Collection Tools Than Can Engage Your Youth Audience

Every form of data collection, be it qualitative or quantitative, comes with its own natural challenges. For example, surveys are usually time-intensive to implement, and thus costly. Focus groups, on the other hand, are easier to implement, but require strong facilitation skills and can be difficult to analyze. There are also some key challenges to all data collection efforts, especially motivating beneficiaries (as well as comparison groups where they are used) to participate in the data collection, and when they do, ensuring that the answers provided are credible. Thus, especially when working with a dynamic target group such as youth, specific efforts may be needed to engage prospective respondents and seek their authentic opinions and experiences.

To this end, YouthSave developed an interactive board-game in addition to its traditional monitoring tools, aimed at engaging youth on their savings behavior and attitudes since participating in the program. Compared to traditional focus groups, it was intended to be a “fun” way of discussing savings and potential risks that may have occurred as a result of new savings behavior. According to YouthSave’s experience, the game helped keep young people’s attention during the focus group, and promoted participation, spontaneity, and group discussion. By promoting a relaxed environment, the game therefore facilitated the gathering of information, including sensitive topics such as participants’ potential negative experiences.

Game-Based Focus Groups – Example of “Ahorralandia”

Developed in Colombia, and later adapted in Ghana, YouthSave’s Ahorralandia is modeled on a typical board game where participants roll dice and try to get from start to finish faster than the other players. The game includes a variety of action fields that prompt the player to answer questions and take decisions, which are geared around negative experiences or outcomes of savings (risks), changes in savings, spending, and earning habits, treatment by bank staff, friends and family, self-esteem, and other outcomes of interest.

The game-based focus groups were carried out with a sub-sample of participants after program participation. In terms of facilitation, the game requires one moderator and one note taker. According to the YouthSave experience, the game worked well for adolescents of all ages and was most effective when used in small groups.

The game was developed based on previous experience of working with children, and specifically from the project’s market research focus group sessions held at the beginning of the project, which taught Save the Children that in order to keep children´s attention for a long span and have them speak about their lives, it was better to use a fun and interactive game or activity, rather than just a plain questionnaire or session.


Save the Children and HFC Bank staff lead a game-based
focus group discussion with youth Enidaso account holders
in Techiman, Ghana. Credit: Adadzewa Otoo, Save the Children

Ahorralandia Board Game, Save the Children

To view a video of youth participating in Ahorralandia focus group in Colombi visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLeWiAmXDXo&feature=youtu.be

Organizations interested in learning more about the game can contact Save the Children for additional information. Since the game is very context-specific, it would have to be adapted before it can be used by other organizations or programs.

[1] The YouthSave project is dedicated to developing and testing savings products accessible to low-income youth in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, and Nepal. This consortium-managed project is led by Save the Children in partnership with the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis (CSD), the New America Foundation (NAF), CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), and is supported by The MasterCard Foundation.