5.5 Where Do We Go from Here?
As the youth economic opportunities field continues to evolve, more and more evidence on what works is emerging. This process is supported by an increasing emphasis on Monitoring and Evaluation by many practitioners, whose methods and tools to measure progress and outcomes are becoming more sophisticated. The following is a list of recommendations on the next steps needed related to M&E:
- Carry out more intervention research on life skills programming: As the importance of life skills is becoming increasingly recognized, more evidence is needed to really understand what elements are most important and how they can be taught. This will require more robust evaluations comparing the effectiveness of different curricula and different dosages of life skills training. Moreover, in terms of measurement, there is a need to move beyond self-reported data, and leveraging workplace observation and other data collection tools.
- Leverage M&E tools to better understand the effects of fairness in youth livelihood programs: Today, there is only a very limited understanding on the effects of procedural and management decisions (e.g. related to beneficiary selection) on perceived fairness and equity outcomes. Based on this year’s session, several avenues for additional action research emerge:
Develop assessment tools that can capture potential issues of fairness during project development. This is especially relevant for projects in conflict zones, gender projects and highly specialized workforce projects. Based on the issues identified during project preparation, one can also derive measures that can be incorporated into the monitoring and evaluation of the project.
- Enhance future evaluations by explicitly assessing the effects of “fair process” on outcomes of interest. Working with the World Bank, 3ie, USAID or other impact evaluation funders, and incorporating terms of reference for such measurement (e.g. qualitative and quantitative), will help further understand how processes and implementation structures, rather than project design alone, can influence project success.
- When conducting robust research and M&E, explicitly look for potential negative impacts of different livelihood interventions. The variety of M&E and data collection tools available can not only serve to understand project impacts, but also to identify unintended consequences. Monitoring frameworks should therefore also monitor risks for beneficiaries so that potential harm can be prevented and mitigated.
- Leverage M&E to facilitate experimentation and to create dynamic feedback loops during the program. Given that youth livelihood interventions are inherently complex, and that context-specific evidence on what works is extremely limited, youth livelihood practitioners should explore more dynamic learning approaches as part of their M&E strategy. Concretely, this means articulating project or program alternatives during preparation, simultaneously trying several design alternatives, and then adapting the project sequentially based on the results. For example, this could mean that rather than making an ex-ante decision as to whether to provide grants or loans as part of an entrepreneurship project, the project would provide grants to some beneficiaries and loans to others. Similarly, it could mean creating different groups of beneficiaries who receive different amounts of training, to see what how many hours of training work best. As such, within-project variations in design or implementation can serve as their own counterfactual, and the results would be directly relevant for the implementing organization.