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Impact Assessment and BDS Market Development: Is a Common Approach Possible? Downing et al, 2003
Implementing agency(ies)USAID
Funding agency(ies)USAID
Date completedFebruary 2003
Issues/challengesBDS market development is a relatively new strategy for attaining two longstanding development objectives: improved performance of micro- and small enterprises (MSEs)and reduced poverty. Although there is widespread agreement on the fundamental means and objectives of the approach, a number of different program designs are currently being tested by various donors. The breadth and range of on-the-ground interventions are evidence of the innovation that is taking place. In order to learn from these efforts, there is an urgent need for practical and rigorous approaches to impact assessment that can more firmly "prove" impact and improve practice.
Contact person(s)Dr. Jeanne Downing
The aim of this paper has been to make the case for common approaches and indicators for assessing the impact of BDS programs. The rationale for common indicators rests on the logic models for the three approaches to BDS market development explored in this paper. Despite variations in hypotheses and underlying assumptions, the three approaches share intermediate and final impact objectives, which can be measured using the common indicators.

The BDS field has grappled with the diversity of business services, leaving some to argue that service products are too different to allow for common indicators for impact assessment. This paper argues that a certain level of conceptualization, there are commonalities among BDS programs focused on disparate services. The commonalities rest not on the products or services but on the impact objectives of the programs, which share underlying assumptions about the role of BDS market development in MSME performance.

A less emphasized but equally important argument for common indicators relates to establishing the credibility of the BDS field. Common indicators - it is argued here - are not only possible and useful, but they are necessary in order to advance knowledge in the field. Given the nascent stage of the field, donors and other practitioners need to prove to that BDS market development leads to poverty reduction and/or economic growth. We also need to be able to improve practice by learning from our experiments in the field and the respective impacts of various interventions. For both our proving and improving
objectives, we need good practice in impact assessment and the learning afforded by common indicators. To learn from our successes and failures, we need common approaches and indicators to monitoring and evaluation.


Associated documents
»IA and BDS MD: Is a common approach and are common indicators possible? Downing et al, 2003 (240 kB)

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Last update: 1 February 2011