Better data, better design – how FHI 360 uses evidence to catalyze economic growth

Better data, better design – how FHI 360 uses evidence to catalyze economic growth

Photo Credit: Dania Musa/FHI 360

For more than a decade, FHI 360’s experts have worked to address critical human development issues in Jordan. Our programs encourage long-term economic growth to increase revenue and create jobs, particularly for underserved communities. Bryanna Millis, the Technical Director for the USAID Jordan Local Enterprise Support (USAID LENS) project, explains FHI 360’s strategies to use evidence-based approaches not only to promote but also to sustain economic growth.

What is FHI 360’s approach to inclusive economic growth initiatives?

Our tagline is “the science of improving lives” and this concept runs through all we do. We gather and make use of data at the very early stages of program design and implementation, rather than just the end. We start our projects with analysis, make the data and analysis easy to understand across wide audiences, and then find ways to make sure the data is used by the different stakeholders involved.

On the USAID LENS project, for example, we started with a survey of micro- and small enterprises to understand their characteristics, needs and priorities for growth. The results drove all our major activities during the five years — from grants to policy reform.

We found the number one factor that limited growth was the lack of a process by which to formalize a small business. There was no law allowing people to register and license small, home-based businesses. We developed the necessary legal instruments over the course of three years. Micro- and small businesses can now sell their products in formal markets.

How is FHI 360’s approach different from others and what makes it effective?

We strive for analyses that make complex systems comprehensible and make the data useful to people who can act on it. The focus on data usability sets us apart. Many organizations collect data, many reports are written, many studies are done. But too often, that information is not widely accessible to different audiences. Our approach follows these key principles:

  • Timely: The data should be collected and analyzed early in a project to guide design and implementation.
  • Actionable: We ask questions related to activities within programs. Our focus is on what we need to know to ensure our activities address major problems.
  • Transparent: We make data available online. For example, we put the USAID LENS Micro- and Small Enterprise Survey codebook and data online and taught stakeholders how to use these resources.
We strive for analyses that make complex systems comprehensible and make the data useful to people who can act on it. Click To Tweet
What are the opportunities in Jordan for promoting economic growth, and where do you see the most promise?

Based on our work with micro- and small enterprises outside of Amman, we believe that economic growth activities should focus on rural and marginalized areas to drive job creation in these locations, in part through linking production areas to markets. We are also testing promising new models, such as micro-franchising, to facilitate business ownership and operation among a broader range of stakeholders. These approaches can be implemented across sectors, including those that have the most impact in rural areas, such as tourism and food production.

As we move further into the 21st century, the world of work continues to change. How is FHI 360 responding to those challenges?

FHI 360’s approach to preparing the future workforce harnesses our knowledge and networks across the workforce development spectrum, from early grade reading, to foundational research on soft skills for youth, to up-skilling the workforce. Jobs are increasingly reliant on technology, shorter in duration (as in the gig economy) and dependent on more training and hands-on experience. We partner with innovative organizations like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Fab Labs (and other kinds of makers’ spaces) that promote science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) skill sets and provide access to new technologies.

As we work with multiple stakeholders in communities in the United States and overseas, we find that stronger partnerships among businesses, educational institutions, policymakers and job seekers are important. Such partnerships call for systems thinking and high levels of collaboration, transforming what we know, how we learn and how we work.

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