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The Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups (ECWG) aims to strengthen, expand, and disseminate the global evidence base on women’s groups. Specifically, we work to:

  • Generate and synthesize evidence on the impact, cost-effectiveness, and scalability of women’s groups: Guided by our learning agenda, we address evidence-gaps by generating and synthesizing evidence on the impact, cost-effectiveness, and implementation models of women’s groups in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular emphasis on India, Nigeria, and Uganda.

  • Use evidence to inform women’s groups programming in India, Nigeria, and Uganda: We work closely with partners to ensure that evidence generated strengthens program implementation. We also develop and help partners introduce robust, standardized measurement tools to determine groups' cost-effectiveness and their impact on empowerment, health, and economic outcomes.

  • Serve as an evaluation and evidence partner on women’s groups for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Gender Equality Team: We work closely with the Gender Equality team’s evaluation partners and synthesize evidence at the portfolio level to inform the Women’s Empowerment Collectives strategy. We serve as an evidence partner to Program Officers of the Gender Equality team by identifying and addressing evidence gaps and extracting learnings from across the portfolio to answer key learning questions and sharing lessons and insights. We also conduct and/or support evaluations on a few specific programs.

    • Current work: The ECWG has conducted a portfolio evaluation of 46 of the Gates Foundation’s grants focusing on women’s groups. We have also synthesized evidence on women’s participation rates in savings groups in sub-Saharan Africa to inform future programming (coming soon).

Research and Resources


Learning Agenda

This document presents a learning agenda to guide the ECWG’s work, which will focus on synthesizing, generating, and disseminating rigorous research to inform the implementation and scale-up of women’s groups around the world. The learning agenda will inform the ECWG’s research addressing key gaps on the impact, cost-effectiveness, and the implementation of women’s groups at scale.

Learning Agenda (full version | summary version )

Completed Research

The Impact of COVID-19 on Opportunities for Adolescent Girls and the Role of Girls’ Groups

Covid-19 has disrupted lives, networks, and institutions across social, economic, and health dimensions around the globe. We examine how the pandemic has affected adolescent girls and young women in particular, and explore how group-based programs for girls in low- and middle-income countries have been affected by and are responding to the pandemic.

View Covid-19 Brief

Portfolio evaluation of Gates Foundation investments in women’s groups

The ECWG conducted a portfolio evaluation, reviewing 46 Foundation investments involving women’s groups, made between 2005 and 2017. This research brief provides an overview of the ECWG’s evaluation findings, identifies evidence gaps, and provides recommendations to improve future investments and evaluations of women’s groups.

View Research Brief

Preliminary cost-effectiveness analysis of the JEEVIKA program in Bihar

The ECWG conducted a preliminary analysis of the costs and Return on Investment (ROI) of Jeevika – the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP) in India. This research note presents findings on the costs of various program components over time and scale as well as the program’s ROI based on publicly available program and audit reports and an impact evaluation conducted by Hoffmann et al. (2018).

View Research Note

Measuring Savings Group Participation Rates in Africa: Data Assessment and Recommendations

The ECWG has produced a brief on measuring savings group participation rates in Africa. To estimate women’s saving group participation rates in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, the ECWG conducted an analysis of two established data sets on financial inclusion; FinScope and Financial Inclusion Insights (FII). This research brief reviews the findings of the ECWG’s analysis, including an assessment of the trade-offs across different data on savings group participation. The brief also provides recommendations on how triangulation of data sources could further improve the utility of research on savings groups for implementers and policymakers.

View ECWG Participation Rates Brief

Research Resources and Tools

Women’s Groups and COVID-19: Challenges, Engagement, and Opportunities

The ECWG has produced a rapid evidence brief presenting potential implications of the pandemic and related lockdown for women’s groups, with a focus on India, Nigeria, and Uganda. This brief summarizes previous evidence on groups’ responses to economic, health, or environmental shocks, and discusses potential mechanisms through which women’s groups and their functioning may be affected by COVID-19. We also present ECWG’s planned short-term and longer-term research agenda related to the impact of COVID-19 on women’s groups in the three countries.

View ECWG COVID-19 Brief

Measurement guidance on women’s empowerment and economic outcomes

The ECWG developed a guide for measuring women’s empowerment and economic outcomes to inform the community of researchers that focus on women’s groups. The guide provides a collection of field-tested survey instruments and questions for measuring women’s empowerment and economic outcomes in quantitative impact evaluations and mixed-methods studies of women’s groups, along with recommendations on how to use these tools.

View Measurement Guidelines

Guidance for estimating cost-effectiveness of women’s groups

The ECWG developed guidelines to support researchers, stakeholders, and program implementers to collect and analyze data on program costs and estimate program cost-effectiveness, with the goal of supporting better practices in cost data collection and the use of these data to inform future investments in women’s groups. The ECWG has also designed two versions of cost data collection tools – a basic version and an advanced version. These tools can be used to collect cost data of women’s group programs by defining program-specific assumptions (also included in the tools). The cost data collection tools are accompanied by one cost summary and analysis sheet, which can be used to generate cost-effectiveness estimates based on total costs and estimated impact.

View Costing Guidelines

View Cost Data Collection Tools

Ongoing Work

This study will build evidence on the association between program scale and costs by analyzing how costs of a large-scale Self-Help Group (SHG) program in India changed over a ten-year period. The study focuses on program costs of Jeevika – the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society – since its inception in 2007-08 when it mobilized 8,000 women into SHGs to its current operations where it has mobilized over 9 million women into 0.8 million SHGs. The study is led by Dr. Garima Siwach and Dr. Thomas de Hoop of the American Institutes for Research, and Dr. Sohini Paul of the Population Council.

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This systematic review is led by Dr. Thomas De Hoop, at American Institutes for Research and Dr. Amber Peterman, at the University of North Carolina and aims to synthesize evidence on the effects of women’s groups on gendered asset ownership in LMICs. Primary outcomes from selected studies will include forms of natural, physical, livestock and financial assets.

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Describing women’s group models with greater accuracy is key to ensuring transferability of evidence, both from pilots to scaled-up programs and across contexts.  To address this gap, this paper proposes: (i) a typology to categorize women’s groups and (ii) a set of common reporting indicators to describe implementation models. This a commentary piece led by Dr. Sapna Desai and Dr. Thomas de Hoop, along with ECWG members and colleagues who have conducted systematic reviews on women’s groups in India, Uganda and other low and middle-income settings. 

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Led by Dr. Sapna Desai of Population Council and Dr. Gary Darmstadt of Stanford University, the study will examine the effects of integrated interventions delivered through women’s groups and aim to identify enablers and barriers to achieving outcomes. We will adopt a mixed-methods approach to examine the theories of change, enablers and barriers associated with achieving health outcomes through women’s groups that integrate economic and health activities.

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Read the protocol

We will conduct a scoping review to examine the evidence base and evidence gaps on women’s groups in Uganda. Specifically, we will appraise the evidence base on the impact, cost-effectiveness, and implementation of women’s groups in Uganda to understand both the evidence that exists and the evidence gaps that remain. In addition, we aim to gather some preliminary evidence on the evidence base related to the pathways through which women’s groups can achieve their objectives. The scoping review will be led by Dr. Thomas de Hoop at American Institutes for Research, Dr. Tabitha Mulyampiti at the School for Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University, Dr. Ekwaro Obuku at the Africa Centre for Systematic Reviews and Knowledge Translation at Makerere University, and Dr. Howard White at the Campbell Collaboration.

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Read Scoping Review Protocol

This study, led by Dr. Thomas De Hoop at American Institutes for Research, aims to study the impact of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) on access to social entitlements like job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the largest public works program in the world. Specifically, we examine the impact of access to self-help group programs on participation in and income gained from MGNREGA. Our research question focuses on exploring the linkages between large-scale self-help group and social protection programs in India.

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