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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

ECWG Working Papers

Women's Groups, Covariate Shocks, and Resilience: An Evidence Synthesis of Past Shocks to Inform a Response to COVID-19

Interventions with women’s groups are increasingly seen as an important strategy for advancing women’s empowerment, health, and economic outcomes in low- and middle-income countries, with the potential to increase the resiliency of members and their communities during widespread covariate shocks, such as COVID-19. This evidence synthesis compiles evidence from past shocks on women’s group activities and the extent to which women’s groups mitigate the effects of shocks on members and communities. We reviewed 90 documents from academic databases, organizational reports, and additional gray literature, and included literature diverse in geography, type of women’s group, and shock. We found that covariate shocks tend to disrupt group activities and reduce group resources, but linkages to formal institutions can mitigate this impact by extending credit beyond the shock-affected resource pool. Evidence was largely supportive of women’s groups providing resilience to members and communities, though findings varied according to shock severity, group purpose and structure, and outcome measures. Actions to support individual resilience during a shock, such as increased payment flexibility, may run counter to group resilience, however. We link the findings to emerging evidence on how COVID-19 affects women’s group activities and the extent to which women’s groups mitigate the effects of shocks on members and communities.

Read the working paper

Adolescent Girls’ and Young Women’s Economic Empowerment Programs: Emerging Insights From a Review of Reviews

This ECWG review of reviews aimed to assess what interventions, especially group-based interventions, show promise in economically empowering adolescent girls and young women in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). In addition, we examined the promise of specific economic components, combinations of components, and core topics. We searched five databases as well as other sources and identified 2,467 citations, resulting in 17 reviews, 10 of which quantified their results. We found too little evidence to classify any of the examined interventions as clearly “effective.” None of the reviews found negative effects or harmful findings, however. Most intervention–outcome pairings were unknown; that is, they were not examined by reviews. While we identified some intervention approaches that were promising, the review findings suggest extensive research gaps in terms of program content, implementation, and measurement.

Read the working paper

Improving evidence on women’s groups: a proposed typology and reporting checklist

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. 

Read detailed description

Read the working paper

Policy and Research Briefs

Women’s Groups and Member Resilience After COVID-19: Evidence from Nigeria

Women for Women International (WfWI) works with groups of marginalized women in conflict-affected countries to help them move from poverty and isolation to self-sufficiency and empowerment in economic and social domains. The Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups (ECWG) collaborated with WfWI to study the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on WfWI’s members and to explore the role of women’s savings groups in providing resilience against the shocks induced by COVID-19. The study analyzed self-reported data collected in May 2020 through surveys with a convenience sample of past (or graduated) and current members of WfWI’s Stronger Women Stronger Nations Program. Findings indicate that membership in Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) was positively associated with some outcomes of economic resilience during COVID-19. Additionally, current program members fared much better on most economic and social outcomes, compared to graduated members, which is likely due to stronger support networks.

Read the brief

Read the technical appendix

Evidence Review of Women’s Groups and COVID-19: Impacts, Challenges, and Policy Implications for Savings Groups in Africa

As is the case around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women and has reversed progress in gender equality across sub-Saharan Africa. However, recent studies indicate that women’s savings groups have adapted in various contexts to the pandemic. For example, studies from Nigeria and Uganda suggest that these groups cushion some of the economic impacts and have been key in supporting community responses during the crisis.

The Evidence Consortium on Women’s groups collaborated with a group of practitioners, researchers, and funders to conduct an evidence review of how women’s savings groups and their members have navigated the pandemic. Based on emerging findings, they advance a series of recommendations for how governments, organizations, donors, and researchers can support savings groups. This report captures findings from studies undertaken across sub-Saharan Africa over the past year. It focuses on the impact the pandemic (and some of the associated policy responses) have had on savings groups and other women’s groups as well as the ability of these groups to mitigate the effects of shocks for their members and communities.

This report was developed by: Eve Namisango at Africa Centre for Systematic Reviews at Makerere University and the Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups; Thomas de Hoop, Chinmaya Holla, and Garima Siwach at the American Institutes for Research and the Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups; Sybil Chidiac and Shubha Jayaram at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Jenna Grzeslo and Munshi Sulaiman at BRAC; Emily Janoch and Grace Majara at CARE; Olayinka Adegbite, Leigh Anderson, and Rebecca Walcott at EPAR Evans School of Public Policy and Governance and the Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups; Krishna Jafa at Global Center for Gender Equality at Stanford University; Sapna Desai and Osasuyi Dirisu at Population Council and the Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups; Tabitha Mulyampiti at School of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University and the Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups; Julia Hakspiel at MarketShare Associates; and David Panetta at SEEP Network.  

Read a more detailed description here

Read the executive summary here

Read the review here (English)

Read the review here (French)

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

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

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