Knowledge Hub

MEDA – 2019 SDG Leadership Awards

MEDA

Website: www.meda.org

Industry: International Development

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Primary SDG Focus

Secondary SDG Focus

Please summarize your company’s SDG focus, how was that SDG was implemented and how did achieved and measured the impact.

MEDA’s focus is SDG#1: No Poverty. Since 1953, MEDA has been implementing effective market-driven programs to stimulate inclusive economic growth in developing countries. MEDA combines innovative private-sector solutions with a commitment to the advancement of excluded, low-income and disadvantaged communities (including women, youth and ethnic minorities, among others) by integrating them into mainstream markets and improving the business-enabling environment.

A dynamic technical innovator, MEDA’s expertise includes market systems and value chains, climate-smart agriculture, inclusive and green finance, impact investing, women’s empowerment, and youth workforce development.

MEDA partners with local private, public and civil-society organizations to create shared value among disconnected market actors while overcoming market failures and social barriers. We strengthen individuals, institutions, communities and ecosystems, and thereby contribute to sustainable and inclusive systemic change. Rigorous monitoring and impact measurement methodologies ensures MEDA captures accurate and meaningful qualitative and quantitative data on increases in income, access and agency for our clients.

MEDA’s commitment to poverty alleviation extends to its corporate and staff engagement strategies. The corporate strategy is re-evaluated every three years to ensure the company’s continued effective and sustainable approach to poverty alleviation. MEDA also recognizes the root causes of poverty including climate change, food insecurity and human rights and addresses them in both our programs and business operations. Management and staff commitment to these issues is exemplified through our carbon-offsetting options for staff, company “green team” (which monitors MEDA’s waste and energy-efficiency), and corporate trainings on gender equality and human rights.

How was your primary SDG focus identified and prioritized in the company’s value chain?

MEDA was founded in response to the post-WWII refugee crisis in Latin America when a group of successful business people collaborated to help small businesses build economies and improve well-being. MEDA has maintained its mission over six decades achieving sustainable poverty reduction through ecosystem change.

To achieve poverty reduction through ecosystem change, MEDA aims to analyze and understand target communities, sectors and market actors, associated barriers and opportunities, and the approaches that can sustainably shift behaviors and attitudes. This includes assessing capacities and gaps in production, services and supports, environmental issues, business and regulatory environments, and sociocultural constraints. The resulting information enables the design, testing and adoption of models that lead to inclusive economic growth for all people.

Beginning with an investment in the Sarona Dairy in Paraguay in 1953, MEDA also continues to play a leading role in investment for development and poverty reduction.  Experienced in a wide range of investment strategies, MEDA finances investment companies and funds, builds platforms that strengthen ecosystems leads blended finance initiatives, and makes direct investments into small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

As an early pioneer of microcredit, MEDA also promotes inclusive financial services to achieve poverty reduction. MEDA has supported the development of many microfinance institutions through capacity building, investment or transfer of loan capital, and ongoing governance support. Today MEDA’s financial services programming ranges from savings groups to a full complement of microfinance services and SME banking, with innovative approaches and models to promote financial inclusion for all.

How was your primary SDG integrated and anchored throughout your business?

MEDA builds capacity of staff and partners to implement sustainable approaches to economic growth: whether it’s cassava seed systems in Tanzania, women soybean smallholders in Ghana, horticulture value chains in Ukraine, Ethiopia and Myanmar, or agri-food supply chains in Nicaragua and Kenya, MEDA promotes inclusive systems, contributing to zero poverty.

Our methods include various approaches and models. To stimulate market growth, MEDA promotes inclusive business models, bolsters distribution and market channels, identifies sustainable supports and services for improved productivity and marketing, and uses finance and smart subsides to influence actors through the market system; ultimately, to benefit low-income communities.

At the community level, MEDA collaborates with partners to strengthen the business capacities and competencies of target groups, enabling them to assess business opportunities and participate in growing sectors. This empowers communities to be active in the exploration, testing and adoption of new business models, products and services, and market connections. For example, MEDA projects support the growth of aggregation supply chains that link tens of thousands of small-scale producers to more advantageous and sustainable markets.

To stimulate the right economic conditions for small-scale producers, MEDA also identifies market maker firms that have the potential to both catalyze growth in relevant sectors and to offer greater inclusion of target clients. We build the capacity of these market makers through consultative business development activities that improve operational effectiveness, productivity, and market positioning. In addition, we provide or attract finance in the form of challenge grants, concessionary financial mechanisms or investment capital.

Did you employ any innovative approaches in your efforts to implement the goal?

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MEDA employs numerous innovations to achieve our objectives: private sector engagement for inclusive supply chains, digitally-connected lead farmers supporting sustainable and profitable agricultural practices, women sales agents connecting homebound women to markets, male gender activists promoting equality, loan guarantees incentivizing financial institutions to lend to small-scale producers, and more. A few specific examples include:

As part of MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana focused on integrating 20,000 women smallholder farmers into mainstream markets, a customized telecom-based mobile-phone information service was launched. Farmerline is a 399-information service that provides extensions service, weather forecasts, market prices, all through voice message (to overcome literacy challenges). Over 1000 women lead farmers (WLFs), who have access to mobile phones, can then share this information with other group members. The messages are also recorded in local languages to enhance adoption.

As part of MEDA’s Ukraine Horticultural Business Development Project (UHBDP) in Ukraine, MEDA is currently piloting a risk management tool, CLARA, that would allow local financial institution to assess credit risks when financing business engaged in 27 horticulture crops.

In Myanmar, MEDA’s Improving Market Opportunities for Women in a New Economy (IMOW) project is improving the incomes, agricultural productivity and leadership skills of 25,000 women farmers through a push-pull approach. Work at the community level to empower and ‘push’ women farmers into markets is complemented by private sector engagement that ‘pulls’ women farmers into better-functioning market systems with upgraded roles and improved incomes.

 

Were any partnerships leveraged or created?

MEDA currently works with over 400 partners around the world in private, public and civil-society sectors. Based on collaborative in-depth analysis, we jointly develop solutions that leverage local knowledge, resources, capacity and cultural sensitivity to overcome challenges and ensure models can be replicated and scaled in the local context.

A few examples of partnerships include:

In the early 2000s, MEDA identified a local association in Tajikistan as a promising entity for agricultural lending. MEDA built the capacity of the association, transferred $1 million loan capital (from the government of Canada) and supported the association’s transformation into Tajikistan’s largest rural lender, IMON International. MEDA has since provided IMON with additional investment and technical assistance, and sits on the board, contributing to IMON’s long-term success.

MicroVest, a private investment firm, targets clients at the base of the socioeconomic pyramid. Since inception, MicroVest has invested $1 BN of debt and equity financing to over 85 financial institutions in 30 countries around the globe including challenging environments such as Myanmar and Pakistan. MicroVest is currently owned by MEDA, Care USA, the Cordes Foundation and the MicroVest management team.

In Kenya, Tanzania, Nicaragua and Ukraine, MEDA partners with market-making firms in various sectors to develop the capacity of their suppliers through financial services, training and provision of inputs.

All these partnerships have contributed to the integration of low-income and excluded populations into mainstream markets and contributed to poverty alleviation in developing countries.

What communications strategy did you employ to share the initiative with your stakeholders?

MEDA’s Marketing and Communications team educates target two main audiences about its work:

  • Private donors via publicly available knowledge products which discuss MEDA’s programmatic successes and rally public support for tackling the SDGs. MEDA typically sends links to its project spotlights, blogs, and impact stories. Private Donors may also opt to receive an online or print version of The Marketplace; a bi-monthly magazine that explores both broad ethical business practices and MEDA’s project work. They may also keep informed by reading MEDA’s annual report and press releases on special events, such as its Open House Event where government officials spoke about MEDA’s approaches to poverty alleviation, gender equality and environmentalism. Private Donors can also attend Convention; MEDA’s annual conference and/or a Network Hub meeting to become informed about the innerworkings of MEDA’s projects.

 

  • Institutional (i.e. government and large private foundations) donors via privately circulated knowledge products which discuss MEDA’s technical expertise and industry leadership position. MEDA typically writes and presents to institutional donors on project implementation plans, and quarterly, annual reports. Institutional donors may also wish to receive an online or print version of its technical papers, such as the Gender Equality Mainstreaming (GEM) Framework; a manual for investors (e.g. private equity funds, government donors, foundations) and capacity builders (e.g. accelerators, technical assistance providers, NGOs) to help companies become more gender equitable while supporting business growth and impact. They may keep informed by participating in conferences and/or webinars where MEDA’s staff speak about their work.

How were KPIs and the levels of success outlined and defined?

MEDA’s consolidated KPIs measure sustainable livelihoods for small entrepreneurs, the development of enduring companies and scalable innovations. MEDA defines livelihoods for entrepreneurs (e.g., women smallholder farmers, youth vendors) as sustainable when male and female entrepreneurs have the skills, knowledge and resources to effectively manage economic opportunities and vulnerabilities. Our indicators include number of clients reached, increases in income, productive assets and capacity of their businesses to adapt to changing circumstances.

One of MEDA’s goals is to contribute to the development of enduring companies. These companies create/sustain livelihoods on an ongoing basis, aspire for growth and adapt to a changing business environment. Our indicators measure their asset value, sales venue, profit, number of clients/customers reached, number of jobs created, job quality/number of employees receiving benefits, number of and remuneration to suppliers, money invested in environmentally-friendly initiatives impacts and overall financial, environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

MEDA defines scalable innovations as novel products, services and business models deployed by the private sector to improve sustainable livelihoods and the lives of the poor. Innovation is creativity plus delivery – a combination of what the customer wants, technological choices that may be available, and monetization/commercialization. Indicators to measure scalable solutions include a list of MEDA’s innovative solutions complemented by regularly updated case studies.

How were reporting and monitoring conceptualized and undertaken?

Monitoring and reporting is based on KPIs measured against corporate strategic goals and the sustainable development goals. MEDA’s strategic goals are reevaluated every three years and the KPIs were developed by a team of representatives from all departments.

The monitoring and reporting of corporate KPIs is undertaken by MEDA’s monitoring and impact measurement team which collects data from all projects to be measured against the KPIs annually. The data is then analyzed to help us understand whether our interventions are achieving the results we expected, what we can learn, and which approaches need to be refined to help our clients reach their true potential.

MEDA strives for results. We use a Results-Based Management (RBM) approach and tools to collect and manage robust data related to our intended results. Examples of data tools include rolling baseline surveys, surveys, mobile data collection, focus group discussions, and most significant change stories. From project design to implementation all the way through to wrap-up, we focus on feedback loops to learn how each project can best contribute to our clients’ economic empowerment and prosperity.

Sustainability is important to us, and we want to see our clients continue to grow their incomes and operate successful businesses even after we leave. We measure key business performance indicators among past clients three years after our projects close and use this information to continually improve how we create business solutions to poverty.

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What were some key lessons learned?

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MEDA has learned that it is possible to align the aspirations and needs of low-income and vulnerable households with objectives of the private sector. This requires sound knowledge of sectors and market dynamics, along with innovative solutions, incentives and models that can catalyze change in relationships, products and system functioning.

This requires a range of approaches to stimulate demand for services – awareness raising through various media from radio and phone information services to community dialogue and creative activities as well as posters and other print media. MEDA uses participatory tools and analysis – such as focus group discussions and village savings groups add-on session – amongst marginalized groups (e.g., disadvantaged women in Jordan’s agriculture and tourism sectors – CAD $20 M – 25,000 women and youth) whereby we stimulate demand for needed services and supports.  In other MEDA projects, such as in Libya (USD $2 M – 5000 women in business), Ukraine (CAD $20 M – 45,000 farmers and agribusinesses) and Nigeria ($15 M – 20,000 women and youth in multiple sectors) marginalized groups are reached by innovative training approaches including massive open online courses (MOOCs). For example, in Libya where in-person support is compromised by security issues, business women and men (who work with women as employees, suppliers and clients) are able to learn about gender-based challenges, assess business needs and reduce gender biases in businesses and promote women’s inclusion and active participation. In Ukraine, MOOCs are offered in the low season (e.g., winter in Ukraine when people are more homebound) to encourage uptake.

What were the key impacts and results?

MEDA has expanded programming reach and technical expertise over more than six decades. We now focus our programming on market systems development, gender and social inclusion, inclusive financial services and impact investing. Over the past year, MEDA has helped 103 million families in 62 countries realize healthier, more economically sustainable lives through our work with 401 partners. More information can be found in MEDA’s 2018 Annual Report.