[CASE STUDY] The power of evaluations in impact management and measurement

  • Thelma BRENES, FMO


In this session, FMO shared its experience with different approaches to evaluations of the financial inclusion sector. Impact management and measurement (IMM) is becoming increasingly important as there are higher expectations and requirements from investors and the public. The discussion focused on metrics, standards, and reporting, while less emphasis was placed on the role and the power of impact studies for IMM. FMO has vast experience in several impact methodologies and approaches, identifying their shortcomings and advantages.

First of all, Thelma BRENES shared FMO’s overall learnings of IMM:

  1. Explicitly state the goal(s) of the evaluation;
  2. Connect the evaluation purpose and question with the company strategy;
  3. Define evaluation topics and question by consultation with stakeholders;
  4. Start with defining the question and then select the right methodology/approach;
  5. Expand the array of evaluation types to fit the learning needs. Have a wide toolbox open to new approaches.

Subsequently, Mitzi PEREZ PADILLA took over by sharing FMO’s toolbox with 4 evaluation types including examples. First of all, FMO distinguishes Strategic studies with the purpose to explore emerging challenges and opportunities regarding markets, sectors, country, etc. to inform FMO’s strategy and to cover an information gap. For this purpose, they also gather lessons from outside FMO. Examples are ‘Evidence mapping of the financial inclusion fund MASSIF’ or ‘Investing in fragile states’.

Secondly, FMO makes use of Thematic evaluations, addressing overarching themes across the different FMO investments. A good example is an evaluation of gender finance covering three FSP’s and different geographies. It gave insights into the development, adaptation, and innovation of products and services offered by each of the FSP part of the evaluation.

The third type of evaluation of FMO’s toolbox is Investment evaluations which relate more to FMO’s traditional investments, accountability, filling knowledge gaps, and measuring the impact of innovative business models. An example is the evaluation of the MFI Sembrar Sartawi Evaluation to understand if increased access to finance combined with Technical Assistance and market access would have an impact on farmers’ income.

Finally, FMO makes use of Corporate evaluations, which are more at FMO organizational level providing strategic insights on core sectors and themes for accountability and organizational learning. An example is the corporate evaluation of SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities), covering FMO’s performance on this SDG, global inequality challenges, and recommendations for FMO in this regard.

The third speaker Maaike PLATENBURG shared the overall challenges and opportunities of FMO’s impact management and measurement. Challenges mentioned are the fact that evaluation studies can be costly (for that, partnerships are key, for example for sharing data); the lack of quality data; and lastly, that it is necessary but sometimes difficult to commit to implementing the findings. In addition, it can be a challenge to keep updating the toolbox. On the other hand, opportunities can be found in the use of evaluations for internal learning and not solely for proving impact; to help shape an organisation’s strategy; and to be part of a wider community of practice with increasingly more actors active. Moreover, there is an opportunity to use existing data and to improve social performance.


When asked whether FMO works with existing data for their corporate evaluations, or through the additional collecting of data, Perez Padilla responded that for their corporate evaluations they mostly rely on data already collected by FMO. For case studies, they often collect additional data and conduct interviews. Brenes added that in case of specific evaluative questions, they collect also additional primary data.

One other question from the audience was: “Who collects the data, your investees and do you guide them, or do you work through external data collection? Do you build local capacity on this?”

Perez Padilla replied that it really depends on the investee as their client, i.e. whether it has learning needs and is motivated to learn in this regard. It also depends on the purpose of the evaluation. Brenes concluded by saying that FMO often collects end-beneficiary data through their investees.