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Connexus : Issue 38
68 connexus www.abacus.org.au Supporters of CUFA programs that increase access to financial services and alleviate poverty in the Asia- Pacific region are well aware that their contributions bring about profound improvements to many people’s lives. However, as CUFA seeks to broaden its supporter base, it needs to find compelling ways to measure and communicate the full effectiveness of its programs. Credit union membership, savings figures and the like are comparatively easy to collate and understand. But the way they translate into improved standards of food, shelter, health, education and opportunities are harder to measure. CUFA’s challenge is to use research tools into social return on investment to measure these intrinsic, intangible and long-term outcomes and impacts. The only way to do this is to meet with participants in the programs and with the people around them who also benefit from their progress and success. The researchers will observe and participate in their activities and conduct interviews and surveys with them. Where there is an observable or demonstrated common thread of change in the research group’s data, it will be valued on a comparable basis and used in a report on social return on investment. Existing methods such as the Poverty Alleviation Measurement Tool (PAMT) will be expanded and developed to include this research as an economical way to achieve what is normally an expensive and resource- intensive exercise. A valuable body of data has been gathered over the last 12 months of the PAMT program. With other data from CUFA’s work, it will provide a solid base from which to present supporters, and potential supporters, with a clear and transparent report. CUFA’s programs include: • Cambodia Children’s Financial Literacy – a school-based program which flows on to parents and siblings when the children teach them how to save effectively and use their money wisely. • Building Institutional Capacity – improving community access to savings and loans products through transparent and financially sound financial cooperatives in Cambodia, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. • Village Entrepreneur Initiative – providing funding, advice and training for credit union members who are small-business entrepreneurs in Cambodia and Timor Leste. In all these programs, profoundly positive outcomes are being achieved far beyond the initial purpose and use of contributors’ funding. They are also beyond CUFA’s current means to measure them, and the research into social return on investment will seek to remedy that. – Philip Lambert is CUFA project officer. Measuring the threads of change ...positive outcomes are being achieved far beyond the initial purpose and use of contributors’ funding. Sophisticated research will be used to gauge the social impact of CUFA’s programs. By Philip Lambert COMMUNITY