FIP 80: The case for not collecting impact data – and what to do instead with Loïc Watine of IPA

I talk to Loïc Watine about evaluating impact in your social enterprise. Loïc is with the right-fit evidence unit at Innovations for Poverty Action. He helps organizations consider what else they should measure if they’re not in a position to make the most of a rigorous impact evaluation.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • For this interview, we’re saying impact is the difference that is being made. So for farmers, the change in their yield or their income.
  • When feasible and when done well, RCTs are the best way to measure impact of an intervention. You can actually tell the impact attributable to the intervention and rules any other effect out, thanks to the use of a control group for comparison.
  • An RCT is a significant undertaking so the business model needs to be mature enough to warrant an RCT, such that any operational kinks need to be ironed out and the business is giving it’s best shot at the desired impact.
  • When an RCT isn’t the right choice, and it is more accessible than people imagine, you could instead focus more on the early outcomes and look at the existing evidence from similar programs elsewhere.
  • The first thing social enterprises can do when wanting to measure their impact is to draw out a theory of change, which is essentially describing what happens between the specific activities the business is doing and the outcomes you’re aiming for (e.g. more jobs, better exam results, etc.)
  • To decide what sort of impact studies businesses should be adopting, you can use your learning-cost ratio, which is about comparing the value of the learning you’re getting and the money you’re spending on the monitoring and evaluation element.
  • There are simple steps social enterprises can take to verify their impact without an RCT. Such as continuously verifying that the customers are actually using the product or service, which is a vital step for the impact to be realised.
  • Use the CART framework to prioritise what data to collect. Is your data Credible? Is the data you’re collecting Actionable and you know how you’ll use the data? Is the cost of collecting the data Responsible, compared to what other business benefits that money can be used for? And can the data be Transportable and inform your programming outside the specific context and time in which you’ve been collecting it?
  • The right-fit evidence unit is an advisory unit of IPA that works with other organisations to help figure out what data they should collect with their limited resources, if it’s the right time to do an impact evaluation, how to maximise their learning-cost ratio.
  • Organisations get tripped up by dedicating too many resources on the final stages of the theory of change, when they could be measuring more meaningful earlier outcomes far cheaper. Another mistake is to collect too much data without a clear reason or ability to analyse it, which is a waste of resources.

Links to further resources:

Connect with Loïc:


FIP 79: Lessons from a data driven social enterprise with Mina Shahid

This is our first in an episode series on data and social enterprises. Today’s guest is Mina Shahid of Numida who shares his thoughts on how to effectively incorporate data into social enterprises.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Mina and Numida started to incorporate customer-provided data to both develop digital tools that their customers themselves can use to improve their financial literacy and serve as the information backbone for Numida’s credit decision making.
  • In terms of steps in building a data driven enterprise, Mina highlights:
    • First, figuring out what type and quality of data an enterprise needs to make its business model work (which may be a trial and error process).
    • Second, the importance of focusing on what channels you are going to use to get that information. Mina notes access can be a huge challenge, as a company may need to create new data sets in order to be successful.
    • Third, the need of having a strong product development team and being very rigorous in the design process. He imports that a lot of app or technology features that Westerns think are intuitive are not actually “easy to use” for first time smart phone users. From that perspective, Numida feels like it is really at the forefront of creating the market for digital tools for African small business users.
  • Building on the last point, Mina also talks about all the information that Numida tracks for its enterprise customers and how to make those reports easy to understand and actionable for its clients. In terms of developing and improving “usability”, every action in the application is tracked – meaning that Numida can see how many steps or how much time it takes for its users to use different features. For example, they shaved off a minute of time from their process to register their new transaction flow. Mina underscores that this laser focus on app “usability” can be key to getting and maintaining customers in a digital-first business.
  • Mina highlights how being a data driven company has in the end helped conserve precious resources by allowing the company to focus on what is most important for its business. This includes quantifying the impact of its products on its customers, further supporting the value proposition of Numida.
  • Mina also touches on privacy – noting that a lot of people in the developing world are not really focused on privacy – and that Numida does not use data mining practices that it finds unethical. They are very upfront with their clients on the type of information they are using and why they are asking for it.
  • He notes that while Numida still has some manual tasks, making it clear that not everything has to be entirely digitalized from day one to be efficient and scalable.
  • Finally, Mina’s advice to other social entrepreneurs that want to leverage data in their business model is to just do it and take the opportunity to be data driven if it is there. He highlights the importance of really thinking about how you want to use data to make decisions in the future and to make that a cultural element in the company from day one.

Links to resources:

Connect with Mina:

Raghu Krishnaswamy Finding Impact

FIP 78: Finding Strengths to Let Managers Shine with Raghu Krishnaswamy

This is the third part in our second human capital series, with seasoned leader and manager of people, Raghu Krishnaswamy. It’s a real honour to get him on the podcast to share some of his insights about managing teams. Raghu spent over 30 years with Unilever in various roles crossing many aspects of the commercial world – starting as a management trainee and finishing up as VP for Marketing Operations in Africa.

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Unilever’s culture of developing talent was the best thing Raghu’s taken from his career there. He enjoyed the diversity in his job, which took him to many different countries and he learned to develop many different teams in different cultures.
  • Ragu is Chief Commercial Officer at Off-grid: electric. He does two things: build brand and build people. His view is that to reach scale as an individual, the best thing he can do is build the human capital side of the business.
  • Raghu starts by looking for people’s motivation. On the one hand he works with the western elites who come to the country wanting to do good, and the other, african entrepreneurs, who are either engaged with the purpose or are just in it for the job.
  • To do this, he invests time in getting to know the people in this team. He does this by being genuine and authentic, which helps people to open up and be their whole selves. He knows their struggles, the moments of joy, their kids, etc. This helps the manager figure out the right direction within the company for the individual to grow.
  • To help people open up, be transparent about your failings, and limitations. For Raghu, it’s about his challenges with technology and not staying out late socializing with the team. This builds a strong bond of trust.
  • With trust, your team will come to you with problems or when they need help. So you’re creating a safe environment which people.
  • Building a good team needs good casting – which means defining the ingredients well i.e.e the diversity and personalities within a team need to fit. As a manager, you’re trying to put individuals together who compliment each other’s strengths.
  • To find people’s strengths, you observe. What can they do well? If you help people shine by allowing them to amplify their strengths, you’re creating a happy individual who wants to do their best for the organisation.
  • There’s no substitute for getting people to do work, and then, observe them on the job to identify their strengths.
  • When you hire, you hire for the right attitude, and you train them for skills.
  • Social enterprises must get to grips with the sensitive topic of cultural divide, when people from top class, developed nation universities, who have a burning sense of purpose, get to work alongside young, committed, purpose-driven Africans, or those who simply are working for a job. In Raghu’s experience, initially local team members might not feel confident fully engaging with the newcomers, and vice versa. You need to work on creating a safe environment to form teams that gel.
  • Raghu counters the idea that high standards need to be relaxed because you’re operating in Africa. Location has nothing to do with excellence. Human excellence can be achieved anywhere.
  • When problems are complex, solutions are invariably complex as well. There’s often 10 things to be done, and the ‘burden of leadership’ is to choose which of the 10 things to focus on, with consistency, until excellence is achieved.
  • The danger with introducing technical solutions into social enterprise is that frontline workers cannot be burdened with complexity. Push complexity up.

Links to resources:

Connect with Raghu:


FIP 77: Company culture and ways to motivate and build cohesion with Julienne Oyler

Today’s guest is Julianne Oyler of the African Entrepreneur Collective who shares her thoughts on building organizational culture.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why Julienne thinks that “culture eats strategy”, noting that even for herself it is important to have a fun and exciting work environment to be successful. The way that she interprets this phrase is that an organization can set a good strategy, but it is really good people that are the engine of the work and success.
  • For the African Entrepreneur Collective – which is based on the idea that the problems on the African continent have solutions that already exist in Africa – its mission translates into organizational values and culture. For example, they focus on hiring local talent, using ideas that come from their staff, and have a commitment to continuous learning and growing. She notes the importance of cultivating values organically and not hierarchically.
  • Sometimes, however, the organization’s value can clash with the country in which they are working. The African Entrepreneur Collective manages this to some extent through hiring – for example, hiring people that are comfortable in working with non-traditional or non-hierarchical work settings. The hiring process includes a values-based screen, with employees receiving continued reinforcement of culture during performance reviews, meetings, in the office environment via paintings and artefacts, and about every two months the organization roasts a goat to come together as a team and celebrate successes and have fun.
  • The organization also does “happiness audits”, which is based on the idea that employees are the best predictors of future success of the organization. Every six months, she asks each employee how they feel about their current position, how they feel about the organization, and what is one thing that management can do to make their life happier at the organization. Julienne notes that people tend to be predictive and forward looking when speaking about their roles and are motivated by being a part of something larger than themselves.
  • For the people on the team who may not naturally fit with some of the values, sometimes they have quiet conversations with people regarding expectations and performance in relation to specific responsibilities and tasks.
  • They have also started a book club, from which they recommend “Radical Candor” and “Getting Things Done”. Julienne herself looks to Starbucks as an example of a large corporation that has an ongoing commitment to culture from which other organizations may be able to derive inspiration.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Julienne:



FIP 76: KPIs, Cohesion, and Driving Performance with Gayatri Datar of EarthEnable

Gayatri is co-founder of EarthEnable, a social enterprise with a mission to improve the health of low-income communities by replacing dirt floors with affordable and sanitary floors. She is incredibly passionate about scaling simple technologies that can have a positive impact across the world. Gayatri shares some tips and tricks on KPIs, building team cohesion and driving performance.

On this episode we’ll discuss:

  • The 5 whys technique – ask ‘why’ until you get to the core of the issue. For example, What are the core issues that are influencing health? For Gayatri, floors continued to come up as a concern, but not at the start of conversations. “What would you want to change?” Roof. Why? Because it leaks. Why? Creates more problems: muddy puddles on floor, bugs, people get sick. Then the discussion surrounding the floor would take place.
  • Be comfortable with failure! Try things that aren’t fully thought out or planned. Not everything needs to be structured. You can learn so much from this process. Fail early, fail often.
  • When developing your KPIs, clearly lay out what ‘good’ looks like. Start micro, then go macro.
  • Gayatri’s team does not have output oriented KPIs, but they used to. She found output oriented KPIs were doing everyone a disservice and causing clashes between her teams. If her sales team were focused on numbers, it could be difficult for her operations team to deliver high quality floors to all of her clients. They would find themselves asking the sales team to lay off sales to deliver better quality. Their incentive structure wasn’t helping the achieve their goals of building high quality floors for their clients.
  • Everyone should always be working together towards impact. At EarthEnable, all employees are being rewarded on 3 things – number of families they impact, customer satisfaction, and profitability. All employees are optimizing for all 3. The goal is to have everyone working more fluidly across departments.
  • Start to delegate! Relinquish power where possible.Second stage of growth.
  • Try not to have KPIs that handcuff you to goals that may shift or change.
  • Can be easy to choose your first few KPIs, should be tied to your values. Consider using Sub KPIs that monitor the key metrics that are influencing the big 3 KPIs.
  • If sales positions are purely commission based, your team may not feel safe or secure enough in their job to do it well. Can be a huge distraction. Incentives should be intrinsic in order to motivate employees to grow the company while serving your customers well.
  • Gayatri’s team has quarterly performance reviews. They strongly believe in structured check-ins.
  • Make a commitment to be honest with each other about what your team isn’t doing well. It is important to acknowledge when things aren’t going well.
  • Negative feedback doesn’t feel good, but it is the only feedback that helps you grow. It can make you feel in conflict with who you think you are.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Gayatri:

FIP 75: Board Effectiveness with Charity Chanda Lumpa

Today we continue our podcast takeover series with Tamsin Jones of The Boardroom Africa. Her guest today is Charity Chanda Lumpa, the first female Board chair for Zanaco, who shares her thoughts on board effectiveness.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Charity was inspired by poor experiences with boards to start working on and advocating for board effectiveness, beginning with the on-boarding of directors. Charity thinks the three most important roles of boards are: (1) providing oversight (versus management), (2) making value-added decisions, and (3) handling gray areas.
  • Charity thinks that boards should be diverse in a number of ways, including gender diversity, international / local representation, as well as board members that represent specific business expertise (such as marketing, finance, law, etc.). She emphasizes that the board should possess all the skills to help the social enterprise or company achieve its strategy. Such diversity can be maintained by establishing diversity policies, succession planning, and purposeful hiring.
  • Noting how one of the main responsibilities of the Board is to provide oversight, Charity also talks a lot about how to instill a performance culture in a company. Charity shares her experience in establishing performance indicators and reward mechanisms based on trends analysis that management puts in place based on a framework that is being provided by the board.
  • As the Chair of a board, Charity feels her role is to be a sounding board for the CEO and providing support when needed, not to really meddle in the internal management of the company. She also highlights the importance of having established terms of reference for the board, a board charter, and purposeful on-boarding of each director to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Charity:

FIP 74: Gender Smart Investing with Suzanne Biegel

On this episode we continue our podcast takeover series with Tamsin Jones of The Boardroom Africa. Her guest today is Suzanne Biegel of Catalyst at Large. Suzanne has more than 25 years’ of experience as an entrepreneur, investor, board member, and hands-on operational manager. Her consulting, speaking, facilitation, writing and field scanning is in gender lens investing, globally and spans work with a variety of institutional actors.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • About what it means to practice smart investing for gender impact. Suzanne provides tactics and strategies to help us improve.
  • The importance of having a culture that is built to last. Suzanne has learned through experience that there is strength in diversity.
  • If you don’t have a management team that reflects who you are representing, you might be missing something. Inherent value in having different perspectives.
  • Suzanne tells us about the benefits of analyzing your business through a gender lens.
  • If you are designing products for women and girls, wouldn’t it make sense to have them involved in the design process?
  • Pay attention to ‘hidden influencers’ along the way. These might not be your customers, entrepreneurs, or end clients, but could be the controllers, HR staff or accountants in the company. Are they benefiting from the resources and support? Who is in your supply chain?
  • Is your company paying attention to women’s needs? Transportation? Child Care? Is there a safe way for women to get to and from work?
  • From a customer standpoint, how are you speaking to your women customers? Are you being respectful? Are you hitting stereotypes? Start by asking questions.
  • The data shows that once you get product market fit right for female customers, they will be more loyal. Once you secure a female customer, they tend to be more communicative about the product to others and in essence become an ambassador. They are more likely to recommend products and more likely to buy more.
  • Be purposeful in where you use your energy. There are a lot of people on the same journey as you. Find partners and work collaboratively where possible.
  • Start with a problem that you are really trying to resolve and go towards it relentlessly.
  • There are endless events and resources worldwide. People are realizing there is power in connectivity! Visit a few of Suzanne’s resources below…

Links to Resources:

Resources for Investors:


Connect with Suzanne:

  • @womeneffect
  • @zanne2
  • #genderlensinv

FIP 73: Men Who Champion Women with Isaac Fokuo

Today we begin our new podcast takeover series with Tamsin Jones of The Boardroom Africa. Her first guest is Isaac Fokuo of Botho Emerging Markets Group who shares his thoughts on how men can be champions for women.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • The tools and tactics for building gender diversity from a male perspective, which for Isaac derives from where he is from and his family history. For Isaac, the word “diversity” implies a push and a pull and that there is a dominant conversation, which was not the case in his household where is mom and aunts were both family and business leaders. Isaac notes that in his own life, he tends to gravitate toward female-owned businesses because they resonate with his values.
  • Isaac explains the parallels between racism in the United States and gender discrimination in Africa, notably the similar excuse when hiring of “there are no qualified candidates” that are people of color or women. Isaac clarifies that qualified candidates are there, companies or institutions just need to look harder and those that have made an effort to diversify have been able to do so. For African institutions, he thinks they just need to be very deliberate in their diversity efforts.
  • In terms of unconscious bias, Isaac does think it exists – which can be both positive and negative – that can be based on peoples’ personal and family experiences and we should all be careful to manage these blind spots.
  • Isaac struggles to answer the question of the value of gender diversity, as the value seems to be so self-evident. Any company that sales to women – whether it is a bank, a retail business, or an NGO – need to have women on their staff so they can better understand their client base. Having a diverse team is also impactful for innovation and ownership because it allows people to expand beyond the group and give a voice to other people.
  • Finally, Isaac recommends that men who are looking to help diversity their boards or companies should start by understanding what are the entrenched self-interests that prevents gender inclusivity, finding other ways to include people in decision-making, being an advocate for women, and encouraging women to be advocates for themselves. He also suggests that it may be easier to diversify the workforce and management team before the board, as an additional way to provide evidence of the positive results that can come from gender diversity.

Links to Resources:


FIP 72: Funding 4/4 – Breaking Down Term Sheet Terms with Nina Gené of Jasmine Social Investments

Our final episode in our 2018 fundraising series features Nina Gené of Jasmine Social Investments. The goal of this episode is to provide entrepreneurs with insights to better prepare them for negotiations with potential funders or investors. Nina joined Jasmine in 2007 with the responsibility to identify prospective investments, support partner organisations and collaborate with a network of social investors. Jasmin Social Investments funds high-performing social ventures and outstanding social entrepreneurs who are solving a basic need of the very poor.

My key takeaways from this interview were:

  • Nina believes that Jasmine, who also invest in tech startups in New Zealand, are better venture capitalists because they are philanthropists. Learnings from the social side include how to do comprehensive due diligence, how to listen to other investors and leverage others’ due diligence, and how to give advice as generalists to organisations in their portfolio.
  • On their granting side, Jasmine takes one single measure of success and they ensure they know in detail the underlying economics of it. This type of thinking in the early days should help entrepreneurs decide whether to scale through equity or grants. And this is a big learning because entrepreneurs sometimes instead of deciding, they end up guided by investors and the lure of getting funded so they grow quicker. Therefore entrepreneurs need the confidence to only go after the funding they really want.
  • Entrepreneurs shouldn’t get caught up on getting the highest valuation they can get, because a deal is about alot more than the price. It’s about the opportunity to work with great people who are also very aligned to your mission. And if you delay, you risk running out of money, which is a poor negotiation position.
  • Seed rounds are normally done on a convertible basis these days, instead of straight equity, so you’re delaying the valuation discussion. Whether an investor requires a valuation or not is a personal thing. But if you choose not to do a valuation, you might need to informally put a price on the valuation, so you protect your seed round investors from the demands of the investors in the next round.
  • Another critical question to figure out is about raising the right amount of capital and getting the timing right. Entrepreneurs try to raise the minimum amount now so they can raise a larger amount later at a higher price. But then the entrepreneur could end up in permanent fundraising mode instead of making some key hires and iterating the model. Better to take the money now and set yourself up for a longer time.
  • Make sure you keep terms simple, because the next investor will lay the rights on top of yours, and you could wind up getting too complicated. Always ask yourself: “Am I doing something in this round that will prevent someone fantastic to come in on the next round?”
  • Smart clauses to include are anti-dilution rights, which ensures existing investors are always protected by a future down round. And giving them pro-rata rights, so you allow current investors to participate in future rounds so they can maintain their percentage ownership.
  • On allowing Board seats, small and effective Boards (five seats) are essential so giving investors a seat on the advisory Board might be better, otherwise you end up with a massive board which is unproductive.
    And access rights might be avoided because you might not want to share the full stack of your accounts for every investor always, but on the other hand, one email every six months should be the minimum for all investors.
  • Other than your own learning (see resources below), entrepreneurs should talk with their peers, talk about terms and their views.

Links to resources mentioned in this interview:

Connect with Jasmine:


FIP71: Fundraising 3/4 – Getting to First Close (Part 2) with Miora Randriambeloma of Chalkboard Education

Today we continue to hear from Miora Randriambeloma, co-founder of the ed-tech startup Chalkboard Education, which is changing the culture of African education through e-learning. Chalkboard Education aims to democratize learning by providing mobile learning solutions that work on all mobile devices – even without internet connection. On Part 2 of the interview, Miora tells us about the importance of having a strong network of critical friends and how long fundraising really takes.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Miora herself had to learn about equity investments, such as how do shares work, what are shareholder agreements, what are the long-term implications of equity, as well as other important vocabulary.
  • The different types of investors in West Africa, including venture capital, foundations, crowdfunding (including churches and local platforms), incubators, and business plan competitions, and the fact that there is not always a match between the capital that organizations can provide and start-up needs.
  • What issues start-ups should take into account when considering equity for acceleration programs, and what the implications of giving up 10-15% of equity to an accelerator can mean over the long-term.
  • Why she and her co-founder decided to launch their company in Ghana because of the growing tech scene, but also how they used their international networks to gain valuable connections and advice.
  • That for Chalkboard Education, raising the Seed Series took 8 months, even though they knew after 3 months that they would get the capital — and that she wouldn’t recommend accelerating the process because it was important for them to really understand what they were getting into.
  • How having strong advisors and networks was key for good decision making during the company’s first raise.



Connect with Miora: