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Practical Impact Assessment

GIF uses an innovative approach to forecast, track, and evaluate
results across its investment cycle. Learn more below.


GIF and other impact funds need an impact metric:


For project selection and appraisal:

Which proposals offer the greatest potential for impact?


To credibly forecast long-run impact:

Based on today’s information, what impact will our investment have in the long run?


To track portfolio performance:

As projects enter, evolve, succeed, or fail, what happens to the Fund’s overall anticipated impact?


That balances rigor with practicality:

Getting good-enough precision with resources and data that are appropriate for the scale of the investment.

Measurement challenge

Comparing disparate outcomes

Problem: ‘people reached’ is an inadequate measure

  • Some innovations have profound effects on a few people; others have modest impacts on many people.
  • How do we compare different kinds of impact?


  • Measure depth of impact in a way that is comparable across projects

Tracking progress towards long-term impact


  • It can take 10 – 30 years to achieve scale
  • We need to credibly predict impact long before it is actually observed
  • We want to motivate attention to total portfolio impact, knowing that some of our investments will fail, but other could have extraordinary impact.


  • Risk-adjusted projections, updated as improves and risks are resolved.


Practical Impact defined


Breadth of Impact

The number of low-income people who will benefit at year 10.


Depth of Impact

Benefit per person relative to annual income.


Probability of Success

The likelihood that the innovation will be successful in 10 years.

Practical Impact focuses on order of magnitude


How many people will benefit?


How big is the benefit per person?


What is the chance of success?

A universal scale of impact depth
  • Choosing among competing proposals inescapably means comparing health, education, and income outcomes
  • The depth scale makes these relative values explicit
  • For easier estimation, the scale is relative to a typical beneficiary’s annual income or consumption
  • Lives saved and illness avoided are scaled using Value of a Statistical life. This summarizes people’s willingness to pay for risk reductions. It doesn’t represent the intrinsic value of life
  • Education is scaled using typical economic returns to increased education
Snapshot of impact at year ten
  • GIF seeks to support early-stage innovations that will scale-up to benefit millions of people
  • Such innovations typically start slowly and then achieve exponential growth
  • The snapshot of projected impact at year 10 captures the prospects for long-term impact

Depth of impact

Examples of Depth IMPACT
Perceptible Impact Reducing congestion; saving 10 minutes/day average commuting time, indefinitely image
Significant Impact Boost farm yield 30% for one season image
Substantial Impact An additional year of education vs 0 image
Life Saved A life saved image

Practical Impact Units

The following all have an impact = 1

  • =1 person getting a one-time benefit of 100% of annual income: a person-year of income
  • =10 people getting a one time benefit of 10% of income
  • =100 people getting a one time benefit of 1% of income
  • =1 person getting a permanent increase of 10% in annual income. (because our discount rate is 10%)

risk analysis

Radio messages to promote modern 
contraception in Burkina Faso

Innovation Premise

A radio campaign can overcome informational barriers to adoption of modern contraception.


Promotional broadcasts are made in randomly selected radio markets. Surveys compare contraceptive uptake to ‘control’ areas.

Scale Premise

If the demonstration stage is successful, governments and donors will adopt the innovation.

Example of risk analysis


Impact estimates are updated over time as risks are resolved and impacts better measured


Impact portfolios

Impact can be aggregated across projects

  • Impact portfolios are like financial portfolios.
  • A financial portfolio is periodically re-valued. Loans are repaid or written off. Equity holdings may be revalued based on market outcomes.
  • Similarly, an impact portfolio changes value as risks are resolved (for better or worse) and the innovation diffuses (or not).

Innovation forecast

GIF’s innovations are expected to significantly benefit 83mpeople annually by 2028, making them
6% better off

This is measured as 5.2 million PYI per year

GIF’s innovations are forecasted to benefit 33m people annually by 2027 while generating an average impact equivalent to 14% of a person’s annual income.

  • This includes about 4,100 lives saved and 29,000 morbidity-related DALYs each year.
  • This considers only 28 of 38 investments in which we’ve done detailed impact analysis.

These estimates are risk-adjusted, taking into consideration that not all innovations will succeed.

These estimates are subject to revision as GIF expands project coverage and improves its risk assessment methodology.

Portfolio level risk analysis

75% chance of achieving
impact >2.2m PYI

  • Each investment has lower and upper bound estimates of impact and a likelihood of success
  • GIF uses these estimates to simulate the impact of the entire GIF portfolio in ten-years time
  • We run thousands of simulations, covering different possible outcomes within and across projects.
  • The graph shows the probability of achieving different impact levels.
  • The graph shows the probability of achieving different impact levels.
  • The average impact across these simulations is 5.2m PYI

Probability of achieving different levels of impact