Evidence is central to this mission. It underpins GIF’s ability to act like a venture capitalist for the public good, empowering us to take informed risks in pursuit of large payoffs – better health, better nourishment, more education, and more income for the world’s poor.
Evidence underlies our project cycle:
Evidence in: The evidence supporting proposed projects – helps us to decide which of them offer the highest expected social benefits at scale. It helps us also to identify assumptions and issues in need of further testing. As projects progress beyond proof-of-concept in scope and funding ambitions, the requirements for pre-existing evidence become more stringent. A constant, though, is that the GIF model is most appealing to, and most beneficial for, innovators who care about using and generating evidence.
Evidence within: Feedback generated during project execution – helps projects rapidly to learn and adapt. The pioneering innovations supported by GIF don’t come with blueprints. Rapid, cost-effective feedback can help our investees to test their assumptions, figure out what is working and what is not, and continuously improve their processes and impact. GIF is positioning itself to be part of this revolution in development practice, a departure from the traditional emphasis on rigid log frames. We will help investees take advantage of emerging technologies for monitoring and decision-making, including use of mobile phones, remote sensing, and big data analytics.
Evidence out: Evidence generated by the project – helps us, the innovators, and other investors decide whether the innovation should be scaled up, and if so, how. The power of GIF’s approach is in using cheap, informative experiments to identify good bets among a stable of long-shot, high-payoff prospects. So GIF supports not only rigorous measurement of impact and cost-effectiveness, but also evaluation of the factors that can promote or impede the innovation as it moves to larger scale or scope.
GIF’s use of evidence goes beyond the project cycle. Evidence out from GIF’s projects can provide valuable guidance to investors, donors, governments, and social entrepreneurs on what works, what doesn’t, and why. Indeed, some GIF’s most important contributions to the development community may come from demonstrating that what seemed like a plausible intervention is in fact ineffective. GIF also hopes to use evidence to show that GIF’s overall approach is effective and worthy of take-up by other development finance organisations.
Finally, GIF’s evidence-based focus on impact sets the right organisational incentives, emphasising the quality of investment choices and providing clear metrics for tracking success. Our success, when it comes, will be clearly demonstrable.