How to become better at understanding the potential systemic impact of your portfolio?

NewForesight supported Swisscontact in their Sahaj – Nepal Agricultural Market Development Programme (NAMDP) to enhance their understanding of risk and systemic impact. In this article, we share some highlights of the work.  

Impact is notoriously difficult to predict, measure, and evaluate, especially when an intervention focus is downstream in the value chain. To manage the complexity of impact measurement and to allow for better informed decision making, Swisscontact approached NewForesight to develop a Portfolio Management Tool to assess the interventions done by the Sahaj program.

The aim of this tool to assess impact and risks of defined interventions ex ante and with this, support strategic decision-making on portfolio level. This tool also allows Sahaj’ management team to have the best available assessment of the expected impact and level of risk of the total portfolio of interventions at any time during the implementation, instead of just having assessments at a given milestone.

How the tool works

NewForesight created a new approach and operational process to look at the expected risk and impact of Sahaj’ interventions.

At any moment in the program, and after a thorough risk analysis, the Sahaj project teams provide input for the expected outcome scenario of each intervention, as well as some insights for the risk and range for impact. With this input and using probabilistic analysis methods, the tool creates a probability distribution of expected impact for the program in its entirety. In other words, by understanding and quantifying the uncertainty of reaching intended impact for every intervention, the tool is able to aggregate and quantify the outcome range of all the interventions combined. This helps to have a better understanding of the most probable “real” outcome in the long term, and to make informed strategic decisions in a timely manner.

The outcome of the tool is provided as indicators that are relevant for Swisscontact’s impact strategy – e.g. number of jobs created. This portfolio level perspective allows Sahaj to have a clear grip on whether it is likely to reach its intended goals in the long term and stablish a relation to the resources used in the program to steer implementation.

This is an innovative approach to portfolio management, as it allows integrating real time intelligence from the field with data from past projects, to have a fair understanding of the impact in the longer term, cutting through different levels of complexity.

Figure 1 A portfolio simulation of the effects of interventions on job creation

About Sahaj

Sahaj, Nepali for ‘facilitate’ or ‘make easier’, is a program of three phases spanning from 2016-2028. It is a project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and implemented by Swisscontact and the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED). Sahaj’ objectives are to grow employment and income for Nepal’s rural population including women and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Implementing a market systems development approach

In line with NewForesight’s emphasis on market driven solutions, Swisscontact implements programs following a market systems development (MSD) approach. This transformative approach aims to change the way markets work by addressing the existing market failures and strengthening the private sector. It enables systems to function in more inclusive, effective and efficient ways, providing the means by which poor women and men access social and economic benefits.

In the first phase of the project (2016-2020), Sahaj increased farmer income by providing support to market-based solutions around inputs and farming. The aim of the interventions was to increase farm yield and provide for improved marketing potential. The second phase (2020-2024) aims to increase employment and income through systemic change by focusing on interventions downstream in the value chain. The second phase promotes forward market linkages, strengthening the country’s commercialization, processing and export of value-added agriculture products.

Interested in portfolio management tools?

Want to know more about our work on tools for Impact measurement and portfolio management? Get in touch with our expert Silvana Paniagua!