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Measuring youth employment projects: What can we learn from each other?

Jose Manuel Romero's picture
When it comes to youth employment projects, there is a lag in the spread of innovations due to the various contexts, funders, and organizations often operating independently. (Photo:  Flore de Préneuf / World Bank)


Youth employment projects face varying contextual realities and constraints that often result in generating innovations when adapting and customizing their monitoring and evaluation system. There is a lag in the spread of innovations due to the various contexts, funders, and organizations often operating independently. Project teams find their own solutions to similar rising challenges, which in some instances lead to a medley of methods and conventions in monitoring and evaluation that lack a uniform standard.

To capture some of the main innovations and challenges in monitoring and evaluation, we held our first Virtual Workshop with Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)’s Impact Portfolio, which is a group of 19 promising and innovative youth employment projects. This brought together 30 participants from locations spanning across regions. As our new report highlights, challenges include: measuring job creation; consistently measuring important outcomes such as the financial behaviors of entrepreneurs; and tracking beneficiaries after graduating from youth employment programs to measure labor market outcomes.

We covered two new frameworks varying in scope, from a broad overarching framework to track jobs-related outcomes of projects to a newly developed metric focused on cost-effectiveness.


A toolkit for measuring job outcomes for youth employment projects

The broader framework presented was the monitoring and evaluation toolkit from the World Bank’s Jobs group, which provides guidance and resources for defining, measuring, and collecting large sets of jobs-related indicators. Given the growing attention to demand-side outcomes, such as job creation, the toolkit was developed with the goal of tracking World Bank progress in improving labor market outcomes for youth globally.

The toolkit provides concrete and consistent definitions for indicators on key outcomes related to job access, job creation, and job quality. This is a valuable contribution when monitoring and evaluating youth employment, considering that many jobs outcomes are collected in ways that make comparability and aggregation difficult across projects.

Cost per employed day: A metric that measures effectiveness of programs

The other monitoring and evaluation framework was Generation’s cost per employed day metric. By partnering with private sector employers, Generation prepares youth from disadvantaged backgrounds for job opportunities through trainings and matches them with openings in areas such as healthcare.

Part of their sustainability strategy includes covering a share of their operational costs through fees to partners and private sector employers. Combined with Generation’s data-centered approach, the program’s model has resulted in constructing a monitoring and evaluation system that incorporates several measures of returns on investment, which can be used both to justify fees and improve their own performance.

With the cost per employed day metric, cost-effectiveness is viewed through a new lens that combines cost per beneficiary, employment rates, and retention rate at a job. This shifts attention to tracking costs in relation to outcomes rather than outputs. Instead of measures along the lines of cost per beneficiary trained, which constitutes a cost per output, the focus is on tracking costs per day that a beneficiary is employed, which constitutes a cost per outcome.

In practice, this is done by taking the average costs of supporting a beneficiary and dividing it by the number of days the beneficiary has been employed during a set period, such as six months, after they graduate from the program. In doing this, Generation can compare the cost-effectiveness of their programs globally.  A recent Harvard Business Review article delves into the merits of using cost per employed day as a metric in measuring success of youth employment programs.  

At the workshop, participants shared nuances from their project contexts that would require adapting the monitoring and evaluation frameworks. For example, in some countries cultural sensitivities can add to the challenge of collecting income information from beneficiaries.  While the discussions were initiated based on questions of how to apply these monitoring and evaluation frameworks, they evolved into sharing useful advice and lessons learned in their respective projects. On the difficulties of collecting income data, participants shared experiences on how incentives helped reach beneficiaries.

These workshops provide a platform for practitioners to exchange ideas and explore solutions to common issues affecting youth employment programs.  Through these exchanges, we hope to facilitate innovations that can help young people find good and meaningful work.

We look forward to the next Impact Portfolio Virtual Workshop planned in early December on the topic of technology in youth employment projects.

Follow Solutions for Youth Employment on Twitter @s4ye_coalition.

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