Using Qualitative Research to Assess Loan Impact: Lessons from the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM)
Microfinance institutions (MFIs) continue to look for reliable, relevant and practical ways to assess impact, in part because of increased pressure to show results and the need to be more responsive to clients. The Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) has built a monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) framework to better understand and serve their clients. A core part of this framework is a mixed-methods approach to assessing impact, one which combines the regular and periodic collection of client-level data. AKAM learned that combining different sources of information leads to more robust organizational learning and the ability to understand better the impact of its products on clients’ quality of life. This experience can illustrate to other MFIs the value of looking beyond purely quantitative measures in order to assess impact and improve practice.
This paper presents the results of the qualitative research component of this framework that AKAM piloted in four countries. The paper is structured as follows:
- Major industry trends that are shaping the direction of outcome measurement and impact assessment in microfinance and which have informed AKAM’s MEL framework;
- An overview of AKAM’s approach to impact assessment, followed by a discussion of AKAM’s experience in piloting qualitative interviews;
- Findings from the qualitative interviews with other components of the MEL framework;
- Summary of what AKAM learned from this pilot for product development and insights for future research.