What Works in SME Development

The What Works in SME Development Series is presenting key findings of interventions promoting small and medium enterprises as a means to create more and better jobs. It covers ILO programs as well as interventions of other agencies using ILO products.

The main objective of the new Series is to increase the take up of effective SME programs by leading actors in this field. The issue briefs target ILO constituents, other policy makers, development practitioners, and the private sector presenting key evidence at a glance. Preference is given to rigorous quantitative research, but the Series also covers other research approaches contributing to more evidence on what works and what does not work.

List of Issue Briefs on What Works in SME Development

1. Improving market access for smallholder farmers: What works in out-grower schemes – Evidence from Timor-Leste

An impact assessment evaluating contract farming models under which larger buyers and small farmers enter into a forward agreement for agricultural production as a way to link farmers to value chains.

2. Growing micro-enterprises: How gender and family can impact outcomes – Evidence from Uganda

An innovative impact assessment from Uganda showing that gender of program recipients matters a lot for the impact of business training and access to finance due to issues of control in the households.

3. The Next 15 Million: Entrepreneurship training at scale – New data on the global outreach of ILO’s entrepreneurship training

A global tracer study on the ILO’s entrepreneurship training program Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) showing that global outreach more than doubled in the past five years. With 15 million participants SIYB is the most popular entrepreneurship training program.

4. Developing markets: How training female entrepreneurs can improve business practices and profits – Evidence from Kenya

A state of the art impact assessment demonstrating that women entrepreneurship training improves firm performance and that business growth does not come at the cost of competitors who are not benefiting from the intervention.

5. Educating entrepreneurs: Can in-school youth be taught to start a business? Evidence from South Africa 

Building on ILOs “Know About Business” material a game based version called “Start-Up and Go” was developed for secondary schools in South Africa. This brief discusses the findings of an Impact Assessment done to provide new evidence about whether a package of dedicated experiential entrepreneurship education materials and teaching methods - designed to supplement a standard business studies curriculum - can improve entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions among learners, and increase the number of young people starting formal enterprises after school. After attending lessons over grades 10 to 12, secondary school students in South Africa viewed entrepreneurship more favourably, and were more informed about the feasibility of starting their own business upon graduation.

6. Boosting SME productivity: How to evaluate the impact of SME training programmes – Evidence from Ghana, India and Vietnam

A series of impact assessments based on before and after case studies of SMEs participating in Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE), an ILO training and in-factory consulting program that improves productivity and working conditions in over 1,400 SMEs.

7. Entrepreneurship Development Interventions for Women Entrepreneurs: An update on what works

This brief adds to the evidence brought forward in the 2014 ILO-commissioned publication on the “Effective¬ness of Entrepreneurship Development interventions on Women Entrepreneurs”. Recent research largely corroborates findings of the ILO-WED 2014 brief, with further insights now available particularly on access to micro-credit, peer support networks and ‘bundled’ services.

8. What Works In a Market-Oriented Strategy for SME Development - Evidence From Myanmar

While BDS market facilitation has been regarded as priority in development programmes, seldom has it been operationalized into tangible activities and results. The incentives for projects to directly deliver and pay for services offered to beneficiaries in order to meet the targets are strong. This brief explains how the BDS market facilitation approach was implemented for two projects in Myanmar and presents the results and key achievements.

9. The impact of management training on small enterprises in developing countries: Lessons from Ghana, Tanzania, and Vietnam

This brief is based on impact evaluations conducted by an independent group of researchers in three countries. Enterprises received training using ILO’s Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) programme combined with basic elements of Kaizen on production management and quality control. Enterprises from a garment cluster in Tanzania increased their value added by 50% compared to the control group. Firms from a metal cluster in Ghana and a garment cluster in Vietnam were able to cope better with the massive competitive pressure of cheap imports. Ghanaian firms reported only a 10% reduction in profit while the control group lost 30%. In Vietnam, where the control group lost 40%, the treatment group had virtually no reduction.