Bain Boston alumni discuss impact evaluation in global development

Last year, a group of Bainies in the Boston office founded the Global Development Network, a forum for Bainies to discuss and share information and experiences in global economic development, and to support organizations making an impact in the field. The GDEV network, now present in offices across North America, is just one facet of Bain’s firm-wide commitment to global development.

As part of an ongoing speaker series, recently the Global Development Network brought two incredibly accomplished former Bainies to the Boston office to participate in a Brown Bag Lunch co-sponsored by Northeast Alumni Relations. This lively event was focused on the application of analytics and evidence to tackle problems in global development, based on the experiences of Esther Hsu Wang, Founding Partner of IDInsight, and Christina Riechers, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Evidence Action, a spinoff of Innovations for Poverty Action.

The event was a presentation by the speakers, with a significant amount of time devoted to audience questions. Topics were largely centered on how Esther and Christina apply an analytical approach to improving outcomes of development issues such as water sanitation and deworming programs; however, the discussion also ranged from issues such as the opportunity to revolutionize the current $600 billion development sector to the difficulties working with academics as partners and governments as clients.

Esther shared her experience co-founding IDInsight, which brings a client-centered model to impact evaluations. IDInsight works with some of the largest players in global development, including The World Bank, DFID, and the Gates Foundation, as well as smaller, more innovative social businesses, helping them to understand whether the interventions that they fund are impactful and cost-effective.

Christina also drew from her personal experience in her presentation, which centered around Evidence Action’s efforts to bridge the gap between academic insights generated through randomized controlled trials and the implementation required to scale those insights. Specifically, she discussed EA’s innovative water purification program that installs chlorine dispensers near water sources. Since the program provides chlorine for free, it is funded by selling the carbon credits that it generates from the reduction in water boiled for purification. This funding structure allows the innovation to scale, with the goal of reaching 25 million people by 2017.

The speakers were also able to clearly connect their past experiences at Bain to their current positions. As consultants, it was interesting to hear the panelists talk about their data-driven approaches to addressing problems in global development. Their experiences driving toward answers using sound, in-depth analysis resounded with what we learn at Bain, and it was interesting to see how that could be applied to solve problems such as increasing market penetration of latrines in Cambodia. Another particularly relevant point for the Bainies in attendance was the discussion on turning insights into action. Both speakers were able to speak from their own experience about the challenges of taking often strong academic opinions on policies to address global development issues, and turn those into actionable recommendations for clients and on-the-ground actors.

Although the goals of global development can often seem far away from what we do here in Boston, it is enlightening and exciting to hear about how a dedicated set of Bainies has been able to use skills learned here at Bain to create real impact.

– John and Sophie, Associate Consultants, Boston

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