Designing and implementing impactful small business support programs requires thoughtful consideration of the decision-making process. Typically, decisions are made based on a combination of existing theories, past experience, and evidence of what does or doesn’t work. While each of these approaches is valuable, evidence-based decision-making may be overlooked due to its complexity. To use evidence effectively, we need to understand the impact of research designs on the quality of the results, recognize potential biases that may lead to over-reliance on a single perspective, and learn how to apply evidence from one context to another.
At Caribou Digital, we are proponents of the power of thoughtful and frequent evidence synthesis to support the application of evidence-based decision-making. To support Strive Community, we have developed the Small Business Evidence Map, a curated collection of evidence that is quality-assured and synthesized to create a deeper understanding about what really works, for whom, and where. This enables us to design more effective and impactful programs for small businesses.
As part of our commitment to learning and evidence-based decision-making, we have launched the map for other small business supporters to use in their programs. The evidence map is the first interactive open tool charting evidence on the impact of digital and data-first interventions on small businesses, making it easier for users to engage with the best available research to guide programmatic and strategic decision-making. It maps findings from more than 100 studies covering 23 types of digital interventions, products, or services targeting small businesses against seven outcomes and impacts from the Strive Community theory of change.
Building the Small Business Evidence Map
Caribou Digital developed the Small Business Evidence Map for Strive Community by systematically reviewing more than 700 academic papers, practitioner research reports, and articles that focus on small businesses. We identified over 100 entries that meet our quality standard. Those entries were then coded against more than 60 criteria to enable easy filtering for different types of interventions, outcomes, research approaches, and more.
Using the Evidence Map
The Evidence Map supports users with both broad and nuanced analytical questions like:
- What evidence exists about the impacts of digital and data-first interventions on women-owned MSEs?
- How can we design training programs to have the strongest impacts on revenue growth?
- Has e-commerce supported new work opportunities in East Africa?
By using the interactive filters, users can drill down into specific types of data or approaches to identify relevant research that can help answer their questions.
Diving deeper into insights from the Small Business Evidence Map
In the coming months, we will be highlighting key findings and insights derived from the Evidence Map. These will delve into the impact of digital interventions on women-owned small businesses, effective strategies for small business upskilling, and different approaches to promoting small business growth and resilience through market access, digital financial services, and digital business operations support tools. Stay tuned for our in-depth exploration of these topics.
In the meantime, you can learn more about how we are using evidence, best practices, and analysis within the Strive Community from our Insights Library.
This article was previously published on Medium.