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Alternativa Case Study: Executive Summary

Project Background


Global Partnerships (GP) is an impact-first investor whose mission is to expand opportunities for people living in poverty. GP invests in social enterprise partners that deliver high-impact products and services that enable people to earn a living and improve their lives. GP’s portfolio is comprised of a growing number of Investment Initiatives that are designed to address various facets of poverty.

GP is dedicated to understanding the outcomes achieved through its investments. It employs an iterative impact management practice that draws on qualitative and quantitative data from various domains to gain deeper insight into what works, why, for whom, and under what circumstances. As part of its on-going learning program, GP launched a case study initiative with partners across its focus areas. This report describes the results from a case study conducted by Microfinance Opportunities (MFO) in partnership with the GP-investee Alternativa in Peru.


Alternativa is a non-profit development organization operating in Peru. It works in five core areas: environment and infrastructure development, strengthening democratic institutions, economic development, microfinance, and social development. Its microfinance program targets vulnerable, female micro-entrepreneurs using a village banking methodology, where groups of 15 to 40 women collectively receive a loan from Alternativa and guarantee its repayment, managing the distribution of the loan and repayment internally. In addition, Alternativa offers women access to a variety of education programs. Alternativa believes that credit and education will enable women to live healthy lives and operate successful businesses, ultimately improving their wellbeing.

Research Objectives and Design

GP and Alternativa initiated the study with three goals. The first goal was to learn more about Alternativa’s clients, including their poverty profile and resilience to economic shocks. The second goal was to assess the effectiveness of two education modules—one on over-indebtedness and one on self-esteem—offered by Alternativa. The third goal was to evaluate the impact of a health campaign operated by Alternativa’s partner, the Peruvian League Against Cancer (PLAC), on Alternativa clients who participated.

Specifically, the partners aimed to answer three research questions:

What is the poverty profile of Alternativa’s clients?

How resilient are Alternativa clients to fluctuations in their cash flow and to economic shocks?

Do clients who receive the over-indebtedness and self-esteem education modules demonstrate the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors taught by the program?

Do clients who participate in the PLAC health campaign demonstrate the knowledge and behaviors taught during the event?

MFO, in consultation with GP and Alternativa, designed a survey to provide insight into these questions. The survey collected descriptive data from clients on a diverse set of socioeconomic indicators. It also collected data on knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to the over-indebtedness and self-esteem education and the PLAC health campaign. It is important to note that all clients surveyed by MFO were receiving credit from Alternativa and could have also participated in other education related to the topics evaluated, in periods prior to the study.

The study took place in Lima Norte, where Alternativa operates. At the time of the study, Alternativa served roughly 3,000 clients in 168 groups. MFO selected groups that had completed either one of the education programs as well as groups that had not participated in either program in order to allow for an analysis of the education programs’ effectiveness.


MFO’s survey showed Alternativa’s clients had a poverty profile consistent with individuals living in moderate poverty in Peru. Respondents reported their incomes to be relatively consistent, but sometimes inadequate to cover their expenses.

If clients had experienced a negative household event—46 percent of surveyed clients had—it was most frequently because they or someone in their family was ill or injured. Regardless of whether they experienced a negative event, coming up with extra cash was a real concern for clients.

The case study showed that, generally, clients had good knowledge of and attitudes towards the topics covered in the over indebtedness and self-esteem modules and that they engaged in behaviors aligned with what was taught in the program. However, after controlling for other variables, there was no evidence that clients who received either the over-indebtedness or self-esteem modules had better knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors than clients who did not receive the trainings.

Similarly, women demonstrated good knowledge of the information communicated via the PLAC health campaign, although the data suggest their knowledge may have been gained through other sources such as unrelated medical personnel or their village banks. There was evidence, however, that clients who took part in the health campaign were more likely to have conducted a preventative screening, suggesting that women were choosing to seek the care offered by the PLAC.

Key Insights

The Poverty Probability Index (PPI) indicates that Alternativa’s clients have a low probability of living below the national poverty line in Peru, but a high probability of living at twice that level. This is not surprising given that Alternativa works with a relatively stable client base on the outskirts of Lima. Furthermore, the version of the PPI tool used in this study is relatively insensitive to urban versus rural poverty. In turn it is important that we consider client tenure and aspects of non-monetary poverty, such as food insecurity and economic resilience when we evaluate the poverty outreach of an organization like Alternativa.

While it is positive that clients demonstrated good knowledge of and attitudes towards topics covered in the over-indebtedness and self-esteem modules, the lack of difference between the clients who received the education and those who did not begs the question of value-add. While reinforcing known concepts can be helpful for clients, over time new concepts may need to be introduced in order to deliver additional value.

This study highlights the benefit of looking at client behaviors alongside a control group. Women reported receiving Pap smears and mammograms at roughly equal rates, regardless of whether they participated in the campaign. However, the program’s impact appears to lie in increasing the rates of HPV and acetic testing as well as breast self-exams.