How we work

Hand in Hand’s programmes proceed in four key stages, each designed to teach members new attitudes, skills and behaviours. The below infographic explains how it works, drawing on independent research at every step of the way.

First, we create Self-Help Groups so members can save together, learn together and support each other. Next, we train them to develop and grow small businesses with modules in basic bookkeeping, marketing and more. Third, we provide credit or working capital to help get their businesses off the ground. Last, we link them to bigger markets to help them scale up.

By the time their journey is finished, the effect is two-fold: families who can handle a bad harvest or unexpected medical bill; and women who have the power – and money – to make decisions for themselves and their families. That means less poverty – and brighter futures – for everyone.

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Groups formed

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Groups formed

Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington

“Participation in Self-Help Groups is generally associated with positive financial outcomes”, says this paper, which explores the effectiveness of Self-Help Groups in promoting finance, empowerment, agriculture and health objectives in Asia and Africa.

SEEP Network with Financial Sector Deepening Africa, the Aga Khan Foundation, Catholic Relief Services and World Relief

Savings Groups are “generally safe places to save and borrow…and more than nine out of ten groups continue to operate from one year to the next”, concludes this pan-African report. But when NGOs lack clear exit strategies, or groups themselves ignore rules around maximum loan sizes, problems can occur, it warns.

SEEP Network with Financial Sector Deepening Africa and Catholic Relief Services

Savings Groups “improve the financial capabilities of members and represent a pathway to formal financial inclusion in underserved markets”, according to this global report. Mixed evidence is noted with regard to reaching the most vulnerable populations.

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Members saving together

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Members saving together

Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre

“In some cases, [micro-credit] increases income, savings, expenditure and the accumulation of non-financial assets”, concludes this systematic review of evidence, highlighting how savings can benefit those with limited access to financial services. Particularly strong evidence is found among women in Kenya.

SEEP Network with Financial Sector Deepening Africa

“There is much evidence that participation in Savings Groups contributes to increased savings and use of credit; use of credit for [investment in income-generating activities]; food security; resilience; self-confidence; and feelings of solidarity with other members”, says this global policy brief. But without an emphasis on business and skills training, incomes are unlikely to increase.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Community-based microfinance groups “facilitate investment and empower women”, according to this clustered randomised evaluation from Ghana, Malawi and Uganda. In this instance, it adds, evidence of changes to average incomes among group members is low.

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Entrepreneur’s mindset: seize opportunities

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Entrepreneur’s mindset: seize opportunities

International Labour Organization

“Entrepreneurship training designed to help women overcome the challenges they face in running their businesses can improve both firm performance and overall levels of wellbeing”, according to this study, conducted in Kenya. “Three years after participating in training, female entrepreneurs had 18 percent higher sales and 15 percent higher profits”.

Overseas Development Institute

Business and skills training paired with microfinance help Self-Help Group members seize opportunities, according to this Ethiopia-based study. “Access to loans and participation in training through Self-Help Groups allowed members to undertake new income-generating activities and diversify their livelihoods”, it concludes.

Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington

Business and skills training empower Self-Help Group members to create and scale up new businesses, according to this review of evidence from south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The result, it concludes, is “positive financial outcomes including increased savings, access to credit and ownership of assets”.

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Understand supply and demand

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Understand supply and demand

Overseas Development Institute

Training Self-Help Groups for market dynamics enhances livelihoods, particularly among women, according to this Ethiopia-based report. “Participation in training through Self-Help Groups allowed members to undertake new income-generating activities and diversify their livelihoods”, it concludes.

Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development (K4D)

Entrepreneurship training programmes “have a positive impact on existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, especially in terms of promoting better business practices”, according to this global review of impact assessments. Modules on supply and demand play a crucial role.

Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development (K4D)

“Skills training interventions – the most widely used youth employment programmes – have worked to improve employment outcomes of rural youth”, says this global report. On the supply side, skills training paired with life skills development has had positive results. On the demand side more research is required, says the report, with only a few studies highlighting the positive effects of business development services.

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Confidence to run their own businesses - and the household finances

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Confidence to run their own businesses –
and the household finances

International Labour Organization with Women’s Entrepreneurship Development

Programmes that combine finance and business training “seem to be more effective in supporting women’s business start-up than either finance or business training alone”, according to this global brief. At the same time, programmes that “specifically address gender power relations and support women entrepreneurs at the household level… may help to strengthen the effectiveness of women’s economic development”.

International Labour Organization

Business training “conducted in combination with finance, in high intensity/duration, and with high quality inputs (in terms of training materials, and trainers)” is effective at helping women run their own businesses, according to this global brief highlighting which programmes work for women micro-entrepreneurs.

Center for Global Development

Gender norms and childcare responsibilities remain major constraints to women’s household decision-making and access to resources, says this global review of programmes and approaches. Nevertheless, savings are “proven” to boost women’s economic empowerment, while micro-credit and business training are both “promising”.

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Business skills: bookkeeping, marketing, more

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Business skills: bookkeeping, marketing,
more

Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development (K4D)

Entrepreneurship training programmes boost practices such as bookkeeping and management, according to this global review. Programmes should also include finance training in order to be “more effective in terms of fostering self-employment and helping entrepreneurs improve business performance and operations”.

Innovations for Poverty Action

From inappropriate product offerings to a lack of assets for collateral, women’s financial inclusion faces a range of supply- and demand-side barriers. “Basic training on account features” is one way to overcome them, says this worldwide review, suggesting a lack of “basic literacy and technical know-how” is also keeping women from accessing finance.

Overseas Development Institute

A lack of skills and training is among the most prominent barriers to women’s economic development, according to this global research report. Women’s economic empowerment programmes that “combine vocational training with life skills (to increase knowledge of rights and capacity to manage challenges, including around sexual and reproductive health) can be beneficial”, it concludes.

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Skills to deal with a changing climate

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Skills to deal with a changing climate

CARE International

“Savings and credit increase households’ and communities’ capacity to face, adapt to and absorb recurrent shocks and stresses”, according to this evaluation of programmes in west Africa. What’s more, Village Savings and Loan Associations – structures similar to Self-Help Groups – “help households diversify their coping strategies when faced with food crises and climate change”.

UN Environment

Information on sustainable consumption and production has an empowering impact on individuals, communities and even countries, according to this global report. Indeed, it has helped the UN “achieve or exceed seven out of nine” of its 2018 indicator targets for climate change.

Climate Development Knowledge Network

“Gender relations play a key role in determining vulnerability” to climate change, says this report, citing examples from Kenya. As a consequence, NGOs should consider gender when providing training on climate-resilient business practices, it concludes.

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Embrace Gender Equality

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Embrace Gender Equality

Overseas Development Institute

Discriminatory gender norms cause women to “experience significant occupational segregation”, says this global research report. To change those norms, NGOs should embrace social mobilisation and education, it concludes.

The Campbell Collaboration

“Self-Help Groups have the potential to strengthen development outcomes”, says this global systematic review, citing “positive effects on women’s empowerment”. Gender-transformative training is necessary to fully promote gender equality, it adds.

United Nations Foundation

From constraints on credit to biased property regimes, women’s economic empowerment faces “significant barriers”, according to this global report. Technical and “income-generation” training are part of the answer, it says. So too is “increasing the quality and duration of training”.

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Microcredit – or tools, livestock to get started

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Microcredit – or tools, livestock to
get started

Innovations for Poverty Action

Increasing women’s access to “quality financial products and services is essential to inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction”, says this review of global evidence. “Products which allow women greater degrees of control and privacy surrounding their incomes and spending decisions appear to be particularly promising”.

Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre

“Microcredit sometimes increases engagement in economic opportunities, but not always”, says this global report. Programmes that combine microcredit and vocational training are noted to have the most positive impacts.

Africa Studies Centre

“Unable to achieve women's economic empowerment on its own, microfinance nevertheless "significantly facilitates women's empowerment, individually and collectively", says this Uganda-based report. Microfinance institutions and NGOs that provide microcredit should therefore customise their products to "help safeguard gender equality", it concludes.

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Affordable materials: cloth, fertiliser, more

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Affordable materials: cloth, fertiliser, more

Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations

Helping smallholder farmers access drought-resistant seeds “increases dietary diversity and improves food consumption and incomes”, says this global report. “Ultimately, nutrition and food security improve”, and families are better equipped to withstand climatic shocks, it adds.

Yale University

“Intensified use of agricultural inputs, particularly fertiliser, is one possible route to improved agricultural productivity”, according to this Mali-based randomised control trial, which notes a 30 percent increase in treatment groups’ crop yields.

Overseas Development Institute

“Deprived of access to inputs”, rural women and girls can find themselves doomed to low labour productivity. But with the right training and tools, along with access to the necessary resources, income diversification and business growth are achievable, says this report.

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Quality products, customer service

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Quality products, customer service

International Labour Organization

Business training improves the “survival, profitability and growth of businesses”, according to this Kenya-based research paper. How so? “The research points to a better customer experience – shops were cleaner, more likely to open on time and had improved customer service”.

World Bank Group

“Market growth appears to stem from better customer services, better business practices, and the introduction of new products”, according to this randomised control trial, which studied the impact of business training in Kenya.

The World Bank

Business training covering subjects including “customer relations, inventory and financial management, and marketing” can be “quite useful to improve business knowledge and practice”, according to this global meta-analysis. Pairing training with access to credit provides the best outcomes for women entrepreneurs, it continues, noting that results vary by context.

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Information on weather, markets, etc.

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Information on weather, markets, etc.

Poverty Action Lab

Information on foreign markets can help farmers export crops and lead to significant “income gains for new adopters”, notes this study from Kenya. (It can also expose them to the whims of foreign regulators, it adds, preaching caution.)

Relief Web

As efforts grow to help smallholder farmers predict the weather, new financial services are being developed to help them withstand shocks. In Zambia, weather insurance has already helped some 23,000 farmers outlast a major drought, according to this article.

World Bank Group

Entrepreneurs who receive marketing training are “significantly better at researching needs and obtaining feedback from customers and suppliers” than those who receive only finance training, according to this report from South Africa. They also perform better in key outcomes such as sales and profits, it adds.

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Collectives: demand better laws, make better deals

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Collectives: demand better laws,
make better deals

Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development (K4D)

Co-operatives boost income and increase productivity, according to this report from east Africa. But all co-operatives are not created equal. “The way a co-operative is run and the length of time a co-operative has been running” are both consequential, the report concludes.

International Labour Organization

Business associations and co-operatives don’t just help smallholder farmers access bigger value chains, says this global briefing paper. They also help them gain “better market information and more financial resources than small producers”.

International Center for Tropical Agriculture

“Africa needs a new generation of farmer co-operatives to promote and facilitate the development of local and inclusive agribusiness”, says this policy brief. To get there, side-selling by member-farmers will have to stop, it adds.

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Better attitudes to women in business

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Better attitudes to women in business

Gender Advisory and Knowledge Services

Attitudes “are key in determining women entrepreneurs’ marginalised position in the marketplace”, says this pan-African report. “Discriminatory practices, constraining norms and stereotypes on what is ‘appropriate’” must therefore be challenged, it concludes.

World Bank Group

“Engaging spouses and other male household members has the potential to shift the household division of labour, and to change norms and behaviours”, according to this Africa-wide report. Programmes for women entrepreneurs should also account for their differential endowments, it adds.

Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings

“For successful interventions to be transformative, they need to move beyond basic access to financial and human capital and also tackle central psychological, social, and skills constraints on women entrepreneurs”, says this global policy brief. Challenging gender identity roles is a “pivotal component to any intervention”, it adds.

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Links to bigger markets: value chains, nearby towns

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Links to bigger markets: value chains,
nearby towns

SABMiller with CARE International, Harvard Kennedy School and Business Fights Poverty

Value chain collaboration boosts micro-enterprises’ long-term sustainability, helping them gain access to information, finance, infrastructure and more, says this global report. At the same time, “micro-enterprises can help make supply chains more resilient, strengthen distribution, expand markets, and grow revenues”.

International Labour Organization

“Limited resources and capacity make it difficult for small enterprises to become suppliers to larger firms, compete in value chains and enter higher-value markets”, according to this global briefing paper. Co-operatives and businesses associations can help even the playing the field.

CARE International

“Value chain initiatives need to consider and build in replicability, and the potential to scale up, from the start”, according to this global report. “Only by working together in this way can we lift millions, rather than thousands, of people out of poverty”.

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Financially strong families

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Financially strong families

SEEP Network

“Savings groups create a flexible safety net for participants and build household resiliency” against shocks, says this survey of seven major randomised control trials from across Africa. “Increased food security in treatment areas [also] demonstrates evidence of increased resilience”.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Savings groups boost members’ “resilience to shocks”, according to this clustered randomised evaluation from Ghana, Malawi and Uganda. The report also notes positive impacts on business growth and direct financial inclusion.

Gender Advisory and Knowledge Services

“Microfinance projects can reduce household vulnerability,” says this Africa-wide report. But without additional efforts to transform women’s decision-making power and help them “cope with insecurities at home”, household vulnerability cannot be completely eliminated, it says.

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Women with money from business and influence at home

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Women with money from business and
influence at home

World Relief

Women who participate in Self-Help Groups “have an increased role in financial decision-making, due both to the money their businesses earn and because of the financial management skills they learn through their savings group”, according to this study conducted in Rwanda and Malawi. “Women report experiencing more decision-making power in their household through two different avenues: first, women report their husbands begin to include them in all sizes of financial decisions and, second, they have an increased ability to make some decisions, especially smaller ones, on their own.”

Catholic Relief Services

Self-Help Groups have “considerable positive impacts on women’s self-efficacy in terms of greater self-confidence, self-determination, and knowledge”, says this Malawi-based study. “With enhanced internal empowerment, many women’s decision-making and purchasing power increased at the household level”.

The Campbell Collaboration

“Women’s experiences suggested that the positive effects of Self-Help Groups on economic, social, and political empowerment run through several channels including: familiarity with handling money and independence in financial decision-making; solidarity; improved social networks; and respect from the household and other community members”, according to this global systematic review.

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Less poverty. Transformed lives. Brighter futures