In market systems development programmes, is ‘sustainability’ a realistic project objective or just a baseless buzzword? One of the core selling points of using a systems approach is that the results live on well after the programme closes. However, to date, little evidence has been collected to definitively show that the approach really delivers the goods – long-term sustainability.
To help understand more about how a systems project can bring about sustainable change, Springfield were asked by the ILO Lab to conduct an ex-post sustainability evaluation of the Enter-Growth programme a full ten years after the programme ended. To our knowledge, this was the first ex-post sustainability assessment of its kind in the field.
The assignment therefore required defining sustainability of system change in assessable terms and developing an approach to apply this definition. This approach was then tested on selected outcomes of Enter-Growth– a programme whose goal was stimulating local economic development that would benefit micro and small enterprises in a variety of sectors in Sri Lanka.
The findings in two sectors and one cross-sector intervention area uncovered valuable lessons on project design, intervention facilitation tactics and results measurement drawn from the variety of ways Enter-Growth’s impact has been affected by the intervening changes. These lessons can be applied to help projects using a systems approach drive toward more sustainable outcomes themselves.