An Innovative Approach to Impact Measurement Surfaces Learning about Gender Lens Investing and Partnering on Frontier Brokers

Today’s article was contributed by Courtney Roberts and Claire Daley from Moonshot Global and Michelle Halse from Living Collaborations.

Even before the world was affected by the social and economic crises that are now having tangible and direct effects on all of our lives, the Frontier Brokers impact investment firms faced the daunting challenge of naming the power imbalances faced by women and girls and applying a gender lens to the investment process. These power imbalances can compound experiences of privilege or disadvantage in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Frontier Brokers work in complex environments to design and implement solutions to address these imbalances and embrace gender lens investing (GLI), or ‘the practice of investing for financial return through the lens of female empowerment’ (Tribe Impact Capital, 2019).

The consortium of Moonshot Global (Moonshot) and Living Collaborations, was contracted as Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) Partner through the Innovation Resource Facility by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to measure the impact of the Frontier Brokers’ solutions. The core of the MEL Partner’s job is to specify measures, evaluation questions, and approaches to data collection and analysis. However, in developing the MEL strategy for the SFI Program, the MEL Partner went a step further, applying flexible, iterative developmental evaluation methodologies and periodic reflections to ensure that the MEL strategy is in line with complex and changing environments surrounding the Brokers’ solutions. As a result of applying these methodologies, feedback is continuous; data are analysed regularly; and learning is surfaced to inform the adaptation of the Brokers’ solutions.

One example of how the MEL Partner has added value to Brokers’ implementing partners is the addition of new measures to examine in more detail the value of 1) applying gender lens investing strategies and 2) pursuing partnerships to enhance program design and implementation.


Frontier Brokers is part of the Scaling Frontier Innovation (SFI) program, which was not designed to include a gender lens. However, enabled by the innovationXchange (iXc)’s emphasis on innovation and adaptive management, DFAT engaged the Criterion Institute mid-way through SFI to develop a Gender Strategy to shape SFI’s approach to promoting gender and inclusion which already was becoming a priority for DFAT as a whole. GLI became a core component of Frontier Brokers, and each of the Broker’s solutions adopted a different GLI approach. To operationalise and understand the value of the Frontier Brokers’ gender strategies, the MEL Partner integrated gender lens-driven measurement into the overall SFI Program performance framework. The updated SFI Program Performance Framework draws upon the concepts laid out in the SFI Gender Strategy, the latest gender indicators designed by IRIS+, and the six gender lenses developed by Duke

University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship and Catalyst at Large (left). It includes women as investors, women in the supply chain, women’s access to capital, women in leadership, products and services, and workplace equity. Each of the six gender lenses are accompanied by a set of key performance indicators that are being tracked across the portfolio of Frontier Brokers activities.


The iXc was established in 2015 to facilitate greater experimentation, partnership building, and learning across DFAT at a time when international development donors began to embrace the view that solving the world’s most persistent and multifaceted challenges requires collaboration with external, often atypical partners (Partnering for Impact, 2020). SFI’s components (Frontier Innovators, Frontier Incubators, and Frontier Brokers) focus on different but interdependent parts of the ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs. The goal is to catalyse growth in enterprises, stronger acceleration support, greater connectedness and larger capital flows to Asia-Pacific enterprises achieving development impact. The Frontier Brokers Network contributes to building the existing ecosystem by encouraging collaboration and shared learnings, not only amongst Brokers, but also between other ecosystem players in the Asia-Pacific. To capture the results of this deliberate investment by DFAT to support the Frontier Brokers Network, and between those organisations who participated in the Frontier Innovators and Frontier Incubators components, the MEL Partner adapted the SFI Performance Framework (below) in mid-2019 to include specific measures related to partnerships.

Data to inform the outcomes on the additional measures are drawn from indicators on the critical areas of setting up and operating partnerships, collaborating on implementation, and discovering the added value that a partnership approach may generate. The additional measures on partnering are highlighted in pink in the SFI Performance Framework figure below. Outcome area 2.4 measures the extent to which Scaling Frontier Innovation solutions prioritized strengthening connections between and among innovators, incubators, and brokers. Two indicators were developed: percentage of SFI ‘family members’ who cite added value from participation in the SFI program and percentage of brokers who cite increased engagement in the Brokers network as a result of network convening activities. The second of these two indicators relate to the role of network convenor played by Good Return.

To find out more about the innovative MEL approach to Frontier Brokers or to hear about the upcoming partnerships investigative study entitled ‘Partnering for Impact: Results and Insights from the Scaling Frontier Innovation Program’, reach out to us on LinkedIn!

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