Caroline Ashley

Caroline focuses on how innovative economic models can deliver more inclusive and resilient development.

Caroline has worked on markets, business models and investment approaches that deliver social impact for many years in roles with challenge funds, impact investors, entrepreneurs, corporates, NGOs and policy makers. As Results Director of the DFID Business Innovation Facility, and Sida Innovations Against Poverty programme, she founded the Practitioner Hub for Inclusive Business in 2010, then took on hosting it, and acted as Editor of the Hub for 7 years before it transitioned into managed by IBAN.

Most recently Caroline led economic justice programmes at Oxfam GB, before moving to Forum for the Future, to lead global systems change programmes to accelerate our transition to a sustainable future.

What's the point? Explaining the logic of BIF support

11. Nov 2013

One look at the projects and publications on this Hub will tell you how busy the Business Innovation Facility (BIF) team have been since 2010. But what's the point of it all? Or put more politely, what is the rationale of this intervention? And are we delivering? Those are questions that we get asked. Today we are launching a new publication to help provide the answers.

The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) spends money supporting individual inclusive businesses with advisory and technical support, through BIF. In four years working on BIF, I have learnt how important it is to be clear on the logic underpinning what we do.

Clarity on the logic is important for us to work as a team, to explain our value proposition to companies, to know what to track, but even more important to explain this slightly unusual approach to others. Particularly where profit is a core part of the logic, and donor funds support individual companies, the logic needs to show how company gain is part of the route to social benefit.

Our new Spotlight, The Logic of Business Innovation Facility Support, builds up a diagram of our logic chain in six steps. It shows the journey that companies are on developing inclusive business, where BIF intervenes, and how this is intended to lead to impacts at the Base of the Pyramid, changes in systems and uptake of inclusive business by others.

This chain of logic has been around a while, though evolving slightly in its wording. What is truly new though is the last slide, where we have added an appraisal of progress delivered to date against each link in the chain. We can see clear delivery of business support and development of business models, but results in terms of viability, scale, BOP benefits and wider change are too early to know. Clear signs of progress exist - and we will be sharing them shortly in our Portfolio Review and Final Report - but the true scale of delivery will only emerge over time.

If you are familiar with donor-funded projects, you may be familiar with a 'logical framework' and ask what is the difference. They are certainly strongly aligned. But the logframe focuses more on what is a deliverable for us, and what is an assumption that makes the plan work, as a basis for reporting. The visual logic chain includes items that we were not tasked to deliver within 3 years (impacts at the BOP at scale, uptake of inclusive business), but better shows all the steps along the journey to convey the fundamental logic for providing development support for inclusive business to deliver commercial and social gains.