Qualitative evaluation of the impact of self-help groups on women’s economic and social empowerment in India

International Initiative for Impact Evaluation(3ie)
Required Skill: 
Last date: 
Friday, January 11, 2019

Detailed Description


The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) invites organisations or consortia to submit proposals to conduct qualitative evaluations under two research themes on women’s self-help groups (SHGs) in rural India.

In December 2015, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commissioned 3ie to assure the quality of and generate evidence on various aspects of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM). As part of this evidence programme, 3ie is conducting impact evaluations, quality assuring selected evaluations of livelihood interventions, mapping the available evidence on the effectiveness of group-based livelihoods interventions, and synthesising the evidence generated under this programme.

3ie is collaborating with the rural development ministry, the Gates Foundation and World Bank to conduct an impact evaluation of the National Rural Livelihoods Project (NRLP). The NRLP operates within the ambit of the NRLM to build capacities of the national, state and union territory governments, as part of creating an enabling environment to facilitate transition of all state and union territory administration of Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana to NRLM. The impact evaluation will measure the impact of NRLP interventions on socio-economic outcomes and draw key lessons that will help inform the design and expansion of the programme. The two qualitative evaluations will complement the findings and recommendations of this impact evaluation.

Selected research teams will be expected to design and conduct high-quality and policyrelevant qualitative evaluations to address the key questions discussed in Section 3. 3ie will provide funding of up to USD 45,000 for each evaluation, which will be completed within five months.


The Indian government has articulated its commitment to promote inclusive growth through numerous policies, programmes and plans. In line with this vision, the rural development ministry launched the NRLM in 2011 to reduce rural poverty by creating and strengthening institutional platforms by and for the rural poor. Targeted primarily at women, NRLM provides a combination of financial resources and technical assistance to Indian states so that programme participants can use a comprehensive livelihoods-based approach. This is done through these mechanisms: (a) mobilising all rural poor households into effective SHGs, their federations and other organisations; (b) enhancing access to financial, technical and marketing services; (c) developing capacities and skills for gainful and sustainable livelihoods and (d) improving the delivery of social and economic support services to the poor. What makes SHGs under NRLM unique is that they are federated into village organisations (VO) and cluster-level federations (CLF) at the block level. This federated structure provides the necessary capacity development, internal management and technical support SHGs need to sustain themselves.

The NRLM provides support for activities in states with high levels of poverty. The mission’s mandate is to cover 70 million poor rural households across 600 districts, 6,000 blocks, 250,000 gram panchayats and 600,000 villages through self-managed SHGs and their federations, and provide support for livelihoods collectives over a period of eight to ten years. The NRLP is a component of NRLM and is supported partly by the World Bank, costing close to USD 500 million.

Scope of the proposals

3ie will commission two qualitative studies, one for each of the two research themes described below through this open call for proposals. The studies can be conducted in any of the nine states included in the current evaluation. The studies are expected to be completed within five months.

The focus of the qualitative studies will be to understand the role of SHGs and their federations as institutions for promoting women’s social and economic inclusion and empowerment. Specifically, 3ie will fund two qualitative evaluations to examine empowerment and SHG federation roles:

The impact of SHGs and their federations on multi-dimensional measures of women’s empowerment.
The role of SHG federations, such as VOs and CLFs, in determining SHG quality and functioning. Both research themes are described below in detail.


  • Only legally registered organisations and consortia of registered organisations, not individuals, may apply.
  • The grant-holding organisation and the lead PI may be located anywhere in the world.
  • The research team should include at least one researcher who is an Indian resident. The national researcher must be engaged in substantive tasks like study design, data analysis, report writing and stakeholder engagement for uptake of findings into policy and practice.
  • Each proposal must be submitted by a single organisation that may include others as sub-grantees or sub-contractors (subject to 3ie’s direct and indirect cost policies).
  • For-profit organisations are eligible to apply, but are restricted to the same indirect cost limits as non-profit organisations and may not charge a fee.
  • The applicant organisation must be able to sign the 3ie grant agreement, a sample of which is available on the 3ie website.
  • Organisations may submit more than one proposal and may be included on more than one proposal. They should, however, have the capacity to implement any and all grants awarded to them.
  • All proposals should have sufficient resources for undertaking high-quality evaluations. If the proposal is dependent on other resources, this should be clearly indicated. If selected, the applicant will need to ensure that these additional resources are available at the time of signing the agreement with 3ie. In the absence of this, the offer of 3ie grant support will be withdrawn.


The deadline for submitting proposals is 23:59 GMT, 11 January 2019. 3ie expects to announce the awards for successful proposals on 8 February 2019. 3ie will invite selected applicants for a pre-award meeting within two weeks of announcement of results. Final award of the grant is conditional on the key members of the research team attending this meeting.


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