PRACTICE PRESENTATION: What does a boutique gym have in common with a youth employment program?

On 7 October 2015, Prospects’ Program Manager, Chris Maclay, presented at the Making Cents Youth Economic Opportunities Summit in Washington, D.C., on the topic ‘What does a Boutique Gym have in common with a Youth Employment Program?’ The Summit brings together over 460 key decision makers from 70 countries with the end goal of increasing the impact, scale and sustainability of youth economic opportunities programing, policies and partnerships. Chris was presenting on Prospects’ unique approach to managing complexity in in its Employment and Entrepreneurship Program. In the presentation, he outlined how we need to move away from linear approaches to youth programming, to recognize the complexity of working with a heterogenous youth population, with diverse needs and ambitions, and mixed livelihoods. He recognized that the sector’s management structures (based around output monitoring and baseline/endline surveys) are poorly equipped to deal with this complexity, and we need a system which allows us to manage more adaptively. Inspired by the information management systems employed by his mum’s gym in London, Chris outlined how Prospects has replicated the model on its Employment and Entrepreneurship Program in Liberia, using a case management approach to consistently improve the quality of service delivery to better respond to the needs of beneficiaries (or as he explains, ‘customers’) and to achieve maximum impact. You can see a recording of the presentation below:

Mercy Corps will be writing up a learning paper on this management and M&E system soon – watch this space!

4 thoughts on “PRACTICE PRESENTATION: What does a boutique gym have in common with a youth employment program?

  1. An inspiring and practical example of how to design and implement adaptive management in complex and changing contexts, focusing on youth with different starting points and needs (like your mum’ gym!). I particularly liked the way you developed the process and tools for capturing relevant information, thinking about that evidence – not to confirm or disconfirm your presuppositions but to creatively think about how to better provide services that make a differene – and then to act on that.
    This obviously has important implications for the funders/donors (flexibility in design and funding, and willingness to let evidence and alternatives arising from that evolve creatively) – and the observation that impact assessments – operating on the assumption that interventions are fundamentally discreet and stable – cannot support program evolution on the ground. I look forward to seeing how this program evolves.
    Ash Hartwell
    USAID-ECCN Support Team

    ps for a well-known and fun example of feedback loops in development, check out Owen Barder’s Development as Evolution on his blog site:


  2. Thanks Ash! I think it was that Owen Barder presentation that got me on the feedback loops juice a few years ago…! I think I got everyone from my M&E Manager to my (now famous) mum to watch that! What’s been exciting since is trying to see how best to make that practical (rather than just bombarding ourselves with data, which we have indeed done before). We are going to see how this system plays out, and will continue updating this blog with frank findings of what we experience. An initial Practice Paper on the M&E system should be coming online in the next month or two (and a Learning Paper on complexity and livelihoods in roughly the next week). Stay tuned!


  3. Have I mentioned how great this presentation is??!! Great job on keeping it real and providing really useful examples. And special thanks to Mum Maclay for her contributions. 🙂


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