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Human development

Areas of Expertise

Early childhood development

The first 1,000 days of life are instrumental to a child’s life-long development, capabilities and behaviour. Yet worldwide, 250 million children survive but do not reach their full potential owing to inadequate healthcare, nutrition, education, care and protection. Early childhood care and development interventions improve health, increase future earning potential and reduce inequality within society.

We believe that for the countries where we work, with large young populations, investing in early childhood builds human capital and achieves child rights.

We draw on research and experience to promote holistic and multi-sectoral early childhood development (ECD) interventions. Our work in this sector is rapidly expanding. In Oman we are advising UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Development on the reopening of ECD centres in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Burundi we are developing a cost-benefit analysis and investment case for boosting early childhood development for UNICEF. We promote ECD investments as essential for female empowerment and labour market participation, and also for childhood growth and long-term development.

Economic evaluations and investment cases for social sector investments

Investing in social sectors such as health, education, nutrition, and water and sanitation means investing in human development, social well-being and wealth. However, financial resources are scarce. The pandemic has increased uncertainty in donor funding and reduced the ability of households to pay for health. To ensure that investment in social sectors is sustained, it is vital to prioritise funding for the right interventions. Governments and funding partners can use their financial resources to provide the greatest value, improving allocative efficiency.

We believe it is possible for low- and middle-income countries to expand their public systems while achieving the best from new and current investments. We contribute to this by producing the rigorous and context-specific economic evidence they need to make sound decisions and drive change towards efficiently growing social systems.

In a nutshell, we generate evidence to:

  • - Make the case for investing in different social-sector interventions, contextualising the answer to the question: What is the right thing to do?
  • Prioritise the right (set of) interventions, contextualising the answer to the question: Are we doing the right things?
  • Design innovative ways of financing the “right” interventions, contextualising the answer to the question: How do we achieve the right level of investments to finance the right interventions?

Our work is rooted in the Value for Money principles. We specialise in the design and development of:

  • Economic evaluations, including cost-benefit, cost-effectiveness and cost-utility analyses. We are experts in decision analysis. Our approaches use decision-analytic models, most often decision trees or Markov models, which we accompany with easy-to-digest results and recommendations.
  • Efficiency assessments of social-systems financing, which we perform using a variety of methods including data-envelopment analysis.

Equity and sustainability are cross-cutting principles that we incorporate in our analysis, and the pillars of our recommendations.

With the reliability of an international firm, we ensure high standards of scientific and technical rigour, but we do not provide generic approaches. Our top-notch technical expertise, combined with our deep first-hand knowledge of the contexts, allows us to contextualise the tools and methods we use and provide answers to similar questions asked in different contexts. As a result, we produce context-rooted evidence that drives policy-makers’ decisions with realistic budgets and/or financing options.


Ensuring that value for money and the financial sustainability of social-sector interventions are critical in realising child rights and the development of human capital. In a constrained fiscal space as a result of the pandemic and the diminution of donor funding, we provide tools to ensure that policy-makers are equipped to achieve maximum impact.

One such tool is costing, which allows policy-makers to recognise what is possible with the finances available. We help them decide which costing methods are most appropriate, whether it’s a programme-experience approach or an ingredients-based approach. Costing exercises also provide the backbone of other economic analyses that we offer, such as cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses, providing a basis on which value for money and return on investment can be considered.

We always consider the context in which the decision-makers use our interdisciplinary understanding to ensure the costing is fit for purpose, not just fit for the tool. With this in mind, we have successfully conducted costings for interventions on nutrition in Uganda and Lesotho, early childhood education in Morocco, and children with disabilities in Oman.

Youth opportunity and demographic transition

The current generation of young people makes up a quarter of the world’s population. If provided with adequate support, this group can play a leading role in driving progress. However, investments in young people regularly fall short of their aspirations. Seventeen per cent of 15-24-year-olds are not in education, employment or training (NEET. Of those who are employed, 40 per cent are in vulnerable employment and 77 per cent are in informal employment. More than 200 million adolescents of secondary-school age are out of school and young people too often lack opportunities to participate in meaningful decision-making in their homes, schools, places of work and broader communities. These challenges prevent young people from fulfilling their potential and becoming productive and engaged members of society.

We believe that urgent action is needed to build human capital, prepare young people to live engaged and productive lives, and to realise adolescent rights.

We combine our multi-sectoral expertise with technical rigour and work with public and private organisations to: 1) diagnose and understand the multifaceted and context-specific challenges faced by youth; 2) improve the coverage, effectiveness, impact and ROI of youth-related policies, strategies and programmes; and 3) develop innovative, context-specific solutions to youth challenges that will improve youth outcomes.

Fiscal space analyses

COVID-19 will tighten fiscal space for years to come. The impact of the 2020 economic crisis on a national public budget is the result of the interplay between the structure and openness of the economy, pre-COVID macrofiscal performance and access to emergency balance of payment support. Decision-makers in Africa and the Middle East face difficult fiscal policy choices. We carry out fiscal-space analyses using financial-programming frameworks to forecast fiscal revenues and expenditure levels. Our analyses are based on data mutually agreed between ministries of finance and the IMF, and provide decision-makers with new insights in the relationship between today’s policy options and future levels of public expenditure for health, education and social protection.

Social sector financing

Achieving sustainable development hinges on the human-development sectors providing cost-effective services to national populations in an affordable and equitable manner. Financing is one of the key components that drive performance and the manner in which resources for health are raised, pooled and how services are purchased contribute to health outcomes. We provide policy-reform diagnostic and analytic support across all the health-financing functions and our areas of expertise include:

  • Technical efficiency analysis, including use of stochastic frontier analytic techniques such as DEA
  • Fiscal space analysis
  • Debt sustainability review and assessment
  • Social impact bond design
  • Costing
  • Resource mapping and harmonisation of mapping tools
  • National Health Insurance design and blueprinting
  • Resource allocation modelling
  • Performance-based budgeting
  • Benefits package design (including costing)
  • Results-based approaches in contracting and payment

Using an in-house team of health economists, public-sector accountants and epidemiologists, complemented by our strong network of public-health reform specialists and actuaries, we integrate our health-financing work with sector-performance approaches to support national policy reform in public finance management, budget analyses, expenditure review, and tracking and equity assessment using benefit incidence analysis.

Building resilient and adaptive social service delivery systems

Whether storms, drought, macroeconomic instability or civil strife, these shocks change the demand for health, education and social protection services, often in a short time. Adaptive and resilient health, education and social protection systems are those that can respond to this change in demand in a way that the human capital of individuals - their stock of health, education and household finance - is persevered.

This is possible if systems can identify changes needed, produce rapid response plans, finance them adequately, put in place additional services, and coordinate the response. Making systems more adaptive includes assessing and making changes to institutional capabilities, data collection and dissemination, governance frameworks (policy, legislative, regulatory, public finance management and so on), deployment of technologies and service integration.

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