Enabling more equal access to quality education in Colombia

Creating a CAD $15m outcomes fund to help Colombia’s most disadvantaged learners access and complete a quality education. 

We collaborated with international and Colombian partners to design the Outcomes Fund for Education Results (OFFER). The OFFER will support multiple payment by results projects tackling diverse barriers to education and drive improvements across the education sector.

Payment by results (PbR) is a funding approach where money is invested at risk in promising social programmes and repaid by a donor only if and when certain outcomes are achieved – such as higher rates of young people completing their education.

An outcomes fund is an overarching structure that can commission multiple PbR projects one after the other or at the same time. The individual projects must help to achieve predefined outcomes. Outcomes funds can pool the resources of multiple donors to support projects that help achieve the outcomes they all want to see.

Get a deeper understanding of outcomes funds

Why are we doing this?

Colombia has a highly diverse and geographically dispersed population of around 50 million people. Disadvantaged students, especially those in rural communities and women and girls, face significant challenges in accessing and staying in education and considerable barriers to achieving their educational potential. These include:

  • Difficult commutes to school in some rural areas.

  • Wider costs of continuing education – some children need to work and earn or care for family members.

  • Lack of education provision in certain rural areas and lack of quality teaching. 

In many middle-income countries, such as Colombia, Official Development Assistance, a type of development funding, is declining and new approaches are needed to support and fund projects trying to tackle system-wide issues like equal access to quality education.

We have extensive experience in helping our partners have the greatest possible impact with the funds they have available, and in collaboratively designing approaches to enable change across whole systems. This, and our experience and networks in Latin America, positioned us perfectly to lead this piece of work. 

of 14–16 year old students in rural Colombia are out of school (pre-pandemic)
5–6 years 
initial duration of the fund 
CAD $15m
outcomes fund supporting multiple projects 

What are we doing?

We worked with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and its partners – a group of four highly respected philanthropic foundations in Colombia and the Colombian Ministry of Education – to co-design the OFFER.

Global Affairs Canada is a part of the Canadian government that leads Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance work.

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) is one of the most important bilateral donors in Colombia. It provides assistance to the government’s strategic decisions and funds a variety of projects in relation to education, agricultural development, gender equality, microfinance and the peace agreement, among others.

GAC funded the design of the OFFER and have committed ~CAD $15m to the outcomes fund, with additional commitments expected from the four foundations.

Hear from GAC about their experience in outcomes funds

The OFFER aims to enable more learners to access and complete a quality education by:

  1. Testing different ways of addressing the barriers they face through commissioning multiple payment-by-results projects that complement and build on each other.

  2. Distilling the evidence and learnings from each project then sharing these within the fund and across the whole education system to strengthen and advance the sector, accelerate change and contribute to education policy.

How did we design and create this fund?

We developed the fund proposal through structured workshops with partners to shape, refine and agree the final design.

This co-design approach was vital to secure buy-in and commitment from partners that can last over time. While we expect the fund to run for five to six years initially, we want the projects it funds to catalyse positive change for learners on a large scale into the future. 

We defined the OFFER’s:

  • Operational model – setting out how the fund will work in action including how it will identify, commission and monitor projects.

  • Outcome measures – defining what success looks like and how it will be monitored and evaluated to ensure the projects meet their goals.

  • Learning and evaluation strategy – defining how the fund should evaluate projects and the programme as a whole, what learnings to focus on and how to share them.

  • Governance structure – ensuring that: decisions are made together so all partners’ interests are attended to; the structure makes the most of partners’ different skills; conflict of interests is avoided; and the government is actively involved so the fund’s work can support and contribute to the creation and evolution of wider public policy on education.
  • Funding flows – creating the right incentives and transfer of risk, ensuring all critical activities of the fund will be sufficiently supported, designing the fund to adapt over time including where the roles played by different funders may need to shift
  • Supporting strategies – developing additional strategies, for example around communications and targeted sharing of learnings, to:
    • Strengthen the whole educational ecosystem.

    • Support education policy.

    • Educate the market about the benefits of the payment by results approach.

The OFFER will create the right conditions to contribute to systemic change across the whole education sector in Colombia.

Global Affairs Canada 

Impact and insights

GAC has committed around CAD $15m to the outcomes fund, with additional commitments expected from the four foundations. They are now seeking a fund manager so work can begin.

With CAD $15m, the OFFER could support as many as 15 to 18 payment-by-results projects – this number will grow when further funds are committed. The partners want to see these projects bring about significantly better outcomes for disadvantaged students including:

  • More students, especially girls, enrolling and completing educational stages (primary, secondary, middle) 

  • Improved cognitive, social and emotional skills for students

  • Improved grade-appropriate levels in reading and maths

  • Reduced turnover rates of teachers

  • Better communication between schools/​teachers and parents

The design of the fund, especially its strategic focus on, and financial support for, collecting and sharing data and learnings, will help to deliver those outcomes at scale by:

  • Enabling the partners to choose and support projects that build on each other and collectively improve the whole educational ecosystem

  • Helping the whole sector focus on what they are achieving for Colombia’s learners

  • Educating organisations with significant influence in the market on the benefits of embracing payment by results – hugely important given the need for fresh funding approaches for social change. 

The intensive co-design approach was very successful in engaging the partners, aligning their agendas and using their diverse expertise to shape the fund. And our work to facilitate and secure, from the beginning, the involvement of the Colombian government will position them to:

  1. Incorporate the fund’s learnings into broader educational policy and practice

  2. Take the fund’s work forward into the future to benefit the largest number of students

Related work

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Speak to our team to explore whether an outcomes fund or payment-by-results approach could help you have greater impact.

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