Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation & Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) project

A project participant and children from the community in the swamp drainage project in Nyalungana, S. Kivu. Credit: Tanya Martineau, Prospect Arts, Food for the Hungry.

The Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation and Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) project supports evidence-based, gender-sensitive programming to improve the economic security and related health outcomes of highly vulnerable individuals, families, and children. ASPIRES aims to accelerate the adoption of evidence-based practice by evaluating Household Economic Strengthening (HES) interventions and supporting program configurations most consistent with success in the evidentiary record. Where this record is thin, ASPIRES seeks to strengthen it through rigorous research efforts so that future programming efforts have a stronger base to build upon. ASPIRES also focuses on efficiently providing technical assistance to scale up high-quality HES interventions.

ASPIRES is funded by PEPFAR and USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS (OHA) and Displaced Children and Orphans Fund (DCOF), and implemented by FHI 360 and a consortium of 20 organizations.

This curriculum is designed to equip female sex workers (FSWs) with the skills needed to set life goals, communicate effectively, understand gender, take action against gender-based violence, empower themselves, and manage their finances and business affairs.
This resource guide provides information on matching household economic strengthening activities to specific needs and capacities of individual families and to the different contexts in which they live.
This report discusses the findings of research into the role economic strengthening plays in preventing unnecessary family-child separation and supporting the reintegration of formerly separated children into family care.
This report reviews the methods and findings from quantitative research into the outcomes of the Family Resilience (FARE) project.
This report discusses the findings of research into how economic strengthening (ES) interventions can help prevent unnecessary separation of children from families as well as support the reintegration into family care of children who were already separated.
This report provides an analysis of the Family Reintegration (FARE) project's recorded costs by intervention category and attempts to determine incremental costs of the interventions themselves.
This case study of the Community Care Program in Mozambique aims to better understand how orphans and vulnerable children programs connect to social protection programs and what outcomes they produce.
This document is a literature review conducted to identify the research evidence on the integration of savings groups (SGs) and other development activities—called SG plus (SG+).
This brief provides a framework for quantifying program costs based on the SAIL pilot model. SAIL was a youth-oriented cash transfer program working in combination with youth employment and development activities.
Economic factors are linked to HIV risk behaviors, as well as outcomes, at every stage of the HIV care and treatment cascade. The ASPIRES project conducted an extensive review of the literature on these linkages to produce an evidence brief series highlighting how different household economic...
This brief focuses on individual savings interventions, which include formal or informal individual savings accounts in which participants save their own money, as well as individual matched savings interventions.
This brief highlights key findings, lessons learned, and recommendations for policy regarding the impact of integrated cash and care programs on HIV-related outcomes and vulnerability factors for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in sub-Saharan Africa.
This brief examines the experience of the Isibindi project, sponsored by South Africa’s government, and community intervention work by eSwatini’s Salvation Army to demonstrate the need for a holistic set of interventions to effectively respond to the range of vulnerability factors affecting OVC populations.
This document complements a separate evidence brief on cash plus care, providing a summary of the major research gaps in terms of design issues, implementation challenges and impact questions.
This brief discusses methods for reducing risk associated with abuse or misuse of savings by adults, the potential for deterioration of savings, and the particular vulnerabilities faced by female savers.
This brief outlines an approach for estimating the financial costs of cash transfer programs. It discusses the ways in which various targeting approaches and design parameters can affect the financial costs of a program.
This post highlights the Facilitator's Guide, Side Deck and Participant Workbook from The Graduation Approach: Putting Together the Pieces training builds capacity for participants who work in vulnerable children programming, and who may have little prior experience in graduation approach...
This brief focuses on the potential benefits of institutional savings, or savings services available through formal financial institutions, such as banks, credit unions, and other entities legally registered as financial service providers.
This policy brief highlights key learning from a microsimulation exercise conducted by EPRI. It provides new evidence about the efficacy of targeting OVC populations through inclusive targeting approaches and criteria that are frequently used in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Economic Strengthening for Vulnerable Children Training Materials provides a set of workshop activities to enable practitioners to design economic strengthening programming that benefits orphans and vulnerable children.
The Economic Strengthening for Vulnerable Children Training Materials provides a set of workshop activities to enable practitioners to design economic strengthening programming that benefits orphans and vulnerable children.
An intervention including business training and health education was implemented in Mozambique, where girls are at elevated risk for acquiring HIV. As part of a mixed-methods evaluation, we describe perceived effects of the intervention on girls’ sexual behavior and school attendance.
This January 2019 webinar introduces an Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation and Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) publication.
This report compiles presentations and notes from the Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation & Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) Family Care Uganda Learning Event, Economic Strengthening and Keeping Children in Family Care, held May 29-30, 2018.
In this paper, we explore emic definitions of respect and girls’ good behaviour and perceptions of how the intervention caused improvements in behaviour from the perspective of intervention participants, their heads of household, influential men in their lives, and community members.
This is the Follow-On Coaching Guide developed for ParaSocial Workers (PSWs) working under the Economic Strengthening to Keep and Reintegrate Children into Families (ESFAM) project.
This post highlights a grant under the ASPIRES project to implement the Economic Strengthening to Keep and Reintegrate Children into Families (ESFAM) project in Uganda.
This post highlights the end of project report for the Family Resilience (FARE) project, implemented in Uganda from November 2019 to June 2018 by AVSI and partners, with funding and technical support provided by FHI 360 through the USAID-funded ASPIRES project.
The ASPIRES Zimbabwe DREAMS Job Demand Market Analysis lays out a strategy to support youth employment and microenterprise development programs that place adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in jobs or self-employment, building on a comprehensive job demand market analysis tailored to the situation of AGYW in Zimbabwe.
This document offers an annotated bibliography of key resources on applied quantitative and qualitative research methods and ethics to give guidance for development practitioners and researchers working in resource-poor settings and with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).
This brief reviews the evidence from three recent publications to highlight emerging scholarship on entrepreneurship among youth in sub-Saharan Africa.
This brief reviews the evidence from five recent publications to identify common themes emerging from the study of microsavings among vulnerable populations in lowresource environments in sub-Saharan Africa.
This brief reviews the evidence from five recent publications to highlight emerging scholarship on cash transfers and their effects on vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa.
This brief provides a simple set of guidelines for adapting or developing adequate outcome measures for an impact evaluation of Household Economic Strengthening (HES) interventions.
This brief proposes standardized guidelines for reporting implementation procedures so that researchers can better evaluate household economic strengthening (HES) interventions and practitioners can better implement them.
Household economic strengthening (HES) initiatives are increasingly implemented in coordination with biomedical and behavioral approaches to HIV prevention, treatment, and care to address the economic drivers of the HIV epidemic.
This article introduces this special issue of AIDS Care on HES for HIV Outcomes as an effort to expand and continue this discussion with a wider group of stakeholders.
The curriculum aims to build financial literacy and business knowledge, skills, and attitudes for children in ESFAM savings groups who are interested in engaging in successful income generation activities.
The curriculum aims to build the financial literacy and business knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for adult members of ESFAM savings groups to successfully generate income.
The curriculum aims to build the financial literacy and business knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for youth members of ESFAM savings groups to successfully generate income.
This systematic review assessed outcome evidence of financial education and plural interventions aimed at reducing HIV vulnerability for youth, orphans and vulnerable children in low and middle-income countries.
This evaluation seeks to capture some of these lessons by examining the designs and implementation processes of the cash transfer components of the ESFAM and FARE projects.
This evaluation seeks to capture some of these lessons by exploring design and implementation processes related to the savings group component of the ESFAM and FARE projects.
This Learning Brief draws on project documents, focus group discussions and individual interviews to document ChildFund International’s experience with Children and Youth Savings Groups for highly vulnerable children in Uganda’s Kamuli, Luwero and Gulu Districts.
This guide’s focus is on HIV-affected young people aged 14–24 years who participate in youth-only adolescent and youth savings groups (AYSG). While evidence about HES interventions with this population is limited, this guide draws on existing evidence and lays out guidance for implementing...
The purpose of this literature review is to propose a set of guidelines for defining and measuring vulnerability for targeting and program design in ES.
This post features a brief that provides guidance to practitioners working with orphans and vulnerable children. It illustrates the benefits of SGs for vulnerable children and youth and illuminates issues to keep in mind when piloting SGs with this target population.
This publication is a general overview about youth savings groups, with information, best practices and evidence on the use of community-based savings groups with and for orphans and vulnerable children and youth, including those affected by HIV/AIDS.
This post features a brief that discusses bundled services that can be linked to community-based or institutional microfinance to benefit orphans and vulnerable children.
This brief provides an overview of the key findings from a literature review conducted by the Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation & Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) project.
This paper takes the position that in PEPFAR OVC programs, SGs should be part of an integrated program (SG+) that uses savings groups as a platform to deliver development interventions beyond finance or business support.
This brief provides an overview of the key findings from a literature review conducted by the Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation & Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) project.
ASPIRES’ Family Care project is tackling the topics of how ES interventions can help separated children—such as children in residential care facilities, children living on the street, or children migrating for work—return to and remain in their families.
This Technical Guidance Brief series was commissioned by ASPIRES, through FHI 360, to explore the state of the practice of microinsurance, with an emphasis on orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) households.
This Technical Guidance Brief series was commissioned by ASPIRES, through FHI 360, to explore the state of the practice of microinsurance, with an emphasis on orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) households.
This Technical Guidance Brief series was commissioned by ASPIRES, through FHI 360, to explore the state of the practice of microinsurance, with an emphasis on orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) households.
This Technical Guidance Brief series was commissioned by ASPIRES, through FHI 360, to explore the state of the practice of microinsurance, with an emphasis on orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) households.
PEPFAR implementers are interested in a standardized, rapid tool to capture economic vulnerability. However, economic vulnerability is a complicated concept to measure (Kamanou & Morduch, 2002).
The alarming gender and age disparity in the rate of new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa has driven the development of new initiatives to address the needs of young women. One of these initiatives is DREAMS, a $385 million partnership to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries.
The alarming gender and age disparity in the rate of new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa has driven the development of new initiatives to address the needs of young women.
Through the ASPIRES project, USAID’s Displaced Children and Orphans Fund (DCOF) seeks to generate evidence and learning related to the role that household-level economic strengthening (ES) interventions can play in keeping families at risk of separation together and returning children to family...
Despite the demand for vulnerability assessment for targeting purposes, there remains no standard definition or method of measuring vulnerability for economic strengthening (ES) interventions in USAID/PEPFAR guidance materials.
ASPIRES supports the provision of financial capabilities training to thousands of young people in Kenya and South Africa, including approximately 50,000 adolescent girls and young women participating in DREAMS. Our participatory training program, developed with Save the Children, helps young people...
This handbook will assist practitioners and specialists in monitoring and evaluation in the selection of vulnerability assessment approaches for economic strengthening interventions.
One of the first steps to effective intervention design, goal-setting, and M&E indicator selection for any program is to understand the vulnerabilities and strengths of the participant population. Programs using economic strengthening (ES) interventions require information on the factors that...
Over the next decade, roughly one billion youth will enter the workforce. Young people, especially young women, who know how to find academic or vocational programs to expand their knowledge and skills, understand how to look for a job, are able to adapt to workplace dynamics, and are...
In 2014, ASPIRES implemented an innovative research study to build the evidence on how ES can contribute to reducing FSWs’ vulnerability to HIV. The research employed a combination of ethnography and financial diaries—where data collectors work with participants to record all of their financial...
The report identifies several knowledge gaps in the literature that form the base for the series of four technical guidance briefs (TGBs) to complement this report.
Interventions aimed at prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV are extremely effective but remain underutilized in many countries.
The purpose of this case study is to outline how the ASPIRES project designed a vulnerability assessment for the context of Côte d’Ivoire and for the needs of the USAID Health Office’s PEPFAR-funded Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) programs.
This report was prepared to inform planning in the USAID-funded ASPIRES project. It includes a review of some of the existing tools used to assess vulnerability to either separation or negative child well-being outcomes with attention to economic security.