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October 2018

Building the Case for a Focus on Emotional Skills Development

When discussing skills development programs for youth, most people understand the importance of including components that build soft skills like problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork. As a result, many youth skills development programs now include soft-skills training. While some of these programs also include a focus on how to deal with conflict as well as activities designed to promote a positive self-concept, it is not clear how many programs take a serious look at building another important set of skills. 


In her new blog, Dr. Christy Olenik, Vice President of Technical Services at Making Cents International, writes about the importance of incorporating emotional skills development in youth programming. The blog provides an explanation of what emotional skills are, why they are important, and how we can build these skills in youth. Read the full blog here

August 2018

Making Cents is Directly Supporting USAID/Jordan

Making Cents International is supporting the USAID Mission in Jordan in its efforts to increase capacity of local organizations and contribute to locally owned and locally sustained development results. To that end, Making Cents is providing organizational capacity-building services to two local contractors in order to improve their performance on USAID-funded contracts and prepare them for successfully managing future USAID awards. Under this project, our experts are assessing each contractor's organizational weaknesses and systems and developing responses and recommendations for ways to remedy the issues identified in the assessment.

July 2018

Syrian refugees in Jordan to receive digital economic identities thanks to SANAD TAF, Making Cents, and MFW

The SANAD Technical Assistance Facility (SANAD TAF), Making Cents International, and Jordan's largest microfinance institution, Microfund for Women (MFW), have partnered to create digital economic identities for Syrian refugees that will facilitate their access to credit both in Jordan and beyond. The pilot project is additionally supported by funding from the Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank (OeEB), the development bank of Austria.

The pilot program will help Syrian refugees store credit histories, educational certificates, and business information in a blockchain-based digital identity that can be used to gain access to credit or employment. By providing refugees with the means to store and communicate information about their creditworthiness, the SANAD TAF will be advancing its mandate to fuel the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from the startup and pre-startup phases into sustainable businesses. 

Read the full Press Release here

Learn more about the project here

May 2018

Making Cents Featured in the Atlas of Innovation for Economic Stability

The Atlas of Innovation for Economic Stability, produced by FHI 360 with support from Rockefeller Foundation, was launched on May 22. The Atlas features over 60 examples of policy, program, and technology innovations that promote economic stability worldwide, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations. It contains an in-depth profile of Making Cents’ current collaboration with BanQu, a technology company that has developed a blockchain-based digital identity solution. Together, we are working to develop digital economic identities for Syrian refugees in Jordan. The digital identities will enable refugees to develop viable livelihoods in their new environment. The initiative is currently being piloted through early 2019 with 1,000 Syrian refugees, and it will be scaled up to additional refugee communities in other countries, if it shows promise. Along with the pilot, Making Cents will evaluate whether the creation of an identity has an impact on refugees’ resilience.

Read the full publication here.

March 2018

Our New Project with YouthBuild International, supported by the Hilton Foundation

We are excited to announce our new project with YouthBuild International in Kenya and Tanzania. For the next six months, we will assist YouthBuild create a workforce training program to prepare young people (ages 17 – 25) in Africa for jobs and self-employment in the tourism and hospitality sector, by conducting a value chain inclusion analysis to determine opportunities (entry points) for young women and men in these sectors. We will also conduct a landscape review of available training resources for youth associated with the tourism and hospitality sector, with a focus on existing skills gaps. Our recommendations will inform the design of a potential YouthBuild’s workforce development training program for Hilton Global.

January 2018

YouthPower Learning Request for Proposals

Making Cents International (Making Cents), under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded contract YouthPower Learning, is seeking proposals from qualified entities to develop a new iteration of its project website.


This Request for Proposal (RFP) is posted on and may be amended. Potential offerors should check the website regularly to ensure they have the latest information pertaining to this RFP.


Any questions regarding this RFP from offerors must be submitted in writing, in English, via Answers to all questions will be posted to Any information that substantially changes the requirements of this RFP shall be released through the issuance of an amendment to the RFP. Making Cents may, at its own discretion, extend the deadline for the submission of proposals.


See RFP for details.  

October 2017

Demand-driven training in the news: DDT toolkit launches in South Africa

The Demand-Driven Training Toolkit, by Making Cents International with support from Rockefeller Foundation, was launched on October 16, 2017, in Johannesburg, South Africa. “The toolkit is an important step in facilitating a strong relationship between the education supply and demand sides in South Africa to promote more employment opportunities for youth,” said Dr. Christy Olenik, Vice President, Technical Services, Making Cents International. Developed with input from leading South African and global education and training institutions and private sector companies, the DDT toolkit offers information, tools, and resources to better align workforce development to employer needs and helps education and training institutions become more effective.

Read the full article here (column on far right).

Demand-driven training toolkit: Making the match for youth and employers

Johannesburg – The Rockefeller Foundation and Making Cents International are pleased to announce the launch of the Demand-Driven Training for Youth Employment Toolkit (DDT) on Friday October 19, 2017, at the Emoyeni Conference Center in Johannesburg, South Africa. A capacity building workshop and reception will feature the toolkit authors and key stakeholders from the government, private sector, and educational institutions. The DDT Toolkit is designed to help workforce training providers and employers address the current global mismatch between youth skills and employer needs.


The current rate of job creation in Africa is insufficient for the needs of the continent’s growing youth population, which is expected to double to 400 million by 2045. Through its Digital Jobs Africa (DJA) initiative, the Rockefeller Foundation has been working to address that gap by working to ensure that the continent’s youth are prepared with the right skills—job-specific technical training and soft skills—for long-term success.


Over the past year, Making Cents International has collaborated with Rockefeller to conduct research and develop resources that will support the successful adoption and scaling of demand-driven training for employment programs. This work contributes to strengthening the capacity of youth education and training providers and institutions in South Africa and globally.


Unlike "demand-aware" or "demand-aligned training", which offer education and training in theory and skills deemed useful for general employment or sector-specific work, "demand-driven training" prepares young workers for specific occupational roles that employers are looking to fill. The Toolkit will help facilitate:

  • Partnerships between employers and education and training institutions and providers

  • Screening, assessments, and profiling resources to support positive job matching scenarios

  • Soft skills development (e.g. dependability, problem-solving, collaboration, perseverance)

  • Youth mentoring that supports young people’s personal and professional growth

  • Practical and on-the-job training

The DDT Toolkit, developed with input from leading South African and global education and training institutions, private sector companies, offers a practical approach—with accompanying information, tools, and resources—to better align workforce development to employer needs and helps education and training institutions become more effective. The Toolkit will be provided in an easy-to-use format, available free of charge online and as a downloadable, interactive PDF document.


Demand-driven training can play an increasingly significant role in building inclusive local economies and helping to secure livelihoods for disadvantaged youth. When young people are provided with the training and skills employers actually want, communities thrive and youth can fulfill their potential.  

Download the full toolkit here

July 2017

Training Master Trainers in Tanzania and Uganda

In Tanzania and Uganda, Making Cents is leading a training workshop for eight Master Trainer candidates in a customized financial literacy skills curriculum under the East Africa Youth Inclusion Program II (EAYIP). The training helps develop local partner capacities to scale financial literacy programs for youth populations. These Master Trainers will be responsible for training the cadre of trainers that will reach 25,000 youth.


EAYIP is funded by The MasterCard Foundation and implemented by Heifer International. Making Cents is working alongside Heifer's implementing partners Youth Alive, Restless Development, MIICO, Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), Kilimo Trust, Small Industries Development Organization of Tanzania (SIDO), and Vocational and Technical Training Authority (VETA).

June 2017

Making Cents Featured in SBAIC's Quarterly Newsletter

Making Cents was featured in the quarterly newsletter of the Small Business Association for International Companies (SBAIC). SBAIC is a membership forum established to promote the meaningful utilization of U.S. small businesses at USAID and other U.S. Government agencies providing foreign assistance. The article highlights the ways Making Cents is supporting USAID through our YouthPower Learning project and focuses on the lead role we have in implementing a Positive Youth Development approach across a variety of sectors. Read the article here!  


May 2017

Making Cents Organizes a Career Exploration Day for Youth in Kazakhstan

Making Cents, in collaboration with Educational Center “Bilim-Central Asia” and the Kazakh Academy of Transport and Communication, organized a career exploration day for twenty-two graduates of Almaty secondary school #56 who are considering a career in transportation and logistics. The career exploration day, organized as part of USAID’s Central Asia Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs (CTJ) project, focused on career planning, occupational and educational exploration, and job search. The graduates visited the Kazakh Academy of Transport and Communication, where Mr. Sergei Muzyka, Making Cents’ CTJ Workforce Development Lead, presented the program with Dr. Ulan Kuttybaev, Vice Rector of the Academy. The presentation covered topics of occupational chapters and specialties, qualification requirements, relevant skills and personal traits, career perspectives (salary expectations and personal development), career opportunities in adjacent areas, and job opportunities and sector demand in Kazakhstan in 10 years’ perspective. The event aimed to assist young graduates in choosing a career in the area of transportation and logistics and to facilitate a collaboration between workforce development organizations and educational institutions. The initiative was highly appreciated by the Academy, which agreed to host similar events for graduates interested in careers in transportation and logistics.

April 2017

Scaling Demand-Driven Training Programs: A Framework

Making Cents International produced a Demand-Driven Training (DDT) Framework in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation that introduces, describes, and discusses the underlying structure of the DDT concept. The Framework assesses and captures best-in-class DDT models and contributes to strengthening the capacity of youth training providers and informing donor investments in the field. Ultimately, the Framework aims to contribute to scaling up the impact of DDT programs across Africa, and beyond. Learn more about the project here. 

March 2017

Making Cents Announces New YouthPower Learning Buy-In from USAID Bureau for Food Security

Making Cents is proud to announce an exciting new activity under our YouthPower Learning project. USAID Bureau for Food Security has tasked Making Cents with developing a program design guide and associated training materials for USAID staff, aimed at increasing youth engagement in agriculture in Feed the Future programs. Learn more about the buy-in and our work under YouthPower Learning.

February 2017

Positive Youth Development Measurement Toolkit

Making Cents International has launched the Positive Youth Development (PYD) Measurement Toolkit, a first of its kind youth-focused evaluation approach. One of the key deliverables under our YouthPower Learning project, the toolkit provides implementers of youth programming a variety of references, resources, and tools on how to use a positive youth development (PYD) approach for evaluating youth-focused programming. A PYD approach to evaluation will measure whether youth are positively engaged in and benefiting from investments that ultimately empower them to develop in healthy and positive ways so that they can contribute to the development of their communities.


We begin this toolkit with an overview of PYD and explain how a PYD approach fits with youth-focused programming. While the toolkit was developed with the USAID program cycle in mind, it has broad applicability for other programs and donors. We introduce readers, who are primarily implementers of youth programming in low- and middle-income countries, to our PYD Framework that can be used to guide measurement of PYD, starting with program design through the dissemination of and learning from findings.


The main section of the toolkit discusses PYD constructs and illustrative indicators for implementers. We take readers step by step through a series of phases that utilize the PYD Framework (including the illustrative indicators) to demonstrate how youth programs can be optimally designed using a PYD approach, and how program staff can measure PYD-related outcomes in their program to assess the impact on youth.


Finally, this toolkit offers a series of considerations for adapting the indicators and measures to local contexts. Given that the PYD field has mostly been developed and evaluated in high-income countries, it is essential that these measures be appropriately and thoughtfully adapted to low- and middle-income country contexts to effectively evaluate youth programming in various sectors from a PYD perspective.

January 2017

Rural Youth Financial Inclusion: A Bridge Too Far?

Our President Tim Nourse participated in the webinar on January 11th that discussed whether rural youth financial inclusion was possible or simply still “a bridge too far”. He was joined by experts from USAID, RTI, and FINCA, who engaged in a lively discussion with 136 webinar participants.


Rural youth tend to be the least financially included: their financial inexperience and limited assets exacerbate the basic rural finance challenges of low population density and poor infrastructure.  Nonetheless, rural youth demand financial services to manage their resources, build assets, and invest in livelihoods or education. How should the financial sector react to this situation – try to serve rural youth directly with new products and services, focus on the “near adults” in a rural finance strategy and deepen services over time, or ignore this population until the challenges of rural finance can be overcome?


Paul Nelson, USAID Digital Finance Advisor, said that the Agency sees digital finance as the key strategy for financial inclusion in general, and especially for hard-to-reach rural areas. He emphasized that the potential cost savings of digital finance – reducing transaction costs by as much as 30% - could bring an array of financial services within reach of tech-savvy rural youth populations.


Tim Nourse drew from Making Cents’ experience to confirm the importance of this approach but pointed out other key lessons as well, such as product adaptations for both rural and youth contexts; partnerships with other actors; and capacity building of youth. Most importantly, the best strategy for rural youth financial inclusion could be through adults – as the infrastructure and products that successfully served rural adults could be adapted to target rural youth.


Sarah Mattingly, RTI’s Senior Workforce and Youth Economic Opportunity Specialist, spoke about RTI’s USAID-funded K-YES project in Kenya that builds the skills of rural youth as a pre-requisite for access to even simple financial platforms such as Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA). While recognizing the potential of technology to reduce costs, she noted the still weak digital infrastructure in rural areas as a particular challenge for expanding digital finance.


Alison Boess, the former Deputy CEO for FINCA Microfinance Bank Nigeria and now Senior New Business Development Officer, described how FINCA had tried to target children and younger youth cohorts (up to age 24) but found it too expensive to sustain. Instead, they opt to use digital platforms to lower costs and serve rural adults and the most economically active (and oldest) youth cohorts.


Panelists agreed that it matters what youth you were serving. Financial inclusion for older and economically active youth is definitely feasible, especially when facilitated by digital platforms.  VSLAs also offer a promising means for helping younger youth cohorts build assets and skills.  Nonetheless, for most rural youth, formal financial services still remain out of reach.


Watch the full webinar recording and view the slides.

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