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Just desserts: An exciting new approach to skills training and employment

By Cooper Renfro
Published 11 December 2019

Just around the corner from Yasser Arafat Square in central Ramallah, you’ll find Rukab’s. Its speciality is ice cream, but its claim to fame is the use of arabic gum in the recipe. It gives the ice cream some stretch and a chewy texture. Pistachio is this author’s favourite flavour.

The last time I was in Ramallah was July 2018. I wasn’t able to pay Rukab’s a visit. I was busy leading an investor due diligence trip and never got the chance to take an evening stroll.

16 months is a long time to wait to taste it again.

But my reunion was worth the wait. In early November, I was again making my way to Ramallah, but not just to enjoy local culinary treats. I was going to celebrate the launch of a project we’ve been designing since early 2017.

That year was an intensive period of technical design and stakeholder capacity building. We were designing a Development Impact Bond to improve transitions from skills training to employment for young people in the West Bank and Gaza. It meant working alongside civil servants at the Palestinian Ministry of Finance, DAI colleagues (who are implementing the World Bank’s Finance for Jobs Project, of which the DIB is one component), and service providers who would be delivering the intervention.

By early 2018, we had begun working with potential investors and facilitated their due diligence processes over the summer. By late autumn, we had secured formal approvals for $1.8 million of outcomes-based investment.

We took some time to celebrate this achievement knowing that we had more work ahead of us to finalise contracts.

Contractual negotiations took a bit longer than expected, but were successfully completed, and on 5th November, we officially launched the DIB at the Carmel Hotel in Ramallah.

It was great to see so many familiar faces again, and it was indeed a proud moment to see that our collective efforts had brought so many people together to improve employment outcomes for Palestinian youth.

I did get the chance to drop by Rukab’s again before returning to the UK, and stood outside on the pavement taking in the scene as the workday wound down in Ramallah. It was the end of my 7th trip to the city in just over two years, and I was happy that the project we’d worked so hard on designing was going to start delivering real impact over the coming years.

My Social Finance colleagues and I will be supporting the DIB management team to get the project started in the coming months, and we’ll have a front row seat during implementation. This project will bring together consortia of employers and training providers that adaptively design and implement training tailored to the needs of employers. Investor returns are only generated if sustained employment targets are met. By tying financing to longer-term outcomes, the programme seeks to shift attention away from the delivery training outputs and toward the design of clear pathways to sustainable employment. This project will generate valuable learnings applicable in other markets where better incentive alignment could help address the youth unemployment challenge.

For more information, feel free to contact cooper.renfro@socialfinance.org.uk.


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