What contributed to such exceptional performances? There a few reasons.
1. Incomprehensive benchmark
MSCI index, which covers 45 developed and emerging market countries, only has around 4,000 stocks, but there are over 40,000 international small cap stocks available for active fund managers to choose from. This creates lots of space for outstanding performance.
2. Information advantage
Many of the active int'l small-cap fund managers use quantitative tools to screen and select stocks, in addition, they also have advantage on accessing company information compared with most retail investors.
3. Less competition
In a competitive market like the U.S., if a company got beaten down, hostile takeover or shareholder activism would follow. However, for many of the international small cap stocks, they tend to be family controlled and minority shareholders have little say, all these gives those active fund managers room to exercise influence and pushing for changes.
If you are interested in allocating a small portion of your portfolio to the actively managed int'l small cap growth funds, this U.S. News & World Report best int'l small / mid growth fund list is a good starting point.