Important Developments in Impact Evaluation

Right: GIDE Impact Evaluation Team: Staff & MSc/PhD Students including Dr. Alfred Latigo, Executive Director (Centre); Prof. Dr. Paul Muller (Late), Chairman, Board of Directors (left); and Dr. Paul Capstick, Deputy Executive Director (right), Nairobi, KENYA  (1994).

Since its founding in 1990, the impact evaluation services of the Global Institute for Development Evidence (GIDE) have remained demand driven and inspired by contemporary challenges of inclusive green growth, regional and international agreements and bottom-up movements by citizens who demand evidence and greater accountability from governments.  We at GIDE are indeed excited and encouraged because GIDE's mission of improving the effectiveness of inclusive green growth through innovative and evidence-based evaluation systems continue to be inspired by and are in line with international, regional and national developments in impact evaluation such as below:

1.      A growing number of governments in low income countries are trying to improve their performance so they can operate more efficiently and provide better services to their people.  Governments, international agencies and civil society organizations (CSOs) need to know how policies and programs shape the lives of people today and in future generations.  And, it is now widely acknowledged that national development policies and programs should be informed by evidence generated by country-led monitoring and evaluation systems, rather than donor-led ones or based on opinion, while ensuring policy coherence at regional and global level.  

2.    The Malabo Declaration of Heads of State and Government of the African Union on June 24-27, 2014, in Equatorial Guinea on “Transforming Africa’s Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods through Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development" endorsed the commitment of African countries to  "evidence-based planning,  policy, efficiency, dialogue,  review and accountability";  "Strengthening national and regional capacities for  knowledge generation and management that support evidence-based planning, implementation,  monitoring and evaluation"; and "Commitment to Enhancing Resilience of Livelihoods and Production Systems to Climate Variability and other related Risks".  This important shift in planning or policy making process essentially means that African countries would need to undertake Systematic Reviews (SRs) of evidence of what works. A systematic review is a summary from multiple studies of the best evidence of what works on a particular development question.

3.      In the same month of June 2014 when the African Heads of State and Government endorsed Evidence Based Practice for inclusive development, the World Bank launched the Bank Group’s new Results, Measurement and Evidence Stream (RMES).  During the launch, President Jim Yong Kim of the Bank reminded the audience that even in a profession, such as medicine, that today is seen as deeply evidence based, the widespread use of results - rather than anecdote - began just 30 years ago. And the same is true in international development. Not so long ago, few people in the Bank Group could produce solid results data. The goals of RMES are: (i) Promote and develop a world-class cadre of results measurement professionals; (ii) Foster a holistic approach towards results and evidence; (iii) Advance the frontiers of knowledge about key technical aspects of monitoring and evaluation to help the World Bank Group and its clients to adopt cutting-edge practices.

4.      Year 2015 was officially declared as the International Year of Evaluation at the Third International Conference on National Evaluation Capacities held in São Paulo, Brazil, 29 September-2 October 2013. The aim of the International Year of Evaluation is to strengthen the demand for and use of evaluation and evidence-based policy making at international, regional, national and local levels. Also, In 2015 the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be replaced by a new set of internationally agreed goals, most likely to be called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While the MDGs drove a global vision on human development and facilitated its implementation and monitoring, a comprehensive evaluation of what has been achieved has not been carried out so far. This is partly because the country level building blocks for such a review were not available. And, citizen demands for evidence and greater accountability from governments are growing world-wide. The International Year of Evaluation, the upcoming SDGs and the growing bottom up movement for greater accountability that is leading to new innovations to strengthen and hold policy makers accountable together present a strong case for strengthening national capacity in impact evaluation in the coming years.

5.    The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness endorsed in 2005, and the Accra follow-up meeting, state that national ownership and leadership are overarching factors for ensuring good development outcomes. The 2011 Busan, South Korea High-level forum re-affirmed the above principles and recognized that the international development arena has changed significantly*. The principle of ownership means that partner countries should own and lead their own country-led evaluation systems, while donors and international organizations should support sustainable national evaluation capacity development.  Consequently, new modalities such as South/South and triangular cooperation, and new stakeholders such as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), have been explicitly recognized in the Busan’s Declaration on “Partnership for effective development cooperation”.  These declarations further reaffirm the need to strengthen impact evaluation and enhance national and regional capacities in this area.  

6.   Indeed evaluations investigating the effects of specific interventions through Evidence Based Practice (EBP) in healthcare have greatly increased as a means of ensuring that decisions and choices are informed by evidence from impact evaluation. As a result, public policies based on scientifically-rigorous evidence have produced amazing advances in health over the past 30 years. No wonder, evidence-based decision is increasingly used in other sectors such as education, nutrition, logistics, etc. Relief and emergency agencies such as the Red Cross also over the past decade have turned to evidence-based decision. Moreover, impact evaluations are now being promoted as capable of strengthening evidence-based policy-making by major development institutions like the UK Department for International Affairs (DFID), International Development Research Center (IDRC), AusAID, International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the World Bank.  Policymakers (in health, education, logistics, relief etc.) who use EBP say that they need such evaluation when a large body of studies exist for a particular intervention and can be summarized to reach a credible policy decision. They believe that impact evaluation based on systematic reviews help them respond better to advocacy for specific interventions, improve project/program performance, achieve best value for money from public resources, improve decision-making and learn lessons.