3ie London Evidence Week Conference

Meeting local and global development goals: how rigorous evidence can help

Venue: CLO BO1, Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck, Torrington Square, London
Date: 14 April, 09:00-17:30 

This one-day conference looked at the role for high-quality evidence in policymaking and programming, discussed the evidence synthesised from a major new 3ie systematic review on education effectiveness, took a critical look at current and emerging ethical issues in impact evaluation and presented findings from recent studies, reviews and a gap map.

Keynote address, Dr Alison Evans, chief commissioner, Independent Commission for Aid Impact

The UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s chief commissioner Alison Evans kickstarted the one-day LEW conference with a thought-provoking speech on making evidence and scrutiny matter in constantly changing development contexts. She stressed the importance of scrutiny of aid to ensure evidence informed judgements that can improve outcomes for everyone. She spoke about the key challenge to scrutiny rising from the need to move from focusing on evidence to evidence-informed judgement.

Click here to listen to Dr Alison Evan’s keynote address

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Click here to listen to Alison Evans’ interview with 3ie.


Session 1

Using rigorous evidence, the role for impact evaluations and systematic reviews

The first panel discussion, chaired by Penny Hawkins, head of evaluation at DFID, focused on the role and use of evidence from SRs for policymaking. The observation by Paul Garner (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group) that evidence needs to be separated from decisions, kept transparent and used to engage with policymakers at various levels regularly and not just as a fait accompli proved to be another popular point for discussion. DFID’s Matt Harvey questioned the usefulness of systematic reviews as evidence for policymaking since they were time-consuming and costly, and did not help policymakers in operational decision-making.  Other panellists, including David Gough (EPPI-Centre, UCL) and Phil Davies (former 3ie SRO head) spoke about the relevance of SRs as great tools for mid- to long-term strategic decision-making.

Watch the video-recording of this session

Session 2

Education effectiveness and the SDGs: what we can learn from a new 3ie systematic review

This session started with 3ie’s evaluation specialist, Birte Snilstveit presenting the findings from 3ie’s new systematic review on education effectiveness. The other panellists, Chris Berry (DFID) and Elizabeth King (3ie Board of Commissioners) lauded the exhaustive review that looked at over 216 impact evaluations in 52 low- and middle-income countries. Beth King raised a critical question about how to make a systematic review of over 900 pages useful for a policymaker, for e.g. a minister of education. She stressed on the importance of ensuring the review presented policy-relevant recommendations in a manner that is understandable and useful to policymakers. The panellists also spoke about tailoring educational materials to local contexts and the relevance of considering contextual factors when making policy recommendations.

Watch the video-recording of this session here

Session 3

Ethics in impact evaluation

Ethics in impact evaluation proved to be another popular topic among stakeholders considering the near-full conference room and rich audience inputs. 3ie’s deputy director for Policy, Advocacy and Communication, Beryl Leach moderated the main presentations and questions in the panel of Penny Hawkins (DFID), Chris Barnett (Centre for Development Impact) and Heather Lanthorn (senior manager, IDinsight). Penny Hawkins shed light on DFID’s recent exercise to review and update their 2011 ethics, principles and guidance in evaluation and research, outlining where they have already taken steps to improve processes and accountability, especially during implementation. Heather Lanthorn presented the perspective of ethics through the lens of an individual evaluator for a private firm, with many examples of the conundrums. She also recommended more transparency around data collection methods and around the conduct of studies. Panellists also discussed the need to recognise that institutional review boards developed for medical research are often not well-suited or capable of reviewing social science research or evaluations.

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Session 4

Innovation in evidence production and synthesis

This final session was a platform for 3ie to present a range of their completed and ongoing work. Jo Puri and Jen Stevenson presented on a new land use change and forestry evidence gap map. Thomas de Hoop (American Institutes for Research) and Martina Vojtkova (NatCen) presented the findings from the 3ie systematic review on whether self-help groups empower women. There were also presentations on 3ie-funded studies, including one on the long-term impact of conditional cash transfers in Malawi and an upcoming systematic review on youth employment.

Watch the video recording of the session

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