Using impact evaluation to improve policies and programmes

Conditional cash transfers increase school enrolments and use of health facilities. Community-level water supply does not have health benefits. There is emerging evidence that community-driven development programmes do not increase social cohesion.

These statements can be made with confidence based on the considerable body of evidence from impact evaluations undertaken to answer the question of what works in development. 3ie is now adding this body of evidence as more completed studies are becoming available.

How useful are systematic reviews in international development?

This thought provoking question was the highlight of the opening plenary of the Dhaka Colloquium of Systematic Reviews in International Development.

Systematic reviews summarise all the evidence on a particular intervention or programme and were first developed in the health sector.  The health reviews have a specific audience: doctors, nurses and health practitioners. The audience is also easily able to find the systematic reviews.

Special feature for World AIDS Day 2012

There has been only a small decline in the prevalence of HIV in the last decade, dropping from 5.9 percent to 5 percent between 2001 and 2009 for those aged 15-49 (UNAIDS, 2010). This decrease, whilst important, does not seem impressive compared to over US$5 billion spent fighting AIDS in low and middle income countries each year (the latest available figure is US$5.1 billion in 2008).

Field notes on implementing impact evaluations

3ie is currently funding 100 impact evaluations in low and middle-income countries spread across Africa, Asia and Latin America. We are now in a unique position to learn a lot about what’s working well in designing and conducting impact evaluations and what can be done better to ensure that research produces reliable and actionable findings.

Early stimulation and micronutrients interventions

Why should we put more money into early childhood development interventions? Does this help children in secondary education? Should we invest in preschool programmes or more in home stimulation or parenting classes? What is most cost-effective?  These are key questions that policymakers are grappling with at a time when early childhood development is emerging as a priority issue for many developing countries.

Can we do small n impact evaluations?

3ie was set up to fill ‘the evaluation gap’, the lack of evidence about ‘what works in development’. Our founding document stated that 3ie will be issues-led, not methods led, seeking the best available method to answer the evaluation question at hand. We have remained true to this vision in that we have already funded close to 100 studies in over 30 countries around the world. And we strongly promote mixed methods, in which the attribution analysis of ‘what works’ is embedded in a larger evaluation framework combining process and impact evaluation, factual and counterfactual analysis.

Exercising credibility: why a theory of change matters

Recently the Chris Evans breakfast show on UK’s Radio 2 picked up a news story on a Danish study reporting that half an hour’s exercise a day is better for you than one hour.   Like me, the radio presenters were puzzled by this finding and wanted to know more.

Evaluating the impact of stimulation and micronutrients on early childhood development

The preliminary results and analysis of this study was presented at the Promises for Preschoolers: Early Childhood Development and Human Capital Accumulation conference on 25 June in London.

Evidence to policy: bridging gaps and reducing divides

Evidence-based policymaking is important but not always straightforward in practice. The complex reality of policymakingprocesses means that the availability of high quality research is a necessary, but not sufficient, ingredient for evidence informed policy.

Evaluating vocational schools in rural China

16 year old Kou Yaokang’s family are poor subsistence farmers. They cannot afford to pay for Kou’s high school education. Instead of ending his formal education after middle school, Kou Yaokang enrolled in a vocational school. This seemed like a good idea at the time. “The government was providing subsidies for vocational schools, and I thought I could learn new skills to get a good job,” Kou Yaokang told a team from the Rural Education Action Project in December 2011.