Evidence impact: The ways evaluation findings shape real world outcomes
In March 2019, Uganda's government changed the design of its flagship Youth Livelihood Programme. It reduced the size of programme-supported youth groups from 10 to 5 members and increased the budget for supporting youth groups, with additional funds for training, technical support and supervision. Of all possible design changes, what led the government to choose these?
In this case, findings from a 3ie-supported evaluation suggested to the Ugandan government what changes could improve employment outcomes for participating youth. 3ie strives for just this type of policy-making: the consideration and use of contextual evaluative evidence in development programming, rather than choices based on anecdotes or intuition. We believe that development research exists to help governments and other decision makers. Studies add value when they contribute to knowledge, understanding or policy changes that can improve lives. These contributions are what we call evidence impact.
Throughout 2021, we will be focusing on these stories of evidence impact in this blog series, drawing from our unique public portal of Evidence Impact Summaries we have just launched. We will also write about the factors that improve the chances that decision-makers use evidence, as well as addressing questions of what counts as "evidence impact." Furthermore, we will detail our strategies for verifying claims that evidence had an impact.
The changes that research findings set in motion are often hidden from plain view. Evidence may inform the knowledge base for policies and programmes before decision makers make any concrete plans or contribute to small changes that they can push through. Change usually comes slowly. We aim to pull back the curtain on these processes.
This blog series builds on our Hindsight 2020 campaign last year, in which our goal was to underline what we already know from development research. We looked at common policy questions which solid systematic review evidence could address. We're now moving forward to see how findings from research get translated into action in the world.
In the Uganda youth livelihoods example above, there were a couple of factors that contributed to Ugandan policymakers' decision to revamp the program based on evaluation findings. 3ie had laid the groundwork by building a solid relationship with Ugandan officials as part of a multi-year evidence program. That team organised meetings and workshops which included the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development – which oversees the program – building their capacity to commission and use evaluation evidence. You can read all the details on that case in the summary here.
Our yearlong series of these evidence impact stories aims to help address longstanding questions about the impact of development research. While our new portal of evidence impact summaries has no shortage of these stories, we hope you, the reader, will also share your experiences to round out the picture in this yearlong conversation. So check out the evidence impact summaries we have online. And if you have any additional stories of evidence-informed policymaking, share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.