Message from our executive director
It has been nearly six months since I took over as executive director of 3ie, a month before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global disruptions, the local effects of the pandemic, and the countermeasures are still emerging. The prognoses are grim in terms of the likely unraveling of years of improvements in indicators related to gender equality, education, hunger, and poverty across the world.
It has been a challenging time to lead an international organization as there are few ready answers. All measures seem to have unintended consequences, as we are learning the hard way. This may well be the case, for example, when moving to long-term work-from-home, which many organizations are considering. Everyone seems to be learning by doing. At 3ie, we have been trying to strike a balance between taking care of our own staff, research partners, and affiliates while still responding to prior commitments and urgent evidence needs.
Events across the world have also given us pause to reflect on issues of discrimination and bias, conscious and unconscious. We have renewed our commitment to our core values which include zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and a commitment to ethical research and rights-based evidence production and use. The recently relaunched 3ie Development Evidence Portal which is a user-friendly, searchable interface of the largest body of development evidence available, was recoded so it can be more useful for examining questions about equity. The headline finding is that beyond studies of interventions that target a specific vulnerable population, much of the impact evaluation literature is equity-blind. This is something we are dedicated to changing!
The funding landscape is becoming more difficult. Aid budgets might fall because of the cost of supporting corona-damaged economies. Reprioritization of those dwindling aid amounts may cut funding for evidence disproportionately. In that context, we are particularly grateful to count among our funders several who are open to ideas and opportunities to develop evidence that is relevant and useful.
The evidence community has been truly impressive in its response and readiness to bring its skills and insights to help save lives and avert truly detrimental effects. We are proud of our partners, members and grantee organizations. In the coming weeks, you will start to see results of one such partnership with Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE) and the Global Evidence Synthesis Initiative (GESI), where we are gearing up to deliver rapid evidence synthesis that can inform the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Another partnership, with the government of Benin, is piloting a helpdesk to respond to evidence needs of policymakers in the West Africa region. 3ie has also recently launched a Research Fellows Programme with the aim of enhancing the quality of 3ie's work and contributing to achieving our mission by tapping into world-class expertise across a variety of fields.
Opportunities to adapt and innovate in the work that we do have emerged. The “new normal” of evaluation will not go back to the “old normal.” We are exploring how new methods and new sources of data can help complement more traditional measures, especially when local data collection is made difficult or impossible. Our recently launched Big data map shows how such data can be used to measure effects on the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Even prior to the pandemic, we had been working on ways to reduce our carbon footprint and increasingly make evaluations ‘locally sourced’. We are developing online learning tools and finding ways to deliver impactful virtual conferences in which we reach more people in more locations than ever before and convene some leading experts in development. We want to keep this momentum going. We will continue to lead conversations about the pressing problems that we face today.
By the time his newsletter reaches you, we will have published nearly 40 blogs on a wide variety of topics, including 15 in our 2020 Hindsight campaign. We know when evidence is timely, as our blogs on handwashing and cash versus food transfers, it is useful for our stakeholders. We will continue to publish reflections from synthesis evidence over the next six months.
There is so much more we can do, especially to ensure that evidence is useful, useable and relevant for decision-makers. We are currently planning additional initiatives building to our experience and expertise across many themes and sectors, from health to climate change to big data and more. We will be linking up with interested partners in these as in all our endeavors, since we believe that we — 3ie and the world — are stronger when working together than separately.