Everyone in international development is familiar with the pressure to demonstrate their results, and to do so with “rigorous evidence”. Impact evaluations are a central part of that process.
Too often, a hierarchy of methods has been suggested, with randomised contolled trials (RCTs) placed at the top as the gold standard. Academic discussions have long moved beyond the notion of a hierarchy and promoted the importance of choosing methods that are appropriate to the type of intervention that is being evaluated and the questions being asked: Did the intervention work? To what extent did it work? Why and how did it work or not work?
But to date, knowledge of these diverse methods has been largely limited to experts and academics. To correct this, Bond, with support from DFID, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund, commissioned Professor Elliot Stern to write Impact Evaluation: A Guide for Commissioners and Managers, which was launched this week.
The guide aims to empower commissioners of evaluations to make more informed choices about appropriate evaluation methods. Using the notion of a “design triangle”, it explains different, rigorous ways of showing the contribution of interventions to results, and how these can be considered along with different programme attributes and evaluation questions to choose which method is right for you.
Bond will be working on a practical tool for choosing evaluation methods to accompany this paper over the coming months. This will also complement Bond’s Evidence Principles and checklist, which can be used to assess the quality of evaluations, whichever methods are used.