Evaluating aid

The evidence-based revolution: donors and researchers call for rigorous evaluations to ensure that aid works

October 11, 2010

Dr. Orazio P. Attanasio, IFS;
Professor Sandy Oliver, University of London;

Dr. Patrick Nolen, University of Essex;

Dr. Thomas Clasen, LSHTM;

Miguel Székely Pardo, Ministry of Social Development, Mexico;

Thilde Stevens, Department of Social Development, South Africa

Each year billions of dollars are spent on development programs with little evidence on whether those programs are having any impact at all on things that matter to poor people, such as poverty, child mortality, maternal health or girl’s education. But academics and policy makers believe that an ‘evidence-based revolution’ is now imminent in international aid policy.

3ie and the London International Development Centre (LIDC) hosted a joint event to promote the use of evidence in aid policy. The event in UK also marked the launch of 3ie’s London office at LIDC’s headquarters in Gordon Square. The half-day conference, ‘Toward an evidence based development policy’, featured academics and policy makers from the UK, US, Mexico and South Africa and highlighted the lack of rigorous evidence in international development, the importance of closing knowledge gaps and the challenges of translating evidence into policy.

Highlighting the UK Department For International Development’s (DFID) commitment to evidence-based policy, Michael Anderson, the Director General of Research, Policy and International Relations at DFID said, “DFID is strongly committed to learning what works, testing our programmes with renewed rigour, and being honest about what does not work"

“It is my personal belief that the development venture is on the verge of going through an evidence-based revolution, so that 10 years from now we will have tested much more, will know much more about what works where and why, and will regard an evidence-based discussion as standard operating procedure. The work of 3ie will be critical to making that change,” he said.

Evidence can influence policy, particularly if evaluations of projects are based on rigorous methodologies and if implementers have the ability to scale-up these projects and replicate them elsewhere in the world, said Dr Rachel Glennerster, Executive Director of the Adbul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT. She cited an evaluation of a deworming programme in a part of Kenya, which showed how deworming increases school attendance by 25 per cent. The intervention, which only costs US 50 cents per child per year, has grown to cover 3.7 million children in Kenya and two million in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India.

Emphasising the importance of impact evaluations in the water and sanitation sector, Dr Thomas Clasen of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that much of the work to date has been focused on increasing coverage. “Rigorous impact evaluations are needed to identify and scale up those targeted interventions that actually deliver sustainable improvements in health and development," he said.

Bringing in the perspective of a policy maker was Miguel Székely Pardo, former Undersecretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Ministry of Social Development, Mexico who said that 3ie’s activities were necessary to fill information gaps and support policy-making, especially as policy decisions are “seldom” based on scientific evidence.

Download agenda.pdf (35.4 KB)

Download presentations:

Dr. Orazio P. Attanasio, Department of Economics, UCL and Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) Impact evaluation, Policy making and Academic research: Some Reflections and Examples (346.4 KB)

Professor Sandy Oliver, Institute of Education, University of London Systematic Reviews as a Source of Useful Evidence: The Experience of the EPPI-centre (9.6 MB)

Dr. Patrick Nolen, University of Essex Surviving the Big One: Recovery after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake (915.2 KB)

Dr. Thomas Clasen, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Using Evidence to Drive Health Interventions: The Case of Household Water Treatment (7.1 MB)

Miguel Székely Pardo, Ministry of Social Development, Mexico The Use of Evidence in Developing Countries: Experiences and Challenges (26.8 KB)

Thilde Stevens, Department of Social Development, South Africa The Use of Evidence in Developing Countries: (South African) Experiences and Challenges (6.2 MB)

Rachel Glennerster, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) Using Randomized Evaluations to Inform Development Policy (1.4 MB)

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