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Latest blogs

When is an error not an error?

Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin (HAP) in their now famous replication study of Reinhart and Rogoff’s (R&R) seminal article on public debt and economic growth use the word “error” 45 times. At 3ie, we are more than a year into our replication programme, and we are seeing a similar propensity for replication researchers to use the word “error” (or “mistake” or “wrong”) and for this language to cause contentious discussions between the original authors and replication researchers.

Civil society: strong advocates for evidence-informed HIV/AIDS policies and action

As a member of 3ie’s HIV/AIDS programme team, I attended the annual International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), where I was struck by the strong and vital presence of countless civil society organisations (CSOs). From the displays in the main lobby calling for sex workers’ rights to the exhibits displayed by legal networks, human rights advocates and community organizations throughout the Cape Town International Convention Centre, I was reminded that participation of CSOs is crucial to moving forward the dialogue and action on improved HIV prevention and access to HIV/AIDS treatment, especially in hard-hit developing countries.

Making participation count

Toilets get converted into temples, and schools are used as cattle sheds. These are stories that are part of development lore. They illustrate the poor participation of ‘beneficiaries’ in well-intentioned development programmes. So, it is rather disturbing that millions of dollars are spent on development programmes with low participation, when we have evidence that participation matters for impact.

M&E: A tale of two brothers

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) are always mentioned together but in practice these two disciplines pretty much evade each other. This is despite the fact that they could be highly beneficial to each other, and if carefully combined, also to the intervention.

Does development need a nudge, or a big push?

Sending people persuasive reminder letters to pay their taxes recovered ₤210 million of revenue for the UK government. Getting the long term unemployed to write about their experiences,  increased their chances of getting a job. Placing healthy choices of food –like fruit instead of chocolate- in obvious locations improves children’s eating habits.

Evidence Matters and so does blogging

3ie is not just a grant-making institution. As a knowledge broker, we promote theory-based, and policy-relevant impact evaluations and systematic reviews. Blogs are an increasingly important way that 3ie can be communicating its messages more widely.  Our methods blogs have covered the importance of mixed methods and participatory approaches, various perspectives on causal chain analysis (see here and here), and how to promote randomised control trials effectively.

The HIV/AIDS treatment cascade

One of the reasons we appreciate international days is that they prompt us to pause and reflect on what we’ve been doing in the past year, as well as think about what the next year will bring.  On this International AIDS Day, our first reflection is realising how much we have grown our HIV/AIDS programming in 3ie in 2013.

A pitch for better use of mixed methods in impact evaluations

At the opening session of 3ie’s recent Measuring Results conference, Jyotsna Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Evaluation at 3ie, said, “It takes a village to do an impact evaluation.” What she meant was that, for an impact evaluation to be successful and policy relevant, research teams need to be diverse and include a mix of disciplines, such as statisticians, anthropologists, economists, surveyors, enumerators and policy experts, as well as use the most appropriate mix of evaluation and research methods.

Shining a light on the unknown knowns

Donald Rumsfeld, a former US Secretary of Defense, famously noted the distinction between known knowns(things we know we know), known unknowns (things we know we don’t know), and unknown unknowns (things we don’t know we don’t know). In international development research, these same distinctions exist.

How will they ever learn?

The low-quality of education in much of the developing world is no secret. The Annual status of education report (Aser), produced by the Indian NGO Pratham, has been documenting the poor state of affairs in that country for several years. The most recent report highlights the fact that more than half of grade five students can read only at grade two level. Similar statistics are available from around the world.


Evidence Matters is 3ie’s blog. It primarily features contributions from staff and board members. Guest blogs are by invitation.

3ie publishes blogs in the form received from the authors. Any errors or omissions are the sole responsibility of the authors. Views expressed are their own and do not represent the opinions of 3ie, its board of commissioners or supporters.