Latest blogs

On target? Why participant selection matters for development programmes

Many development programmes reach only a fraction of the people they aim to include. One reason for this is that attrition erodes target group participation at various stages between programme conception and completion. Programme targeting using selection criteria, eligibility assessment and participant registration is one of the ways this problem can be addressed. But how far does targeting address this issue?

MDG for water: is the job done?

Water provision remains high on the global development agenda including political commitments such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and associated post-2015 targets. By 2012, the United Nations declared that governments had met the MDG drinking water target to ‘halve the number without access to safe drinking water (defined as access to water from an improved source within 1 kilometre of the household).’  This suggests that some development efforts are working.

Reversing the resource curse through impact evaluations

Countries such as Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria have large reserves of natural resources. They are also countries that have suffered extended periods of political violence, authoritarianism, corruption, inequality and poor growth. What causes this imbalance of high wealth on one side and extreme poverty on the other? The correlation between the quantity of natural resources reserves and poor economic growth is generally considered to be proof of a natural resource curse.

Not all ‘systematic’ reviews are created equal

In a recent World Bank blog based on a paper, David Evans and Anna Popova argue that systematic reviews may not be reliable as an approach to synthesis of empirical literature. They reach this conclusion after analysing six reviews assessing the effects of a range of education interventions on learning outcomes.  The main finding of their analysis: While all these reviews focus on the effects of learning outcomes based on evidence from impact evaluations, there is a large degree of divergence in the studies included in each review, and consequently the conclusions they reach.

Understanding what’s what: the importance of sector knowledge in causal chain analysis

My recent blog, How big is big enough?, argued that you need sector expertise to judge if the effect of a programme is meaningful rather than just statistically significant. But the need for sector expertise goes far deeper than that. I have recently been reading impact evaluations of water supply and sanitation studies. The studies by the non-sector researchers (mostly economists) collect data on the outcome of interest, usually child diarrhoea. But they do little more than that.

What’s wrong with evidence-informed development? Part 2

3ie’s recent systematic review of farmer field schools (FFS) found that these programmes worked as pilots and small- scale programmes. But the few impact evaluations  of  national-level programmes found no impact.  The evidence suggested that problems in recruiting and training appropriate faciliators impeded the scale-up of the experiential learning model of farmer field schools.

Evidence gap maps: an innovative tool for seeing what we know and don’t know

Whether you are a research funder, decision maker or researcher, keeping up with the ever expanding evidence base is not easy. Over 2600 impact evaluations and 300 systematic reviews assessing the effects of international development interventions have been completed or are ongoing to help answer that question and understand how, why and at what cost.  Despite this increase in quality evidence, more evidence is needed, which is why funders and researchers continue to fund and produce new research.

What’s wrong with evidence-informed development? Part 1

On my reading list as an undergraduate in development studies was Peter Laslett’s The World We Have Lost, This is a social history that challenges the view that pre-industrial England was a stagnant society. Rather, it had many of the features of industrial or even modern Britain.

How to peer review replication research

“The 3ie replication process differs in important ways from the standard research community-led peer-review process in academic journals. We have been explicitly instructed by 3ie staff not to discuss our experiences with the replication process at any length in this note, including our views on the weaknesses of their current system and the review standards they employ.

Proof-of-concept evaluations: Building evidence for effective scale-ups

I delivered a talk at 3ie’s Delhi Seminar Series on a recently published PLoS ONE paper) and follow-up research. This project was a randomised experiment evaluating the potential for text messages to remind malaria patients to complete their treatment course of antimalarial medication.


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.