Reflections on 2021

Dear colleague,

As this year comes to a close, I want to share with you my reflections on the lessons we have learned in 2021, the challenges it posed, and opportunities I see for the future.  

In 2020, we were reeling from the “first wave” of COVID-19 and its myriad impacts. In 2021, we were still finding our feet in this ‘new-normal’ world when the COVID-19 variants inflicted unprecedented physical, emotional and psychological costs across the globe. We felt it deeply.   

Like many of you, members of our 3ie family have experienced loss. We continue to grieve together and support each other as best we can. We cannot wish away the pandemic, but we hope that we enter the new year a little more prepared.  

We are in an era of uncertainty. As development professionals, we are trying to lean in and adapt to people's changing needs. I am both awed and humbled by those at 3ie and beyond who, despite everything, have tried to do their best to understand the needs of decision-makers and program implementers, and delivered actionable evidence, tools and resources to help inform their work. Please join me in recognizing these efforts as I take you through a few of those in this letter. 

Generating evidence that is needed.
One of the biggest lessons from the pandemic has been the importance of ensuring access to timely and credible information wherever it is needed. Through our Helpdesk services, delivered by our West Africa Capacity-building and Impact Evaluation (WACIE) project, we have provided rapid evidence responses to policymaker questions (learn more here). We also co-hosted a hybrid event in Abidjan to understand the role and contribution of impact evaluations to inform progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. The workshops organized under the event brought together local partners with the specific aim to increase capacity in producing rigorous, demand-driven evidence, identifying opportunities in implementing evaluations with local teams and avenues for supporting those conducting evaluations. 

Amidst growing concerns around climate resilience and sustainable food systems, addressing challenges relating to nutrition remains a priority. Our first-ever “living” evidence gap map on food security and nutrition interventions was just updated. We believe this innovative tool can help facilitate investments and decision-making aimed at addressing the needs of the world's hundreds of millions of undernourished people in the face of a changing climate. I had a chance to present the highlights of our work at two high-level policy events in the run-up to the World Food Summit: a policy prioritization learning event in the ECA and MENA region organized by IFAD and a Food Systems Summit independent dialogue organized by the evaluation offices of FAO, IFAD, WFP and the CGIAR (learn more here). We are also actively working with USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security to develop evidence gap maps that inform their strategy on agriculture-led growth, resilience, nutrition, and water security.  

Much of our work focuses on programming that aims to empower women. Our evaluation of the Indian government’s Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is nearing completion and has generated rigorous evidence on the impacts of this large-scale program on livelihood promotion and social mobilization. In response to questions regarding impact of the program, India’s rural development minister, Giriraj Singh, mentioned 3ie’s study and outlined its key findings in the Upper House of Parliament in July 2021. Similarly, our Swashakt program is set to deliver lessons and evidence on the effectiveness of women’s collective enterprises in India. We also have active programs on aquaculture in Bangladesh and with self-help groups in India, both of which focus on women's empowerment outcomes. We know evidence on women’s empowerment is both vast and varied, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected states. So, we developed a systematic review on gender equality with a specific focus on what works in fragile contexts. We are also working on impact evaluations in Sudan and Guatemala in cooperation with the International Security Development Center and the UN Peacebuilding Fund on programming with a strong gender focus.   

Ensuring evidence access.
To ensure evidence is accessible to all, we invested in upgrading our Development Evidence Portal. It now includes more than 10,000 high-quality studies: impact evaluations, systematic reviews and evidence gap maps. It also features a refined taxonomy to help you navigate available evidence. We are committed to keeping it updated and will keep you informed about our new initiatives.

Capturing evidence impact.
In January, we launched our evidence impact summaries portal, a searchable database of stories of how 3ie’s work has facilitated change in the real world. Based on several years of tracking and evaluating the use of our work, we are sharing these stories of impact to help spur conversations on how to measure, monitor and verify it. Our 2021 blog campaign highlights both how we measure impact and some of the cases where our work has led to real-world change. To understand our approach, I recommend reading our blog on the seven ways decision makers use evidence and how we can claim impact with confidence. You can read all our blogs on the evidence impact campaign page.  

What to expect in 2022.
When 3ie first started, there was hardly any impact evaluation evidence; in fact I wrote a blog about this topic earlier this year. While evidence is still lacking in some contexts, we are confronted by a different set of challenges now. Where evidence exists, we need to understand the barriers-to-use in a more cohesive way. We also need to engage more and cultivate more evidence users.  

We need to actively facilitate change in the systems and mindsets of those working in development to ensure high-quality evidence is used. We need to have some tough conversations to evaluate ourselves and the evidence we have been generating. We also need to foster a more sustainable learning culture within organizations across the development community. We will be discussing these issues through different lenses throughout the coming year. You can expect to hear from us soon, through our newsletter and on our social media channels, if you don't already, please follow us at @3ieNews on Twitter and at @3ieimpact on LinkedIn. 

Marie Gaarder
Executive Director, 3ie


Here is a round-up of our work and open opportunities at 3ie.


Visit our blog section ‘Evidence Matters’ for all recent posts.


Visit our publications page for the full list.


Visit our jobs page for more opportunities.
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