Dear colleague,

Our 15th anniversary year has been an opportunity for celebration and recharging with all our great partners, friends, and evidence heroes across the globe. As we enter the last quarter of 2023, I wanted to share some reflections from a series of key engagements and strategic deliberations this year.

A celebration is in order, especially when we as a community take stock of what we have achieved over the last 15 years (see my earlier blog recalling 3ie’s key contributions here):
  1. there has been an exponential growth in the body of evidence and effectiveness studies to draw upon for making decisions in international development;
  2. the evaluation and Evidence-Informed Decision Making (EIDM) fields have expanded, with more organizations thriving through professionalized networks;
  3. there has been an increase in the number of governments and international development organizations institutionalizing evaluation into their structures;
  4. we have become increasingly sophisticated and skilled at making the growing body of evidence easily accessible and digestible for decision-makers;
  5. there is more acceptance among the community that we need a range of methods to respond to diverse questions.
The field has grown and, I would claim, grown up quite a bit!

Recharging is in order because we cannot rest. What we do is important, and it has never been more urgent!  The pandemic—compounded by other crises, including conflict, climate change and democratic backsliding—has adversely affected people's lives globally. The situation for many fellow citizens in the world is critical and has worsened over the last few years. When we know billions are spent on wasteful or ineffective programs every year, we know we have our job cut out for us.

In September, we used the opportunity to celebrate and recharge our batteries with our network of partners in Africa and Asia. During the Africa Evidence Network’s Evidence 2023 conference session aptly named ‘why relationships matter’, I had the opportunity to reflect on and experience just that. In an all-female panel of leaders of evidence organizations (AEN, AFREA, ACRES, 3ie), we agreed that relationships have mattered immensely for our personal journeys as well as the successes of our organizations. We also shared a strong sense that partnerships work when they are genuinely felt, when we nurture them over a longer period, and when the ego takes a step back (and the shared mission takes the lead). These partnerships require core values of trust and respect – they also require resources.

It was encouraging to hear from our partners that over the 15 years of 3ie’s existence, and through changes in leadership and various strategies, 3ie’s support in an ever-adapting field has been considered a constant among our Africa-based partners. In other sessions, we explored the practices and challenges of institutionalizing evidence-informed decision-making in African governments.  The panel broadly agreed that to be an effective partner for the government requires building trust, which is nurtured over the years and requires a deep understanding of contexts and incentives. Godfrey Mashamba (Department for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South Africa) and Timothy Lubanga (Commissioner for Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), Uganda) both highlighted that institutionalizing the reporting of results can be an effective vehicle to hold governments accountable and encourage regular engagement on evidence.

Birte Snilstveit (3ie) led a discussion with our partners on localization, what it means, when it is used as a fig leaf, and the role funders can play in supporting localization (as well as perpetuating existing asymmetries). Importantly, there was broad consensus that local participation in the research agenda-setting is key and currently absent. As Andrea Ordóñez Llanos (Southern Voice) adeptly pointed out, “If we transfer capacities and funds but not the decision-making on the agenda for research, then we are not fulfilling the aim of this localization mission”. While several of us had the opportunity to celebrate with partners at AEN (which was founded at a 3ie event in Dhaka in 2012), some of our staff were across the globe, participating in another key partner event led by the Asian Development Bank.

3ie participated in the Asian Evaluation Week events in Bangkok, including contributing to sessions on sustainability and resilience, inclusive partnerships, and innovations in evaluation. In one session, Charanjit Singh (India’s Ministry of Rural Development) described the evidentiary value and policy relevance of 3ie's NRLM evaluation, demonstrating the importance of government ownership of findings. In another session, Neelakshi Mann (3ie) shared some of 3ie's strategies and approach to stakeholder engagement throughout the NRLM evaluation process. Douglas Glandon (3ie) moderated another panel discussion about the need for researchers and evaluators to use innovation in evaluation to make the evidence impactful. We drew on our work with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, where we jointly developed a "methods menu" for policy and institutional reform as a user-friendly, publicly available resource that can help development practitioners look beyond their own set of familiar approaches to find the best fit for the question(s) at hand.

Needless to say, it’s been a busy quarter (and year!), and there’s a lot more to come. These engagements in Asia and Africa come at a critical time—as we’re currently working on developing 3ie’s 2024-26 organizational strategy. We are keen to channel our learnings from these and other engagements in 2023 to inform our future. And once again, we’re grateful to our partners and friends across the globe for their support and guidance.

Marie Gaarder, Executive Director, 3ie

To contribute to the discourse on how we understand women’s empowerment, what drives and what impedes it, we recently launched 3ie’s first podcast series Swashakt – Conversations on Women’s Empowerment. This six-part series features authoritative voices from grassroots organizations, research institutions, the private sector as well and donor agencies working to empower women.

In the opening episode, Aastha Dang (3ie) is in conversation with Isabel Guerrero, co-founder of IMAGO Global Grassroots, who has worked for 30 years at the World Bank, including five years as Vice-President for the South Asia region. Guerrero talks about the power of collectives and says the sense of balance women bring will help overcome several global challenges, including climate change and conflict. She uses the example of SEWA in India and says a group can help its members change the way they see themselves and think about themselves – which can be truly transformative. Find out more by listening to the episode here.  Read more about our research projects on gender equality and women’s empowerment here.
Supporting evidence-informed decision-making in democracy programming

UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) commissioned 3ie to understand the evidence around interventions addressing democratic backsliding. We conducted a rapid evidence assessment (using nearly 1,800 studies mapped as part of a USAID-funded Evidence Gap Map) providing insights on the state of evidence.  

To know more about this work, read the report.

Read blog | Read policy brief | View research page
#3ie15years | Our work and its impact – hear what partners have to say
Among our network of evidence supporters and champions, DEval has been a long-term key partner. As part of our commitment to learn and reflect in our 15th year, we spoke with Prof. Dr Jörg Faust, Director at DEval on evidence use, and working with 3ie. In his message, Dr Faust recognized 3ie’s increased focus on synthesising evidence for policymakers as a significant milestone in 3ie’s history. He also cites our Development Evidence Portal as a “true global public good,” which has immense value for those who need evidence to inform decisions. Acknowledging 3ie’s investments in promoting the use of evidence, he says, DEval looks forward to “continued cooperation with 3ie” and others leading the field.
In documenting the use and impact of 3ie’s research, we have found that it can contribute to policy or program discussions, as well as decisions to change the design of policies or programs, scale them up or shut them down.  Visit our Evidence Impact Portal featuring more than 50 summaries that highlight the impact of research evidence, as well as the context and factors that helped research contribute to the change. 
3ie in the news

3ie’s Daniel Handel writes for Vox about USAID’s cash benchmarking initiative, some of the misconceptions around it and why it is important to consider cash benchmarking as part of the broader evidence agenda.

Ideas 4 India | Facilitating risk-sharing through self-help groups in Bihar

Anjini Kochar, along with co-authors, writes for Ideas4India on the frequently overlooked value of savings and lending programs, i.e., reducing households’ vulnerability to risk. The authors explain why incorporating this value can significantly alter the program’s cost-benefit ratio. This article is now available in Hindi.
Upcoming event

3ie at IDB’s 2023 Knowledge Week

23-27 October | In-person and Virtual

The Knowledge Week hosted by Inter-American Development Bank brings together distinguished scholars, experts from the IDB Group, and regional and international specialists who are shaping the future of the region and the world. The four-day event will include sessions on sustainable infrastructure, climate change, biodiversity quality social investments, and effectiveness in development. 3ie senior leadership will be part of the following sessions.

23 October
How to Promote Development Effectiveness?
11:00 am - 12:00 pm ET
  • Sir Ronald Cohen, president of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG)
  • Marie Gaarder, executive director, International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)
  • Carolina Trivelli, senior researcher at Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP)
  • Alexandre Meira da Rosa, manager of strategic planning and development effectiveness, IDB (Moderator)
24 October
Scaling Social Investments and Poverty Relief Programs
9:30 am - 10:30 am ET
Sally Grantham-McGregor, emerita professor of child health and nutrition, University College London (UCL)
Sebastián Martínez, director of evaluation, 3ie
Marta Rubio-Codina, senior economist, IDB
Register here

Past events

GeoField Convening: Leveraging Earth Observation for Impact Evaluations of Climate-Sensitive Agriculture

12-14 September 2023 | Rome
Fiona Kastel shared findings of our impact evaluation “Geospatial Impact Evaluation of an Agricultural Intensification Program in Niger”. This convening brought together evaluators, implementers, and funders in discussion around the benefits and challenges of using geospatial data for evaluation of agricultural interventions and climate resilience. Read more about the convening.
8th Open Government Partnership Global Summit
6–7 September 2023 – Tallinn, Estonia
From the role of environmental defenders and their impact on democracy to the role of civil society in contexts of democratic backsliding, the OGP forum provided a platform for government representatives, non-government organizations and civil society members to share insightful perspectives and reflect on several unique challenges faced in diverse contexts. 3ie Evaluation Specialist Etienne Lwamba shares his experience here.

An introduction to the PIR Methods Menu
7 September 2023
MCC and 3ie partnered to develop a Policy and Institutional Reform (PIR) methods menu. This webinar co-organized with MCC introduced the menu to the audience and to help them find and select approaches to assessing and supporting policy and institutional reform. The platform currently includes over fifty methods organized by program phase, mode of inquiry, and research question.

Watch the discussion | Explore the methods menu
Join our growing and dynamic team by applying for one of these unique and impactful roles. View all the current opportunities here.
Senior Research Fellow

This month as part of 3ie Senior Fellows, we are featuring Dr Anjini Kochar, who leads one of 3ie’s flagship evidence programs that evaluates the Indian government’s National Rural Livelihoods Project. She has served as Director of the India Program at the Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development from 2000 to 2019. Prior to joining the Center, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Stanford University. Kochar received her PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago and holds a Master’s in International Relations also from the University of Chicago. She has been a recipient of Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a McNamara Faculty Fellowship and was a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution in 2000-01. Read more about Dr Kochar here.

Since 2020, 3ie's Fellowship Program has contributed to achieving our mission by tapping into diverse expertise and experience across the world. Our research fellows enhance the quality of 3ie's work and provide intellectual leadership and technical support to areas strategic for the organization. Our fellows are uniquely positioned to lead or support new and ongoing initiatives and programs. It provides an opportunity for experienced researchers to work with our global team on a range of projects in their area of expertise.
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