Six months ago, Gabriel Demombynes and I wrote a paper about when and why some development projects should use careful impact evaluation. We illustrated our case with a critique of the impact evaluation methods used by the Millennium Villages Project (MVP). The MVP issued a long response that defended their evaluation approach and, in my view, displayed a basic misunderstanding about evaluation methods. Since then, the MVP changed little in its evaluation approach or in its public rhetoric.
Since the debate via blogs didn’t seem to be making much headway, Gabriel and I offered twice to hold a public discussion with MVP leaders, in October and December. Those invitations weren't accepted. Philanthropy Action and AidWatch expressed dismay at the MVP's lack of public engagement, and an online petition sprang up urging the MVP to engage us in a public discussion. The MVP's home, Columbia University, is a world-class institution of critical and meritocratic thinking. I like Columbia, where more than one member of my family has served on the faculty. I wished that more people at the university had shown interest in fostering a public discussion.
Tomorrow, at last, a public discussion will be held, not at Columbia but across the Atlantic at Oxford University's Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE). CSAE’s annual conference is now underway. At Tuesday’s plenary session Gabriel will present our paper, with John McArthur of the MVP as a discussant. I'm very grateful to Oxford for arranging this event.
That discussion is to be broadcast live on the Internet, Tuesday March 22nd, at 2:00pm Eastern US time (6:00pm UK time). It should be viewable at this link.