Last month, I received a message from Howard White, Executive Director of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), announcing that he will be stepping down from his position after six years in which he established and led this small but important organization. As a co-leader of the CGD Evaluation Gap Working Group that argued for creating 3ie and as part of the interim 3ie Board that hired Howard in 2008, I had the privilege of working with a group of governments and foundations that charged him with promoting and encouraging more high-quality impact evaluations with the goal of expanding the evidence available to policymakers in low- and middle-income countries. For my part, I had two particular wishes: that 3ie would maintain high standards for the quality of studies it financed and that developing countries would be an important part of the membership.
It is remarkable to see how 3ie has met these goals and both of my wishes under Howard’s leadership. Since it started, 3ie has committed over $40 million of funding to more than 100 impact evaluations. Given the lead time on research, many of these studies will be publishing results over the next few years. The grant review process is rigorous and has selected policy-relevant studies from proposals by the world’s best researchers. The researchers who have received funding are also diverse – 3ie reports that over 40% of the principal investigators for these studies are from developing country institutions and almost all of the studies with principal investigators from wealthy countries involve partnerships with local researchers or institutions. 3ie has also experimented with ways to make sure that studies are relevant to policymaking by encouraging the participation of policymakers in research proposals and creating an innovative “policy window.” Of the organization’s 26 members, 9 are low- and middle-income countries – including Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, and Uganda. India sought out 3ie to help them establish their own independent evaluation institution and 2 of its states, Kerala and Karnataka, are also 3ie members.
The United Kingdom, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation deserve credit for being 3ie’s leading funders, but it is time to revisit one of the original visions for 3ie – that all foreign aid and multilateral agencies should contribute 0.01% of their annual disbursements to 3ie in support of impact evaluation. These studies are a public good that is underfunded relative to its value and one which provides useful evidence for policy decisions by all agencies and developing countries.
So I want to offer heartfelt thanks to Howard White for building 3ie into what it is today. And if you know of anyone with the right profile – which means someone with the skills of a manager, a diplomat and a rigorous academic, along with energy, commitment, and humor – please encourage them to apply before February 3rd!
P.S. You can also subscribe to CGD’s bi-monthly Evaluation Gap Updates to follow developments like this in the world of international impact evaluation.