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AidWatch – the brainchild of noted aid critic (and former CGD fellow) Bill Easterly – has given its Best in Aid Grand Prize to the “Smart Giving movement,” nominated by  Saundra Schimmelpfennig of the blog Good Intentions are Not Enough. AidWatch included the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) as part of this “Smart Giving movement” for its role in learning about what kinds of development programs work (and which ones don’t). Having worked with Ruth Levine and Nancy Birdsall in leading the Evaluation Gap Initiative that led to the creation of 3ie, this is music to my ears.  

It is good to hear AidWatch say that “many more donors now insist on serious EVALUATION and ACCOUNTABILITY than used to do so.” But this movement to improve the impact of development programs through systematic assessment of existing initiatives is still in the beginning phases, and it is still not clear whether actions are matching promises. While there is broad recognition of the fact that successful development is difficult without thorough assessment of accountability and effectiveness, substantive support for rigorous evaluation is lacking within the global aid community. In its most recent application cycle, 3ie received over 200 proposals of which 39 were judged to be high quality – but 3ie only had enough money to finance about half of them. DFID, the Gates Foundation and Hewlett Foundation have given generously to 3ie. I’m hoping that with increasing recognition of the value of 3ie’s important function, other bilateral agencies and foundations will start providing similar levels of commitment. It’s time!

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.