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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Impact Evaluation: How the Wonkiest Subject in the World Got Traction

“3ie has made my job much easier.” This is what we heard last month from a high-ranking government official in Africa, referring to the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), and it made us very proud. Creating 3ie was the outcome of the Evaluation Gap Working Group that we led along with Nancy Birdsall to address the limited number of rigorous impact evaluation of public policies in developing countries. As CGD celebrates its 15th year, it is worth considering what made that working group so successful, the obstacles we confronted, and the work that still remains to be done.

New Initiative in India Is Mobilizing Communities to Improve Children’s Learning, but Will It Work?

Every year, hundreds of thousands of volunteers in South Asia and East Africa walk many miles crossing rivers, mountains, deserts and farmlands to do something amazing: reach remote rural communities to assess whether children can read or do simple maths. Collectively known as Citizen-led Assessments (CLA), every year they show that most children are going to school but less than half of them can read or write at grade level. However, in spite of these universally damning reports, policy change to improve children’s learning has been painfully slow. So the NGO Pratham that started this movement is turning its army of volunteer data collectors into change agents to mobilize entire communities and raise awareness about the learning crisis across India.  

SDGs Ready To Go? Far From It.

After almost four years and much fanfare, 193 nations agreed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their associated 169 targets at last September’s UN Summit. You’d probably then assume that we’re all set to start the SDG agenda on January 1, 2016. Not quite so fast. Arguably the most important part of the agenda – the indicators that will determine what we actually measure and how we judge progress – has yet to be decided.

Using “Random” Right: New Insights from IDinsight Team

The unfolding of “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” about the use of randomized control trials (RCTs) as a tool in improving development policies and practices has reached the “synthesis” stage.  A new paper in the 3ie working paper series “Evaluations with Impact” by Shah, Wang, Fraker and Gastfriend (hereafter IDinsight team and, full disclosure, three of which were students of mine) (2015) does an excellent job both in laying out the debate and in articulating a newly emerging conv

SDG Negotiations Round 3: Indicators

With the outcome document for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now submitted, the development community turns to the final piece of the SDG agenda: the indicators. While the goals and targets have endured unending negotiations, from the Open Working Group to all UN member states, the underlying indicators have largely remained a big question. It’s now time to turn to that question.

Mapping the Worm Wars: What the Public Should Take Away from the Scientific Debate about Mass Deworming

It was a big deal when various media outlets declared last week that the evidence to support mass deworming had been “debunked.” The debate now is not about whether children sick with worms should get treated (everyone says yes), but whether the mass treatment of all kids — including those not known to be infected — is a cost-effective way to raise school attendance. The healthiest parts of the debate have been about the need for transparency, data sharing, and more replication in science. Here, we’re going to focus here on the narrower question of the evidence for mass deworming specifically, which is where some journalists have gotten things quite wrong. 

The Evaluation Gap Is Closing, But Not Closed

Recently, I sent out the final Evaluation Gap Update – a newsletter about impact evaluations and the institutions that fund them, implement them, or are supposed to be influenced by them. After 10 years, it seemed the right time to move on to other projects, particularly since numerous other resources have sprung up over this decade (many listed below!). Yet there is pushback on the growth of impact evaluations that sometimes worries me. I hear people say too many impact evaluations are being conducted (despite the need for the information they provide).

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