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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.

 

Kenyan Economist Offers First Independent Evaluation of Millennium Villages Project

A remarkable study reached the public last week. It is the first independent, rigorous, firsthand evaluation of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), an effort by the United Nations and Columbia University whose admirable goal was to show that “the poorest regions of rural Africa can lift themselves out of extreme poverty in five year’s time.” The new study shows that the MVP is far from reaching that goal at its flagship site.

The Millennium Villages Evaluation Debate Heats Up, Boils Over

The Millennium Villages Project, now underway in villages across Africa, is a keystone of United Nations efforts against global poverty. For years there has been a largely behind-the-scenes debate about how that project is evaluating its impacts. In the past week that debate suddenly heated up. A lot.

If Randomized Evaluations Are So Great, Why Don’t Businesses Use Them?

This is a joint post with Michael Clemens.

Michael Clemens recently wrote me, saying that he gets asked this question a lot. I do, too. So I was interested when he brought my attention to a 2007 article in Forbes that discusses a number of companies that do use randomized studies. I wasn’t surprised to see Google in the list, but I never imagined that all the junk mail that I receive from Capital One might be guided by sophisticated research (though it hasn’t convinced me to sign up yet!). Progressive Insurance apparently discovered profitable lines of business (middle-aged motorcycle drivers) by randomly accepting a portion of applicants who would normally be rejected and studying their claims behavior. According to Hunt Alcott, other companies that have used randomized studies include H&R Block, PNC Bank, Amazon, Subway and Harrah’s Casino.

B-Span and a Broader Vision of Public Information from the World Bank

This is a joint post with Michele de Nevers.

The World Bank’s expanding public information mandate is the focus of Stephanie Strom’s excellent article in Saturday’s New York Times. During Robert Zoellick’s tenure as the Bank’s president, he has promoted free public access to databases that formerly required a paid subscription, such as the World Development Indicators, or were simply unavailable (such as detailed information on the location, design, objectives and performance of Bank projects). We have no doubt that this excellent initiative will be a boon to development analysts and scholars worldwide.

Don’t Do Impact Evaluations Because…

Recently, I was called for advice by someone who will be running a workshop attended by people who implement and evaluate programs. She asked me to help her anticipate the main objections raised against doing impact evaluations—evaluations that measure how much of an outcome can be attributed to a specific intervention--and to suggest possible responses.

Making Development Economics More Scientific: A Young Journal Leads

Researchers who call their work scientific must make their work reproducible. That is, other scientists must be able to reproduce the same result in an essentially similar setting. If they can’t, the result gets dumped. When I was a boy, two scientists at the University of Utah claimed to discover a way to cheaply generate energy with “cold fusion”. But because other scientists could not reproduce that result, no one today builds energy policy around cold fusion.

Three Cheers for 3ie: Annual Report Provides a Chance to Evaluate the Evaluators

This is a joint post with Christina Droggitis.

This week’ NONIE conference in Paris is focusing on lessons learned in impact evaluations. At the two-day conference, the executive director of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), Howard White, will present his organization’s Policy Window – a grant piloted this past year that seeks to improve the relevance of impact evaluations by first soliciting proposals from developing country government agencies and NGOs regarding the policy questions that they wish to have rigorously evaluated. To coincide with the conference, 3ie released its annual report which highlights the success of the Policy Window pilot, along with the other achievements of 3ie’s second operational year.

“When Will We Ever Learn?” Mexico and Britain Take the Question Seriously

This is a joint post with Christina Droggitis

This May will mark the five-year anniversary of CGD’s Evaluation Gap Working Group’s final report, "When Will We Ever Learn: Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation". The report noted a large gap in evidence about whether development programs actually work and recommended creating an independent international collaboration to promote more and better impact evaluations to close this gap. The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) was formed as a result of this recommendation. The report also stressed the need for countries, both donors and recipients, to make larger commitments towards high-quality evaluation work. These commitments, it argued, should include supporting 3ie financially, as well as generating and applying knowledge from impact evaluations of their own development programs.

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