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Each year billions of dollars are spent on development programs with relatively few rigorous studies of whether they actually work. In 2004, CGD set out to address this lack of good quality impact evaluations and our recommendations led to the creation of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) in 2009. The number and quality of impact evaluations has risen significantly, but there is still a long way to go to make sure future development interventions are based on evidence of what works.
This paper analyses the grades awarded in the 65 primary reviews undertaken by the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) over its first eight years of operation, from 2011 to 2018. It finds that ICAI has directly evaluated £28bn of UK aid over the period. Around four-fifths of spend assessed was graded as “satisfactory” (amber/green) or “strong” (green). The findings from ICAI reviews, and this report, should inform the UK Government’s aid allocations between departments at the forthcoming spending review.
In 2006, CGD published a working group report that addressed the insufficient number of rigorous impact evaluations of social programs in low- and middle-income countries. Last week —marking 10 years since the report’s release—CGD and J-PAL co-hosted the event, “Improving Development Policy through Impact Evaluation,” which echoed three key messages of the 2006 report: 1) conduct more and better evaluations; 2) connect evaluators and policymakers; and 3) recognize that impact evaluations are an important global public good that requires more unconstrained funding.
“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.