Improving impact evaluation production and use

Working and discussion papers
March 2009
Nicola Jones, Harry Jones, Liesbet Steer and Ajoy Datta

The past five years have seen a proliferation of impact evaluations (IEs) by development agencies across the globe. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) Evaluation Department to inform discussions on impact evaluation production and use within the Network of Networks Impact Evaluation Initiative (NONIE). It builds on an initial scoping study prepared for DFID which made recommendations on improving IE production and use, focusing on clustering, coordination, knowledge management, capacity strengthening and communication and uptake. This the report goes further by expanding both the literature review and the annotated database of IEs, as well as honing in on specific dynamics of IE production across sectors.

A focus on sector-specific histories and dynamics of impact IE production, communication and use dynamics revealed a number of important similarities and differences. Similarities included a growing recognition of the need to approach IEs as part of a broader monitoring and evaluation system; the importance of involving multiple stakeholders in the evaluation process to promote uptake; and the utility of exploring alternative methods to assess impact.

Key differences appeared to be starker and were found in a number of areas. First, a longer history of IEs in health and agriculture/natural resource management (NRM) sectors has meant these sectors have a broader knowledge base from which to draw, although they diverge in the extent to which this knowledge is actually used.

The paper concludes with policy implications regarding: strategic coordination, funding, knowledge management, capacity strengthening mechanisms and improving impact evaluation communication and uptake.

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