Impact evaluation (IE) seeks to demonstrate that intended results follow from programme activities whether directly or indirectly. Whilst evaluation of development programmes is nothing new, the focus on impact has been given greater urgency by resource constraints and political demands for more accountability and transparency. These demands come not only from funders but also from those affected by development programmes, who want to know that greater resources, rights and services will genuinely follow from their engagement with development actors.
One of the problems faced by those who need to decide how to approach demands for IE, is that it is often presented as a technical or methodological question only accessible to experts or researchers. However, the main arguments, logics and choice-points should be more accessible, so that the choice of IE designs can be based not on advocacy for particular methods but on the practical considerations that face those who commission, manage and fund development programmes. These policy-makers and managers need to decide what they hope to get out of an evaluation, how it relates to the kinds of programmes or initiatives they are involved with, and what are the realistic capabilities of the designs and methods on offer. This is the starting point of this guide, the purpose of which is to support managers and commissioners of impact evaluations to better manage the entire process: drawing up terms of reference, selecting contractors, steering evaluations and utilising evaluation results. The guide also argues that relying only on traditional approaches to IE does not fit well with the kind of customised, complex, locally engaged and often sensitive programmes that non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations undertake; a broader range of designs and methods are needed.
Stern, E. Impact Evaluation: A Guide for Commissioners and Managers. Bond, London, UK (2015) 35 pp.