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.