This paper investigates the current landscape of evidence, with
particular emphasis on evidence from impact evaluation, in the
humanitarian sector. This is in an attempt to identify areas in which
actionable evidence is available and those where more evidence is needed
so as to direct research to where it will be most valuable.
The study incorporates a wide array of methods to assess available
evidence including an online survey of 395 participants who are
knowledgeable with regards to the humanitarian sector, semi-structured
interviews with 53 experts from the humanitarian sector, extensive
literature reviews of repositories of humanitarian studies and strategy
documents of major humanitarian organisations, and a gap map that
presents the results of a thorough search for completed, ongoing and
planned impact evaluations of humanitarian interventions.
The authors find that, with the exception of health and nutrition, most
areas in the humanitarian sector suffer from a paucity of evidence. An
evidence gap map included in this study provides an illustration of the
complete landscape of evidence in the sector. The upshot is that there
is agreement amongst policymakers that decisions should be based on
research evidence and it is recognised that impact evaluations can and
should have a greater role to play in building the evidence base.
Key recommendations coming out of this study beyond informing the areas
and questions for impact evaluation are that:
- Humanitarians must agree upon a way of prioritising research needs.
This study puts forward a framework for choosing areas for further
- Efforts need to be made to index and classify existing evidence and a
single unifying repository or portal should be made to improve the
ease of accessibility to existing evidence.
- A single set of templates and reporting guidelines should be agreed
upon to aid in the indexing and classification of evaluation studies.
It would also be beneficial to agree upon standards for data
collection in these studies.
One of the big challenges encountered in undertaking this project was
that there is a lack of databases and repositories that index these
studies and assessments. We confirmed that there is a general lack of
evidence of good high quality evidence in humanitarian assistance,
especially of studies that show a causal relationship between assistance
and changes in targeted results. Our findings show that operational
research within humanitarian assistance can be very useful and can be
undertaken. Criteria that may inform prioritising further impact
evaluation related research areas are assessing the feasibility of
undertaking impact evaluation, seeing whether these address current or
anticipated knowledge gaps, synthesising currently available results in
different contexts to learn better, focusing on innovation and choosing
the populations to study with care. Last but not least we also discuss
the various phases of humanitarian assistance to gauge when evaluation
related research is most required. Methods protocols can go a long way
to plan and help programmes if planned in advance and included in a
prospective manner in humanitarian programming.
Clarke, M.; Allen, C.; Archer, F.; Wong, D.; Eriksson, A.; Puri, J. What evidence is available and what is required, in humanitarian assistance? 3ie Scoping Paper 1. International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), New Delhi, India (2014) vii + 89 pp.
What evidence is available and what is required, in humanitarian assistance? 3ie Scoping Paper 1