Thursday, 19 September 2013

Do you want to know how to design an impact evaluation of a development intervention?

by Edoardo Masset

Following the success of the first offering of the Impact Evaluation Design Course at the Institute of Development Studies, I am delighted to announce that we will run the course again this year from 31 March to 4 April 2014. Joining me will be Professor Robert Chambers (IDS), Dee Jupp and Dr Jean-Pierre Tranchant (IDS).

My experience and expertise

I have worked on the evaluation of development programmes over the last 10 years and I have witnessed, and happily joined, the emergence of the movement towards the use of evidence-based policy making in international development.  I have designed and conducted a number of impact evaluations in different countries and fields and I have employed a wide range of methods. My expertise is mostly quantitative and my colleagues Robert and Dee will bring the needed expertise in qualitative methods.

What the course will cover

The focus is on how to design a rigorous impact evaluation in a developing country. This includes things like theory of change, experiments and quasi-experiments, and sampling. In addition, my colleagues will illustrate the use of old and new qualitative evaluation methods such as reality checks. The goal is to design an evaluation that incorporates the best of qualitative and quantitative research and possibly integrating them.


Group work enables participants to learn from one another

Teaching experience suggests that students don’t learn what the teacher says but what they do. When you learn how to draw or how to drive a car, you surely need some classes by some expert, but ultimately what you need is practice, practice and more practice. Impact evaluation is not different. A key aspect of this course is group work and an enquiry-based learning style. Participants will form working groups and will identify a policy relevant issue and a specific public intervention to evaluate.

Working in groups is a great way to learn from your fellow practitioners as well as applying what you will learn around how to build the components of a full evaluation design. The idea is to and construct a design document during these practical sessions by applying the information learned in class. The teaching team will facilitate the group work and will provide individual feed-back on the evaluation designs using standards of assessment by organisations such as the World Bank, DFID and 3ie.

Previous participants’ comments

“It has been a very enjoyable and well organised week!”

“It's a very useful and practical course.” 

“Inspiring teaching, enabling knowledge building through lectures, learning-by-doing and group interactions. I really enjoyed it”

“The combination of lecture, discussion, Q&A and group work were particularly useful and helpful.”

So if you’re interested in learning more about Impact Evaluation design why not take a look at our web page and find out more about this course.

Finally, we are glad to announce that 3ie is willing to offer three bursaries for participants from low income countries.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Global Peacebuilding III: Syria - Doing the Right Thing?

by Markus Schultze-Kraft

As the leaders of the world’s twenty most powerful nations are flocking to St Petersburg, the UK’s international development secretary, Justine Greening, made a valiant effort to reduce the toxic political fallout of her prime minister’s fiasco over British policy vis-a-vis Syria this week - and perhaps also to save her own skin after failing to vote for the government’s motion. In an op-ed published in The Guardian on 4 September she drew attention to the unspeakable plight and suffering of millions of Syrian civilians directly affected by the brutal war between the Assad regime and the armed opposition, calling for a major international response to a relentlessly unfolding humanitarian disaster.

Kudos to Secretary Greening for raising this fundamental concern loudly and clearly - it has not figured anywhere near as much as it should have in the heated debates about the international response to the recent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Damascus.

However, Ms Greening ends her statement by saying ‘our government will continue to make the case internationally for a robust response to the use of chemical weapons by the regime. We will do everything possible to work with international partners to bring all sides together to achieve the political solution that is needed to end the conflict. And we will spare no effort to ensure that the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Syria are met’.

This looks like someone trying to square the circle and please everyone. Such an approach cannot work and carries the high risk of undermining any well-meaning response by the international development community to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Presumably, the ‘robust response’ the secretary refers to is a military strike on Syrian regime positions along the lines proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Presidents Obama and Hollande. Yet the International Crisis Group, a global conflict prevention and resolution organization, convincingly warned in a recent statement on Syria, that there is a high likelihood that such a military response would make achieving a ‘political solution’ impossible and drag out or escalate the conflict.
‘The principal question regarding the possible military strike’, writes the Crisis Group, ‘is whether diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict can be re-energised in its aftermath. Smart money says they will not: in the wake of an attack they condemn as illegal and illegitimate, the regime and its allies arguably will not be in a mood to negotiate with the U.S. Carefully calibrating the strike to hurt enough to change their calculations but not enough to prompt retaliation or impede diplomacy is appealing in theory. In practice, it almost certainly is not feasible’.

A military attack on the Assad regime could likely also lead to more suffering for civilians in Syria. It could ‘trigger violent escalation within [the country] as the regime might exact revenge on rebels and rebel-held areas, while the opposition seeks to seize the opportunity to make its own gains’. And the major humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria Secretary Greening envisages could be severely jeopardised.

Hence, the Crisis Group’s argument that ‘the only exit is political’ is compelling. This requires ‘far-reaching concessions and a lowering of demands from all parties’ and ‘priority must be given to ensuring that no component of Syrian society is targeted for retaliation, discrimination or marginalization in the context of a negotiated settlement’. The international development community could support such a strategy by providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to civilians in and outside Syria. 

Beyond the immediate concerns about the ‘right’ international response to the chemical weapons attack and the massive human suffering Syria’s brutal war has caused in the past eighteen months, there is another issue that Secretary Greening and the UK’s Department for International Development should reflect on.

Trying to square the circle by (apparently) supporting military action while at the same time calling for a political solution and large-scale humanitarian intervention undermines the credibility of one of Europe’s large international development agencies. Unfortunately, in our world of realpolitik tough policy choices have to be made, and international development organizations should be very clear about which of the options they are prepared to support, and which not.

Military action in a highly unpredictable and volatile context such as in Syria, even if it cannot be taken at present by the UK government itself, does not strike me as an option. Instead, all international development efforts by the UK and other countries should be focused on mitigating the humanitarian crisis and preparing for the arduous task of helping to rebuild Syria and guarantee the livelihoods of millions of Syrians once the armed conflict has come to an end – by political means.

This blog was originally published on Huffington Post UK.