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Decision-focused impact evaluations

Practical methods to measure what works

15 April 2021
A decision-focused impact evaluation estimates the impact of a policy, program, or intervention on one or more outcomes.

Why decision-focused impact evaluations?

One of the most fundamental questions asked by social policy and program leaders is: “Does this program work?” While program monitoring can offer preliminary insights, a robust understanding of a program often requires a more in-depth evaluation – an impact evaluation. Impact evaluations compare outcomes observed after program activities to those that would have occurred without the program.

Impact evaluations can show what works, and what doesn’t

Engaging in a decision-focused impact evaluation can be a key milestone for a government agency or NGO because it provides highly robust and credible information about program effectiveness. It can set the stage for scale-up of successful programs – leading to a much larger impact – or help improve the design and implementation of programs that are not yet reaching their full potential at the current scale. As funders look to support programs with robust evidence illustrating their effectiveness, investments in impact evaluations can improve long-term financial sustainability.

The IDinsight team includes professionals with expertise in impact evaluations across a range of sectors, and a commitment to design evaluations to generate the most valid and reliable estimates of net impact within time, budget, and operational constraints. Typically a project starts with articulating a program’s theory of change, whereby the IDinsight team will work with clients to understand the key outcomes and program activities. We will also elicit information from clients about the process-related and qualitative data that will be most valuable for decision-making. Team members will then propose a design that meets technical quality standards so that any results will be widely recognized as scientifically sound.

We will clarify all budget and time tradeoffs, and seek ways to minimize costs, as well as disruptions, to ongoing implementation. Depending on client preferences, we will build private and public dissemination of results into the project.

While IDinsight has undertaken many projects focused exclusively on impact evaluations, we have found that we contribute most to the eventual social impact when evaluations are combined with follow-up work. Evaluations always yield important insights not only about a program’s impact, but also about what the optimal path to scale might be, and how implementation can be made more efficient and effective. As a follow-up to an evaluation, the IDinsight team can work with clients to improve program targeting and the use of data that is routinely collected during implementation. In short, our goal is not only to arrive at the best possible measure of program impact, but also to help enhance that impact over time.