Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Call for an International Initiative to Foster Independent Impact Evaluation of Social Sector Programs and Policies

This Call to Action was posted in 2006 to galvanize support for the creation of a new independent organization for promoting rigorous impact evaluations. The immediate aim of the Call to Action was achieved in 2009 with the creation of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation. Billions of dollars are spent each year to improve health, education and other social outcomes in developing countries. How can the international community expand the knowledge base of “what works” in these social development programs? Since 2004, the Center for Global Development (CGD) has been asking this question of leaders, officials, and researchers from developing countries, bilateral agencies, development banks, NGOs and private foundations. Through this process, including the convening of an expert working group, CGD policy researchers have found strong demand for increasing the evidence base. The working group's report, When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives through Impact Evaluation, proposes the creation of an independent, international organization to address this pressing need. [1]

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, agree that it is high time that the international community create a mechanism for closing the evaluation gap. [2]We firmly endorse the following five principles for action. And we strongly urge the relevant stake-holders—developing country governments, multilateral agencies, bilateral agencies, private foundations, NGOs, and research centers—to work together based upon these principles to create an international initiative that will build knowledge and evidence by promoting reliable and valid studies of the impact of social programs and policies.


Principles as a Guide to Action
1. Impact studies are beneficial

Without impact studies, we cannot know if public resources are being used effectively to promote social development nor whether alternative programs might be more beneficial. Reviews have demonstrated that too few impact studies are being conducted with the requisite reliability and validity to provide the evidence base needed by policymakers in developing countries. Such impact evaluations are also essential to efforts to improve the effectiveness of international aid and improve accountability of government social spending.

2. Knowledge is a public good

Once impact studies are completed and disseminated, many countries can benefit by using their findings. Hence, there is a larger collective demand for impact studies than from any single organization or country. Though they may recognize the value of impact studies, countries and organizations generally do not have incentives to invest sufficiently in the implementation of such studies relative to the global value of the information that would be generated. Thus collective action by multilateral agencies, bilateral agencies, private foundations, NGOs, and research centers is necessary to assure that sufficient investment in impact studies occurs; that findings are widely disseminated and data are made public; and that studies address questions of enduring importance and relevance to policymaking.

3. A collective initiative to promote impact studies is needed

The stakeholders mentioned above should implement an initiative, with the appropriate institutional structure, to promote and finance reliable and valid impact studies that:

  • address questions of enduring importance;
  • provide models of good practice for emulation; and
  • promote methodological innovation and high evaluation standards.

4. The quality of impact studies is essential

Any collective action to promote and finance impact studies should make the quality of those studies its top priority. This means endorsing and promoting methods that:

  • reliably measure the impact that can be attributed to a specific program or policy;
  • draw valid inferences from the evidence;
  • are appropriate to the particular policy questions that are being asked; and
  • are appropriate to the social, cultural, and political context. The establishment of methodological standards, peer review processes, and wide dissemination of information about methods and data can be used to ensure quality.

5. The initiative should be complementary, strategic, transparent and independent

Organizations and governments are pursuing a wide range of activities to improve the evidence base, including conducting process and institutional evaluations; establishing evaluation standards; maintaining searchable databases; conducting meta-evaluations; coordinating and partnering in research, and introducing or improving impact evaluation work within specific institutions. The programs and studies promoted by this new initiative should complement and bring added value to existing activities. The initiative should promote the use of impact evaluations for select programs that are strategically important because of their potential scale, impact on important social problems, or potential contribution to knowledge about enduring questions in social development. The initiative should be transparent in all its activities - whether in the awarding of grants; setting standards; disseminating studies that meet quality standards regardless of their findings; or publishing financial information. Finally, the initiative must have substantial independence from the agencies and organizations that it is involved in evaluating.

Signed (closed on January 31st 2008)

  • Ibro Abdou, Economist/evaluator, Niger Republic
  • Arnab Acharya, Senior Lecturer, Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Mohammad Ziaul Ahsan, Director, Organization for Social Development of Unemployed Youth (OSDUY), Bangladesh
  • Aggie Alando-Hoffer, Evaluation Specialist, Monitoring and Evaluation of Education Development programmes, Paris, France
  • Eduardo Amadeo, ex-officio, Ministry of Social Development, Argentina
  • Nanette Antwi-Donkor, Policy Research Analyst, Optimal Solutions Group LLC 
  • Robert Armstrong, Development Economics and Evaluation Consultant
  • Punit Arora, Indian Civil Service Officer on sabbatical at Syracuse University, New York
  • Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social – BNDES (Brazilian Bank fo Economic and Social Development)
  • Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development 
  • Owen Barder, Center for Global Development; University of California, Berkeley
  • Scott Barrett, Professor and Director of International Policy, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
  • Jere R. Behrman, Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania
  • Robert J. Berg, Founding Director of Evaluation, USAID, and Founding Chair of Evaluation, OECD/DAC
  • Gilles Bergeron, PhD., Senior Food Security Advisor, Cluster Team Leader, The Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA) project, Academy for Educational Development
  • Stefano Bertozzi, Director, Health Economics and Evaluation, National Institute of Public Health, Mexico
  • David Bonbright, Chief Executive, Keystone Reporting, London
  • Thomas Bossert, Ph.D., Director of International Health Systems Program Harvard School of Public Health
  • Gerald M. Britan, Ph.D., Director, Management Policy, Performance, and Administration USAID, Past Director (1996-2002), Center for Development Information and Evaluation (CDIE) USAID
  • Jorge Coarasa, Adjunct Director General, Planning and International Relations Unit, Ministry of Social Development, Mexico
  • Warren Clark, Senior Advisor, Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation Cathedral College Washington National Cathedral
  • Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Lola Dare, Executive Secretary, African Council for Sustainable Health Development (ACOSHED)
  • Frances R. Davidson, Health Science Specialist, Global Health Bureau, U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Juan Rivera Dommarco, Director, Center of Investigation in Nutrition and Health, National Institute of Public Health, Mexico
  • Andrew R Donaldson, Deputy Director-General: Public Finance, National Treasury, South Africa
  • William Easterly, Professor of Economics (Joint with Africa House) New York University
  • Prof. Dr. Mohamed M. El-Fouly, Researcher, Consultant and Trainer, National Research Centre, EGYPT
  • David K. Evans, Associate Economist, RAND Corporation
  • Sue Fairburn, Project Coordinator, Immpact Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Richard Feinberg, Professor and Director, APEC Study Center Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies University of California, San Diego
  • Silverio T. Baeta Zebral Filho, Departamento de Estudos e Análise de Impacto Social, Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social
  • Rafael Flores, Research Associate Professor, Department of Global Health, Emory University
  • Birger Carl Forsberg, MD MPH BSc, Lecturer, Division of International Health (IHCAR), Dept of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Sweden
  • James Fremming, President, Cooperation Strategies International
  • John Gershman, Adjunct Professor, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University
  • Global Institute for Quality Education - GIQE - United States
  • Libby Haight, Research Associate, University of California Santa Cruz, CETA
  • Professor Andy Haines, Director, London School of Hygiene; Tropical Medicine Keppel Street
  • Sudhanshu (Ashu) Handa, Associate Professor, Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina
  • Karin Hannes, Research Fellow / Educator, Belgian Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Belgian Branch of the Cochrane Collaboration, Belgian Campbell Group
  • Lisa Haseltine, Field Interviewer for ORC Macro International
  • Andria Hayes-Birchler, Program Associate, CIVICUS Civil Society Index,CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation Fran Henry, Coordinator, Global Violence Prevention Advocacy
  • Fran Henry, Coordinator, Global Violence Prevention Advocacy
  • Carmen Herrera, Journalist/Researcher, Research Associate, Binomial Consultores
  • James M. Hughes, MD, FACP, Director, Center for Global Safe Water, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
  • Institut de Stratégie, d' Evaluation et de Prospective (ISEP), Niger Republic
  • Instituto Global de Calidad en Educación - IGCE - Chile; Latin AmericaSantiago, Chile
  • Denis Jobin, Vice-President, International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS)
  • Philip Bob Jusu, Masters Student of Public Policy, University of Waikato, New Zealand
  • Margaret Kakande, Head, Poverty Monitoring and Analysis Unit, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Uganda
  • Michael Kalilu, Asst. Political Affairs Officer, UN Mission in Dem Rep of Congo 
  • Addis Kassahun, ARCAN Deputy Project Coordinator, Senior Operating Officer and M&E Specialist, Tanzania
  • Eric Korsten, Senior Strategist- Impact Evaluation, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation
  • Krishna Kumar, PhD, Senior Social Scientist, Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance, Department of State
  • Leon Kukkuk, Author, Researcher 
  • Mark Lancaster MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, United Kingdom
  • Jose Maria Larru, CEU- Universidad San Pablo, Faculty of Economics, Madrid
  • Maria-Teresa Lepeley, Educator; economist, CEO; Founder, Global Institute for Quality Education - GIQE - United States, Instituto Global de Calidad en Educación - IGCE - Chile; Latin America, Santiago, Chile
  • David I. Levine, Professor, Haas School of Business, Chair, Center for Health ResearchUniversity of California, Berkeley
  • Ruth Levine, Director of Programs and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Mrs. Francisca 'Mapitso Matsoha, Senior Consultant, Governance and Socio-Economic Development Division, Lesotho Institute of Public Administration and Management
  • Reynaldo Martorell, Professor of Int. Nutrition & Chair, Department of Global Health, The Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University
  • Oswald Mashindano, Senior Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Foundation, Tanzania
  • Kathryn McDonald, Executive Director and Senior Scholar, Stanford Center for Health Policy
  • Adam McCarty, Chief Economist, Mekong Economics Ltd., Hanoi
  • Mekong Economics Ltd., Ho Tay, Hanoi
  • Andrew Mitchell MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom
  • Bibhu Prasad Mohanty, Livelihood Consultant, Mission Shakti & Director Operations, Bharat Integrated Social Welfare Agency, Orissa, India
  • Lorenzo Moreno, Senior Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc
  • José Velez Morgan, Economist/Researcher, Director, Binomial Consultores
  • Hassan Mshinda, Director, Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre, Tanzania
  • Ricardo Mújica, Deputy Director of Social Programs Evaluation, Ministry of Social Development, Mexico
  • Bheki Nowele, Deputy Manager for Monitoring and Evaluation, Department of Economic Development, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Ted Paterson, Head of Evaluation, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
  • Population Action International, 1300 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC
  • Dr. Durga Prasad Paudyal, Director General of the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific
  • Nirmala Perera, Masters of International Health Candidate, Uppsala Univerity, Sweden
  • Carola Pessino, Professor and Director of the Center for Social Economics Evaluation and Research for Poverty Alleviation, Universidad Torcuato DI TELLA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Prof.Cheryl-Ann Potgieter (Phd), Director/Head: Gender Development Unit (CEOs Office), Human Sciences Research Council, Associate Professor: Department of Psychology, University of Pretoria
  • Maureen J. Reinsel, Catholic Relief Services
  • Gina Rodolico, Director of Information and Communication
  • José Luis Romero, Sociologist/Rasearcher, Research Associate, Binomial Consultores
  • Gloria M. Rubio, Director General of Monitoring and Evaluation of Social Programs, Ministry of Social Development, Mexico
  • Jim Rugh, CARE International, Coordinator of program Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Accountability and Learning (DMEAL)
  • William D. Savedoff, Senior Partner, Social Insight
  • Julie Schaffner, The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • Janine Schall-Emden, CSI, Senior Programme Officer, LAC/M
  • Catherine Schenck-Yglesias, Senior Health Informatics Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS, USAID
  • Michael Seifu, Doctoral candidate, Dublin City University
  • Claudia Serrano, Consultant/Professor, Asesorías para el Desarrollo, Chile
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Umakant Singh
  • Katie Stauss, Director, International Health Group, Chemonics International
  • Raymond Struyk, Senior Fellow, The Urban Institute, Frankfurt, Germany
  • Charas Suwanwela, M.D., Professor and Chair of the University Council, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
  • R. Chad Swanson, M.D., Emergency Physician, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center; MPH Student, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health; Member of Board of Advisers, Care for Life, Mozambique
  • Charles H. Teller, Senior Advisor in Evaluation, Senior Technical Advisor to the MEASURE/Evaluation Project, Global Health Bureau, USAID, Washington, DC 
  • V. Bruce J. Tolentino, Ph.D., Director, Economic Reform and Development Programs, The Asia Foundation
  • Issaka Herman Traoré, Independent Consultant and Policy Analyst, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
  • C. Upendranadh, Senior Head, Policy Research and education resource centre, Aide et Action, South Asia, Hyderabad, India
  • Pam Velez-Vega, Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University
  • Brittany Wankel, International Development Student, George Washington University
  • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 1700 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC
  • Ricardo Wilson-Grau, Independent consultant and Senior Advisor, Oxfam Novib (Netherlands Organisation for International Development Co-operation)
  • Debazou Yantio Yantio, Ingénieur agroéconomiste, Policy & Development Evaluation Specialist, Yaoundé, Cameroon
  • David Zakus, BSc, MES, MSc, PhD, Director, Centre for International Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, President, Global Health Education Consortium


[1] This would not be a program or activity undertaken by the CGD.

[2] Individuals listed support the initiative in their personal capacity; the inclusion of their names does not, in any way, indicate the official views or positions of their places of employment or institutional affiliations. Organizations that support the initiative are listed by organizational name.