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Independent impact evaluation is crucial to determine whether development interventions are effective; however, surprisingly few of these studies were conducted until recently.
One organization that has taken the need for impact evaluation seriously is the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The first of the MCC programs came to a close this fiscal year, and in the next year the impact evaluations associated with them will begin to be published.
Politicians’ responses to the new wave of evaluations will set a precedent, either one that values transparency and encourages aid agencies to be public about what they are learning or one that punishes transparency and encourages agencies to hide findings or simply cease commissioning evaluations.
The outcome of this process will affect more than the future of the MCC. If MCC is penalized for its rigorous assessments and efforts to do better, other U.S. agencies may decide that the work of independent impact evaluation is not worth the risk. The effectiveness of development programs will benefit most if Congress praises the MCC for being open and transparent about its results and views this as an opportunity to learn what works rather than an excuse to cut spending.