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Each year billions of dollars are spent on development programs with relatively few rigorous studies of whether they actually work. In 2004, CGD set out to address this lack of good quality impact evaluations and our recommendations led to the creation of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) in 2009. The number and quality of impact evaluations has risen significantly, but there is still a long way to go to make sure future development interventions are based on evidence of what works.
This paper analyses the grades awarded in the 65 primary reviews undertaken by the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) over its first eight years of operation, from 2011 to 2018. It finds that ICAI has directly evaluated £28bn of UK aid over the period. Around four-fifths of spend assessed was graded as “satisfactory” (amber/green) or “strong” (green). The findings from ICAI reviews, and this report, should inform the UK Government’s aid allocations between departments at the forthcoming spending review.
The United Kingdom has been a stalwart funder and innovator in foreign assistance for almost 20 years. In 2011, it created the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) to report to Parliament on the country’s growing aid portfolio. ICAI is a QUANGO in Brit-speak – a quasi-public non-governmental organization - with a 4-year mandate which is undergoing review this year. Recently, I took a look at the reports it has produced to see whether the organization is fulfilling its role in holding the country’s overseas development aid programs accountable. I found one fascinating report which shows what ICAI could be doing and many more reports that made me wonder whether ICAI is duplicating work already within the purview of the agency, Department for International Development (DFID), which accounts for most of the UK’s foreign assistance programs.
In recent years, a growing literature has measured the impact of education interventions in low- and middle-income countries on both access and learning outcomes. But interpretation of those effect sizes as large or small tends to rely on benchmarks developed by a psychologist in the United States in the 1960s. In this paper, we demonstrate the distribution of standardized effect sizes on learning and access from hundreds of studies from low- and middle-income countries.
CGD senior fellow and director of programs Ruth Levine has urged the U.S. Congress to push for independent evaluation of development assistance. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Levine said that independent impact evaluation is crucial for ensuring that the billions of dollars spent on development actually helps poor people.