The field of impact evaluation has grown rapidly over the last two decades, generating a wealth of evidence on whether development interventions work.
But there are still substantial gaps in the field:
- Most evaluation evidence is concentrated in a small number of middle-income countries and a few sectors, such as health, education and social protection, meaning there are significant thematic and geographic evidence gaps.
- There are methods gaps, since those that are generally accepted as rigorous often cannot be employed in certain contexts, such as rapid emergencies, or with certain initiatives like peace-building programmes.
- There is a gap in evidence synthesis methods for development contexts, as the time and resources required to undertake systematic reviews are not always practical, and other methods are limited in the range of evidence they can use and the policy questions they can address.
- Despite an increasing emphasis on research uptake and impact, there is an evidence translation gap, as research on the effectiveness of different approaches to stakeholder engagement and influence is still limited.
CEDIL and its objectives
The Centre of Excellence for Development Impact and Learning (CEDIL) was established in 2017 through funding from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID). Its primary objectives are to:
- Develop and test innovative methods for evaluation and evidence synthesis in international development contexts
- Build evidence on how to deliver research uptake that is useful to DFID and other stakeholders
To deliver these goals, CEDIL is commissioning a £10 million research portfolio of primary evaluations, secondary data analysis, evidence synthesis and exploratory projects. These projects will focus on three thematic areas:
- Evaluating complex interventions: The Centre seeks to strengthen methods to evaluate complex, multi-component interventions and improve theoretical understanding of causal chains that explain how and why combinations of activities work.
- Generalising evidence through middle-range theory: The Centre will develop and test middle-range theories to explain how programmes work in a plurality of contexts and how interventions can be designed and adapted to novel contexts.
- Enhancing the use and usefulness of evaluation findings: The Centre aims to rigorously assess three areas of research uptake – stakeholder engagement, making sense of evidence, and communication methods – and will develop guidelines for policymakers on using evidence from multiple sources. In addition, the Centre’s Directorate will undertake evidence synthesis and outreach activities to maximise learning from its research and ensure uptake.
The Centre’s work is led by a Directorate with research and programme management arms.
Intellectual leadership, strategic direction and technical guidance is provided by a team based at the London International Development Centre. This team draws on the expertise of an Intellectual Leadership Team (ILT), which is composed of independent experts and five consortium partners:
- The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation
- The Campbell Collaboration
- The Centre for Evaluation at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- The Centre for the Evaluation of Development Policies at the Institute of Fiscal Studies
- The EPPI-Centre at University College London
Management of the directorate and the funded research projects is delivered by Oxford Policy Management (OPM). OPM also leads on research uptake and communications activities for the Centre.
The Centre is further supported by an advisory board that draws on academia, evaluation practitioners, policymakers and the third sector.
CEDIL was established in 2017 and is set to run until 2023. Given the scale and complexity of the challenges it seeks to address, the Centre aims to secure additional funding to become self-sustaining and continue its work in this area.