Successful Impact Evaluations: Lessons from DFID and 3ie

CEDIL Inception Paper 6

Authors: Masset E, Rathinam F, Nath M, Vigneri M, Wood, B

This paper explores the factors associated with the success of impact evaluations, drawing on the experience of two major funders of impact evaluations: the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie). We first define successful evaluations along three dimensions: reliability, relevance, and policy influence. Based on a review of the literature we build a conceptual framework including the main factors associated with success at the stages of design, implementation, and analysis of results. We review selected impact evaluations recently funded by 3ie and DFID, we identify successful ones and we discuss characteristics associated with success. We find that careful planning, research team skills and composition, and sample size of the study are key elements of success. We also discuss unsuccessful cases of impact evaluations and suggest some guidance with regards to discontinuing studies facing implementation problems. We conclude with some reflections to help researchers and funders concentrate resources and efforts where they are most needed for the success of impact evaluations.

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