Diet Quality and Health of the Poor

Methods

A variety of methods and metrics, including both qualitative and quantitative techniques, are used in IFPRI’s research. The mixing of various state-of-the-art methods and disciplines is critical for a full understanding of the impacts and effectiveness of the projects we evaluate. Using combinations of methods allows for a deeper understanding of not just whether programs succeed or fail but also why, and provide insight vital in the optimization of interventions. We collaborate across IFPRI and with external academic institutions to enhance the rigor of our research. The methods used depend on the stage of the program under study and the specific research questions:

  • Formative research – formative research is conducted to provide context-specific insight to assist in developing the program or intervention. This could include the design of behavior change communication messages, the identification of venues for the delivery of program benefits, or the overall implementation strategy.

  • Impact & process evaluation – the goal of our impact and process evaluation research is to answer the questions “Does the program work?” “How well does the program work” and “How does the program achieve desired impacts?” Impact and process evaluations are intrinsically linked in our work, thus helping to explain why a program works while also documenting its effects.

    • Program impact related questions are usually addressed using experimental or quasi-experimental designs, often using randomization to eliminate bias in the final results. Impact evaluation surveys are mostly based on quantitative survey data at the community, household and individual levels, and most often include data collected at baseline and endline on intervention and control groups where possible.
    • The goal of our process evaluation research is to answer the question “Why does the program succeed or fail?” and entails identification of the pathways through which programs exert their impact. Mixed methods are used to generate data on the program impact pathways, based on well-defined program theory frameworks or program impact pathways. Combining focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews, structured observations, and ethnographic community and household case studies, process evaluation can generate rigorous and credible data on how programs are implemented and utilized, and highlight the types of bottlenecks that can compromise program effectiveness.
  • Operations research – the objective of operations research is to identify design and implementation issues requiring change or improvement to maximize program benefit. The findings are typically fed back to program implementers so that adjustments can be made. Operations research is usually smaller scale than a full blown process evaluation, but uses similar methods as those described above.

  • Policy process research – on projects that include advocacy activities to shape the policy environment, we are using state of the art methods such as stakeholder-influence-mapping and network mapping using the Net-Map Toolbox to document shifts in policy and political contexts.

  • Cost & cost-effectiveness assessments – the activity-based costing ingredients (ABC-I) approach is being used to estimate program costs and calculate program cost effectiveness. The advantages of this approach are that it provides cost data for specific program activities and that it eases the estimation of start-up, maintenance and scaling-up costs.