Given the difficulty of reducing poverty and hunger and the plethora of strategies available to developing country policymakers and international NGOs, it is critical to conduct objective and systematic evaluations of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of development interventions. IFPRI is a leader in this work, and uses innovative methods for systematic, rigorous impact evaluations based on program theory and clearly defined program impact pathways. Such program evaluation serves several functions:
- it estimates the impact of the program on key outcomes, the effectiveness of the program design and the cost-effectiveness of the investment;
- it identifies design and implementation issues requiring change or improvement;
- it explains how people view the program and identifies the behavioral response to program incentives; and
- it increases transparency, making government and implementing partners more accountable.
IFPRI evaluations use a variety of methods, usually based on the collection of quantitative longitudinal household and individual survey data. IFPRI believes that randomized prospective impact evaluations, when feasible, provide the strongest quantitative evidence of causal impacts of a program. IFPRI researchers also use quasi-experimental designs such as natural experiments, matching methods or regression discontinuity, when the features of program targeting and data provide a strong basis for these approaches. Qualitative methods include focus groups, semi-structured interviews, and ethnographic community and household case studies. Our rigorous evaluation work also includes the use of formative research to guide the design of interventions; operations research to understand program implementation and impact pathways; and cost-effectiveness assessments. The use of mixed methods and of multi-disciplinary teams of experts is critically important in our evaluation research in order to better understanding the impacts, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the programs we evaluate.