November 7, 2006
Evaluation has been intertwined with international aid work since its inception in the late 40's-early 50's, but it is still an area with considerable room for improvement. If, as is often alleged, evaluations of international development efforts are methodologically weak they are misleading international agencies about the real impact of the sizable amount of resources being spent. A recent study by Chianca, described in this thesis, with a sample of 50 US-based international non-profit organizations (INGOs) illustrates the serious situation of the structure and practice of evaluation in those agencies. A number of efforts to improve this situation have been put in place. Some of them have greater focus on methodological solutions and push for the development of more rigorous impact evaluations using experimental or quasi-experimental designs. Other efforts, while maintaining perspective on the importance of adopting more rigorous evaluation methods, have instead prioritized the establishment of principles and standards to guide and improve evaluation practice. Studies involving thorough analysis of the main efforts to improve international aid evaluation and of the most prominent evaluation standards proposed to the development field are scarce. This dissertation is a contribution to the field in several ways: (i) it provides a general synthesis of the current movements to improve aid evaluation; (ii) it describes and assesses some of the most prominent standards for aid evaluation; (iii) in particular, it presents a thorough assessment of the most widely adopted set of evaluation criteria worldwide, the five OECD/DAC evaluation criteria, with specific suggestions for improving them; (iv) it discusses results of a survey of INGOs on their evaluation principles and practice, and their feedback on the evaluation standards recently proposed by InterAction (the largest coalition of US-based INGOs); and (v) in the light of the preceding, it provides InterAction and other aid agencies with concrete suggestions to improve future revisions of their evaluation standards and guidelines.
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