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Chapter 5 returns to the issue of developing sound impact evaluations and provides a theoretical overview of best practices in program evaluation. It examines a variety of designs for impact evaluations, ranging from those suited to projects that involve large numbers of cases with the possibility of randomized assignments to assistance and control groups, to designs where randomization is not possible and for circumstances involving small numbers of cases and even programs with but a single case.
As mentioned above, Chapters 6 and 7 focus on the feasibility of using various evaluation designs to determine the impact of current USAID DG projects, based on lessons from the committee’s field visits to DG missions in Albania, Peru, and Uganda. Additional information about the field visits can be found in Appendix E. These chapters explore when randomized assignment might or might not be attainable for actual DG projects, alternatives to randomized assignments, common objections to conducting impact evaluations for DG-type activities, and how to develop impact evaluations in particularly difficult conditions (e.g., one-case situations or cases where USAID has little or no control over which specific IMPROVING DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE groups or locations receive funding). Chapter 7 also describes how survey research, which is already being widely employed by USAID, could be used for an impact evaluation design, as well as to provide country-level and project-level data for other evaluations.
Chapters 8 and 9 look at USAID’s overall organization. Chapter 8 offers proposals for how USAID could adapt its own organizational procedures, either through new efforts or the adjustment of current practices, to reduce the barriers to conducting impact evaluations and, just as important, become more of a “learning organization” that systematically benefits from its own assessments and evaluations and also absorbs lessons from outside researchers and other organizations involved in or studying democracy assistance. Chapter 9 lays out the committee’s recommendation for an “evaluation initiative” to test the feasibility of applying impact evaluation methods to DG projects and proposes supporting measures to increase USAID’s evaluation capabilities and resources more generally.
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