USAID Expanding the Reach of Impact Evaluation (ERIE)
Many development projects are pursued with the belief they will ultimately achieve long-term impacts. However, rigid funding cycles and changing programmatic priorities lead researchers to focus only on short-term results. A lack of evidence and reliable information regarding long-term impacts can lead to costly and ineffective development interventions.
Partnering with AidData, the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), Geo-Spatial Impact Evaluation (GIE), and Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), the Pulte Institute is leading an initiative to demonstrate the value of long-term evaluations (or studies) for decision-making at USAID.
Expanding the Reach of Impact Evaluations (ERIE), part of the MERLIN group in USAID’s Global Development Lab, is an approach to conducting retrospective long-term impact evaluations of development projects. To demonstrate the power of long-term evaluation, the team is conducting evaluations that assess the impacts of an aid intervention years after the project is completed. This method helps USAID staff understand if short-term impacts are sustained, or if theorized long-term impacts are realized.
USAID has increased the number of evaluations commissioned each year to an average of more than 200. Advanced technology and the availability of “big data” allows for the use of existing datasets such as mobile data, geo-coded data, or satellite imagery to help define a counterfactual to assess the impact of USAID interventions more rigorously. These two developments combined create powerful opportunities for evaluating development interventions that currently lack evidence of long-term impacts.
The ERIE team is on track to complete at least eight pilot studies, including:
- Southern Malawi: A retrospective longitudinal evaluation of Food for Peace's Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA) activity and its impact on agriculture, nutrition, resilience and sustainability outcomes.
- Israel/West Bank: A retrospective evaluation of the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation's People to People (P2P) activities and their potential effects on peacebuilding.
- Globally: A long-term evaluation of the Center for Development Research's Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) and Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) activities, examining the impact of the two programs on researcher capacity and data-driven policy in developing countries.
- Uganda: A retrospective evaluation of Feed the Future's Commodity Production and Marketing activity (2013-2018), examining the sustainability of the effects of the program on relationships between market actors.
- Bangladesh: A 5-year evaluation of the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance’s principal food security programs - CARE's project SHOUHARDO III, World Vision's Nobo Jatra Project, and Helen Keller International's SAPLING project.
- Peru: A long-term follow-up of two early grade reading interventions in Perù--Amazonia Lee (2015-2017) , and Leer Juntos, Aprender Juntos (2013-2016). The study examines the long-term impact of the intervention on students' national exam scores.
Additional pilot studies are in discussion, including a global study of emergency crop interventions, a multi-country study of the Center for Conflict and Violence Prevention’s Reconciliation Fund, and USAID’s Exploratory Programs and Innovation Competition (EPIC).